‘Love’ has become, no matter how humble in its origin -for originally the word does not aim much higher than ‘desire’- far too big a word, with which after centuries of abuse hardly anything serious can be done. Who uses it lightly, presents himself as a dimwit. Really it’s deplorable, that this word has become laughable and that ‘I love you’ has started to mostly resemble a hollow declamation. Whoever wants to say anything in connection to love, has to say something small and lean; and it preferably has to sneak in through a side-entrance to still be believable in a world of show-offy inflation. Solely as a side issue can love survive, for the main issues have all already choked on emphasis and imitation. The vulnerability that ‘love’ and other words for affection must once have had has disappeared completely in noisy kitsch, as far as it hadn’t been already waltzed down under the weight of a moralism that wants to replace all the blessings of vulnerability with the certainties of duty and regulations. For also as a duty and a commandment love seems to be chanceless. Only the appearance of it can be prescribed.
The most beautiful, most elementary and most touching among the endless lot that has been said about love is, to my feeling, the dry definition by Spinoza, translated as: “Love is happiness, accompanied by the idea of an external cause”. In this description it boils down that love, in its most essential form, is a happiness, aroused by the existence of someone else who is regarded as both its source and its subject. The description is so elementary and at the same time so touching because it is minimal and stripped of all noise and all fatty nobility. Love in the Ethics of Spinoza is not a a commandment or an expensive duty we fulfill, perhaps against our will and as an offer; it is also not a power that spins a slimy thread around the other and dominates, but a simple happiness because of the pure fact that the other is there. For example, people love their children, and them maybe the very most, because they are glad those exist, just the way they are. There’s nothing possessive in love and loving according to Spinoza. On further consideration, the minimum he describes is at the same time the highest and most altruistic level that affection can reach, almost divinely one-sided.
Only the difficulty is again, that this all too can be easily repeated purely verbally and can be forged. Even the happiness, that is the elementary basis of love with Spinoza, can, once it has been integrated into the pressing packet of duties and exaggerations, be easily imitated and be thrown into a window display as an infectious smile. There probably is on no terrain as much annoying fake and forgery as right here, on the ground of nativity itself, one of the few things of which only the authenticity is worth something and should have meaning. Of course Spinoza did not mean that happiness is mandatory or that it should be produced artificially, but that it, when it is there and somebody catches himself -so to speak- involuntarily being happy, it turns itself as a warm affection towards its source in the other, outside of the circle of all we can decide over. It discovers itself as a form of gratitude for the existence of that other one and it cannot be more, for this is the highest.