There is No “I Love You” Without the “I”

“What is done in love is done well.” (Vincent van Gogh)

This reminds me of a line from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: “There is no ‘I love you’ without the ‘I’.”

We’re led to believe — usually by controlling, scheming people — that selflessness is the main ingredient in love. But this is insane. To LOVE is to value, to cherish, to adore. You cannot value, cherish or adore something or someone unless your whole self is present in the conviction. If you had no personal convictions, ideals, desires or wants then you’d be too psychologically DEAD to care about anything or anyone else.

Imagine if a chef said, “I put no love into my food. There’s nothing about me in it. I just follow a recipe. And I do it all for you. Selflessly.” Would you want to eat that chef’s food? Would you pay $50 for an entree made by that chef?

Or let’s say you’re on the operating table of a brain or cancer surgeon. Do you want the surgeon to have no personal investment in the outcome? Would you feel confident about survival if your surgeon told you, beforehand, “I care nothing about what happens here. I am selfless. There is no ‘me’ in this.” And, by the way, how could such a thing be plausible? The surgeon, by definition, spent years of backbreaking, mindbending work just to become a brain or cancer specialist; and years after graduation he labored, as well. How does one take on anything so ambitious and difficult without a self?

Would you wish to fly in the airplane of a pilot who told you, “I don’t want to be paid. I don’t want any benefit from this whatsoever. I just want to serve YOU.” I would run for my life.

Similarly, do you want a friend or a spouse who has no personal, self-interested investment or interest in you? In other words, do you want an indifferent lover? The question seems too absurd to ask.

The best lovers are not the people who care only about sacrificing (assuming such a person even exists). The best lovers are the people who so value themselves, their time and their interests that — by extension — anyone they choose to let into their circle benefits from that great care and consideration they already display toward their own lives.

It’s kind of a like a good host. A host who prides himself on throwing really good parties will be a much better host than someone who’s largely indifferent, and who only thinks about you — and not about throwing a really good party.

When you hear someone lecturing, “Don’t be selfish. Don’t think of yourself — only think of others,” consider the source. Does that person have his own agenda? Does he have a reason for wanting you to abandon your own interests? And could those interests be for himself?

The presence of a self is not the problem. The disingenuous use and misuse of the selves of others — now that’s a problem. And it’s the users and the abusers who are always the ones telling you NOT to have a self.

Stop listening to them. Live your life joyfully and without guilt or reservation of any kind. If you want to know the true nature of spirituality — this is it.



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