love is more conundrum than crystal clear. It is omnipresent. It is trivialized. It is profane. It is misused. We employ the Word in so many ways that it eludes us. A conundrum is a question that is not easy to answer, and that is close to what love is. It has been true almost forever.

There are, for example, three Greek words for love. There’s a selfless sort, a familial sort, and an erotic sort. Each of these areas are huge. Quite clearly we are talking about a term with massive reach. How we deal with it says much about ourselves.

The most evocative word of all

The meanings keep on coming. Love has been called a many-splendored thing. Shakespeare said let me count the ways. Google offers more than two billion results for the term. The suggestion is that the answer is subjective. We could find hundreds of books and monographs about love in debased and deviant forms. We could find more books about heartbreak. The list is endless.

The list may also obscure the truth

What if love is something very specific? And what if it has a clear place in the order of things? The thesis of these memorial maxims is based on the premise that love is basically an energy.

Its disposition is largely contextual. It is a stamp of approval, a sign of respect, an attraction. It derives its character from our determination of the place it has on the spectrum that ranges from the highest human good to the greatest human evil.

This may seem quite complex.

But it is not. Love can be placed in a hierarchy of values. I place love as above freedom but below justice. I place all three of these beneath non-idolatry.

Justice trumps almost everything

On a spectrum of good and evil actions, I see the height of human goodness as being loving and free. This state is like anything on a spectrum – sometimes it is lit up, other times not.

When love is modified by the lesser and more ugly values it loses its luster.

By placing love under justice, I am suggesting that unless things are fair and just love itself is compromised. The character of love is entirely dependent on its context.


I always remember Sal Mineo in “Rebel Without a Cause,” a lost boy, done in by love (AKA hero worship). Without the elements we associate with goodness, love is adrift and capable of adding to evil. It does so by attachment, by giving its power wrongly to a venture that both hurts and harms.

This is the first in a series that will seek to sort out the meanings of love so that finally it is seen within the context of reality as a whole.