I was in fourth grade when Paul McCartney’s musings in 1976 that ‘you think that people would’ve had enough of silly love songs, I look around me and I see it isn’t so…oh no…’ filled the airwaves. Retrofitted by Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman during a montage dance number in Baz Luhrmann’s film Moulin Rouge in 2001, the question of whether there is a place for love anymore continues to perplex and befuddle.
I am a second reader on a senior thesis honors project looking at phenomenological turn in the work of Jean-Luc Marion. One of the grand works of Marion is his reflections on the absence of love in philosophy. As he notes in the beginning of book The Erotic Phenomenon:
Philosophers have in fact forsaken love, dismissed it without a concept and finally thrown it to the dark and worried margins of their sufficient reason – along with the repressed, the unsaid, and the unmentionable. Doubtless other forms of discourse claim to recover from this escheat, and, in their own way, they have sometimes succeeded.
I fear that he is correct. Spend time in the philosophy section of your local college, university or seminary library and flip through the generous tomes that bear the heft and girth of centuries of the ‘philo-sophia’ or ‘love of wisdom’ and where is the passionate call to love and be loved in return? As Marion goes on to say in The Erotic Phenomenon, we have relied too much upon poetry, novels and even theology to frame the conversation and therefore releases philosophy from its mandate. Such assumptions need to be reconsidered :
Poetry can tell me about the experience I have not known how to articulate, and thus liberate me from my erotic aphasia – but it will never make me understand love conceptually. The novel succeeds in breaking the autism of my amorous crises because it reinscribes them in a sociable, plural, and public narrativity – but it does not explain what really and truly happens to me. Theology knows what love is all about; but it knows it too well ever to avoid imposing upon me an interpretation that comes so directly through the Passion that it annuals my passions – without taking the time to render justice to their phenomenality, or to give a meaning to their immanence.
It is this last statement about theology that vexes me the most. Have we so easily resigned the task of critically reflecting upon the nature of love to the ‘soft disciplines’ that we have lost the ability to speak of love, let alone render some grounded understanding of what love truly entails – this most elusive yet necessary of all truth?
Perhaps the question isn’t whether people have had enough of silly love songs… it is why they continue to stomach such shallow ones. Perhaps we haven’t given people many choices…