Friday, February 17, 2012

The Friday Clive

The maternal instinct...is a Gift-love, but one that needs to give; therefore needs to be needed.  But the proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift.  We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves; we teach them in order that they may soon not need our teaching.  Thus a heavy task is laid upon this Gift-love.  It must work towards its own abdication.  We must aim at making ourselves superfluous.  The hour when we can say "They need me no longer" should be our reward.  But the instinct, simply in its own nature, has no power to fulfil this law.  The instinct desires the good of its object, but not simply; only the good it can itself give.  A much higher love - a love which desires the good of the object as such, from whatever source that good comes - must step in and help or tame the instinct before it can make the abdication.

4 comments:

chris said...

hi Di,

sorry about your computer problems, and thanks for the Friday Clive!


do you think the view Lewis takes of the maternal instinct is excessively dim?

"The [maternal] instinct desires the good of its object, but not simply; only the good it can itself give."

dunno about the "only": i should have thought that a mother (or father) who had no concern about how well things went for her (or his) children when the parent was no longer in a position to provide goods for them would be an exceptionally un-loving parent. surely the maternal (or parental) instinct aims both at providing goods for for one's children, and at those children's good (whatever its source).

perhaps "the maternal instinct" falls short, not because it lacks concern for the child's welfare as such, but because, in cases where the desire for the child's welfare and the desire to be the source of the child's welfare come into conflict (inasmuch as the child will be better off if someone other than the parent is the good-provider), the maternal instinct doesn't unswervingly aim at the child's welfare. & maybe that's a shortcoming of all natural love. if you love someone (as opposed to simply being (disinterestedly) benevolently disposed to them) you'll care, not just about your beloved's getting good things, but also about your providing your beloved with good things (if a suitor were entirely indifferent to whether or not a woman accepted his marriage proposal, as long as she ended up just as happy with someone else as she would have with the suitor, we'd say the suitor was "in benevolence with", but not "in love with" the woman). on the other hand,i'm inclined to think, perfect love would never go against what disinterested benevolence would recommend for the beloved. so i think a perfectly loving suitor, upon coming to believe that it would be better for his beloved to marry a rival, would be devastated, but would on balance prefer that the beloved accept his rival's proposal (and recommend that she do so). still, if we heard that a suitor had told the woman he had been hoping to marry, 'i think you're better off marrying X than marrying me; I recommend you accept his proposal', we would probably suspect that "he didn't really love her (that much) after all"--because, we suspect, intense love is imperfect, and will not give way to benevolence.

sorry if this is too long...the passage raised too many interesting issues for me to expeditiously unpick...

--chris

A Circle of Quiet said...

Chris,

I do find Lewis's perspective on maternal love unusual. But remember his mother died when he was young, and he had that rather strange commitment to his war buddy's mother. I was going to say that this is a blindspot in a brilliant mind, but instead I would say his difficult experiences are a lens that is coloring his insight. Would you agree?

Di

chris said...

yes, i agree... that's a nice connection to make: i was aware of the biographical facts you mention, but somehow hadn't thought of their coloring effect on his views on maternal love...

--chris

Pilgrim said...

This gets very complicated, when you have a child with a disability, who will always need help, just as typically developing people do. I think too much is made of independence, and not enough of interdependence, or healthy dependence.