Episode 31: Love & Wisdom Part I
In this episode, Episode 31, I will speak to the connection between love and knowledge or wisdom. This topic can be slightly confusing so I will break it down into a series of reflections delivered in two parts.
We start with the question: What is knowledge?
A person’s ability to accurately perceive reality can be called knowledge or wisdom. A person who possesses a great deal of knowledge or wisdom sees reality clearly.
I’m not talking about knowledge as a database of facts. I’m not talking about computational knowledge. A computer possesses a huge amount of data but no knowledge or wisdom.
Rather, I’m talking about knowing Creation’s true essence. I’m talking about truly knowing the essence of persons, things, and events — knowing lived reality. I’m talking about knowing reality as it is. That is wisdom.
I’m talking about a deep knowing that seems to pervade that which it knows. This type of knowing is clear-eyed and realistic but also contains a mystical component — which means it includes an ability to see deeper into the underlying nature of things.
So how does love affect knowledge?
We start with the concept of love that I presented in an earlier episode. You may want to revisit the episode God Is Love based on the encyclical of the same name written by Benedict XVI. This introduction to the deepest love of all — divine love — prepares us to reflect on how love, especially divine love, affects knowledge.
I will argue that, as a practical matter, love precedes knowledge. Love comes first. When love is absent, knowledge is absent. At first, this idea may seem strange. Ordinarily, we do not consider that we must first to love something in order to know it. Let’s reflect on how that might be.
We begin with this basic question: Why do we seek wisdom?
Wisdom or knowledge guides our exercise of free will. It guides our decisions regarding what we will seek to be, to do, or to have.
First, love fuels our desires. Then knowledge directs our course. Love is the engine. Wisdom is the rudder. Knowledge or wisdom provides guidance as we draw close to that which we love. In this way, love and knowledge work in tandem.
But what does this mean for peacemaking?
The connection between love and knowledge becomes practical in peacemaking. We can state a key principle: In order to know another person we must first draw close to them. When we are able to draw closer, we can know them better.
But there’s a catch. We cannot draw close to another unless we first love them — at least in some small measure. We must share a modicum of affinity. We do not move close to people we do not like. When we have no affinity for someone, we are repelled rather than attracted.
When we like or love someone, even modestly, we draw closer. And being closer, we come to know them. For this reason, peacemakers, especially at the beginning of the process, inject affinity into the mediation. They bring their own affinity to the process and increase the love in the room.
Peacemakers usually start with social ice-breaking. They inject warmth and friendliness. This increases party willingness to share affinity. It is a small but important first step.
Then peacemakers engage in Face Work, Restoring Face that has been damaged. They make the parties feel respected — they deliver the respect the party’s opponent may not yet be willing to show. When their Face is no longer threatened they relax their defenses — there is at least an opening for love to enter.
In these ways and others, peacemakers do all they can to raise the affinity level of the disputants. They realize they will have little luck in resolving the conflict if they do not first increase the love that makes knowledge possible.
A practical axiom soon emerges: All knowledge of other people is preceded by love. When relationships become infused with love, people grow closer and they know each other better. And this steady and incremental increase in love and knowledge leads to reconciliation.
Good day. May God bless you and bring you peace.