June 28, 2014

Is Love Real?


If it were true - as conceited shrewdness, proud of not being deceived, thinks - that one should believe nothing which he cannot see by means of his physical eyes, then first and foremost one ought to give up believing in love.

~ Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love p23

Who doesn’t believe in love? I know that people can be “shrewd”, pessimistic and selfish, but deep in their hearts, don’t all people believe that love exists… and people feel it? Or is it possible to go through life believing that what we call love is just self preservation?

Is it possible to disbelieve because its not a tactile object, visible in the same way that an apple is? Does someone who is shrewd in the denunciation of spirituality still recognize love in the hearts of human beings?

I have a hard time believing that such a person can even exist. Mainly because its stupid. Even if we can’t verify love in the same way that we verify the existence of tactile things, we base our opinion on experience.

The problem, as SK rightly points out is that it’s impossible to know for sure what is in a person’s heart.

As love itself is not to be seen (for that reason must one believe in it), neither it is unconditionally and directly to be shown by any one expression. — there is no word in human language not a single one, not the most sacred word, of which we could say: when a man uses this word, it is unconditionally proved thereby that there is love in him. (p30)

This got me thinking about the TV show Survivor, where people are constantly manipulating each other with words. And frequently, they will trust the wrong person.

The Dilemma of Trust in Survivor

There is this phrase you hear a lot on Survivor: “blindsided”.

At the end of each show the contestants vote off a tribe member. If that person didn’t expect to get voted off, its called being “blindsided.” It’s always entertaining, because its the ultimate revelation of truth and deception. The audience doesn’t know who’s lying and who’s telling the truth until the votes are counted.

In order to accomplish a blindside you need to make the person feel safe and simultaneously lobby new voters toward your cause. Not only do you have to lie, you have to get people to lie with you. You have to both manipulate people and win the trust of people at the same time.

The huge dilemma of Survivor is, in order to win the game you have to make alliances. One vote is not powerful enough to determine the course of the game. However, the more you make alliances to create voting blocks, the more you open yourself up to being blindsided, the more vulnerable you are. Can you ever really escape this dynamic, even by lying and being cynical?

I couldn’t help but think of Russel Hantz, the famously ruthless Survivor contestant. He sent many players home weeping after blindsiding them. He never really trusted anyone. In the 3 games he played, he made it to the finals twice. However, he never won the grand prize.

In the last season Russel ever played in, his tribe members intentionally lost an immunity challenge so that they would vote him off, rightfully distrusting him. When Russel was ultimately kicked off, he started crying. As a TV viewer, I laughed. How can you backstab that may people and expect that people will continue to trust you? If he was truly shrewd, he should have known it was coming.

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SK asks, who is the bigger fool? The one who is deceived or the one who is self-deceived?

Which sight is more sorrowful, that which immediately and unrestrained moves to tears, like the sight of one unhappily deceived in love, or that which in a certain sense could tempt laughter, the sight of one which is self-deceived, whose foolish conceit of not being deceived is ludicrous, something to be laughed at, if its ludicrousness were not a still strong expression for horror by signifying that he is not worth a tear. (p23)

But to paraphrase SK here, who is more pathetic, the one who is blindsided, or the person who trusts no one, and then gets voted off because he’s a jerk?

I realize the analogy of Russel Hantz and Survivor is not perfect.

The point, I think, is that trust is inevitable, both in the game of Survivor and in life. To be truly successful you must trust others…within reason. Yes, you could get blindsided. But if you don’t you don’t accept any risk, really, you’ve already lost. You have nobody to blame but yourself.

That’s the main thing I take away from Chapter 1. We kinda have to trust that love exists. What’s the alternative?


Hi! My name is Matthew Halbe.

I'm a web developer working at Vistaprint in Silver Spring Maryland. I have four kids, August, Liesel, Levi and Clementine, and a wonderful wife, Dory.

I spent 6 years as an enlisted soldier in the Army before coming out to the DC area for school and work.

My main interests are web development, US-Iran Relations and documentary films.

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