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Parental and filial love


Vadim Voynov, a philosopher, explores the complexities of child-parent relations
and of parental love that inspires love of philosophy and of God.


One of the blessings of being born into a family of two loving parents is that the child whose birth was eagerly anticipated by them, stands good chances of experiencing joint outpourings of warm feelings and manifestations of continuous care. They are commonly known to be associated with the meaning of the word love. The child may soon come to learn the difference between a more profuse flow of affection, purring words and caresses from the mother and a more demanding and less sentimental love of the father. I used to give preference to the former. In the days of my blissful childhood I felt immersed in my mothers love and was reluctant to forsake our sense of close and happy togetherness even for moment.


Communication with my dad implied more serious matters such as keeping things in my room in order, spending less time outdoors, giving more attention to home assignments, being more careful in handling books borrowed from the library, speaking more courteously to adults and being more discriminate in my choice of mates. It so happened that over the course of time I developed a strong passion for doing things the way I found most pleasing to me. Small wonder, my dad became increasingly concerned about me.

Both of my parents were tirelessly working to inculcate me with noble virtues. Their initial efforts, however, did not bring the desired results. My mothers smile would become less beaming and I had to face a grim prospect of being less exposed to her loving kindness. Both of them wanted to see the seeds planted yielding nothing less than a good crop of virtues, skills and flairs. The emanation of love tended to become less intensive. I vividly remember my father starting an unusual practice of giving me a slight rap over the knuckles and speaking to me with ice in his voice. Much to my surprise, my otherwise kindly and benign father would tell me sharply what he expected me to do or not to do.

However, no sooner had I demonstrated my desire to comply with the relatively gentle family rules then he regained his usual friendly and loving look of a selflessly committed parent. Much later, while reading the Gospel parable on the prodigal son, who comes back to his father after squandering much of his heritage, asks for forgiveness and is received into the fullness of his fathers loving fellowship, I projected it back on my relationship with my own father, who never hesitated to resume our fellowship in love after my apologies for a committed faux pas, seeing it against the backdrop of the gospels archetype of the Love divine. Furthermore, it was my father who was the first to start speaking to me about this demanding and yet caring heavenly love, which in the person of Christ is open for us to experience.

Coming to terms with the sense of duty, I discovered how relevant was an observation made once by a classic of the world literature Rabindranad Tagor about the interplay between duty and joy. I slept and dreamt: life was joy. I awoke and saw life was duty. I acted and saw: duty was joy.

Thus learning my way around the world of duties, rules, structures and meanings, developing a sense of belonging to this world, adapting and fitting in, has proved to be another source of joy and gratitude to the Creator. For after all, all of our rules and patterns are an expression of bringing some order into our lives. If one begins to contemplate on the divine beauty and harmony, revealed in the natural order of the Universe, one is likely to experience the sense of awe before the Creator and the gratitude to Him for the very fact of existence, which is His free gift to us. Thus the highest form of love accessible to human beings may find its origin in this contemplation. I find it to be another facet of love, a love which initially assumes the form of a gratitude for the very fact of existence and its inherent order. Doesnt it all start from gaining a mastery of some chosen subject and polishing it for the rest of ones life? Gradually we begin to perceive ourselves as craftsmen, bestowed with the wisdom of designing things and making them happen. All this seems to fit in well with the comment made by Professor of Psychology M. Apter from Georgetown University, by knowing what the right thing is in the first place, one can sometimes rejoice in a certain savoir faire.

How does love relate to justice is one of the questions that has been on my mind ever since my childhood. The problem of paying to justice its due and restoring a loving relationship harkens back to those sweet bygone days. Among other things, love, in my view, came to me not only as the power of attraction to the significant other, as modern psychologists would put it, but as readiness to seek forgiveness. My father helped me to realize that unconditional manifestation of love without practicing a modicum of justice aimed at redressing the offence, would depreciate the value of love.

At the same time he was the first to tell me about the unconditional love of God and His readiness to forgive us, even though we have sinned against Him. These thoughts triggered my life-long pursuit of things divine and metaphysical, and not only a pursuit but love of the world of symbols, formulas, and ideas. Many years after these first probes into the nature of love and justice, the President of NYC Evangelical Theological Seminary Dr. P. de Vries and I were having a discussion about the relationship of love and justice and even wrath in the case of God in His dealings with humans. Dr. P. de Vries ventured an opinion that without love there being some room left for the latter, love would have little value in the eyes of humans. The question is far from being either idle or easy to answer. Suffice to say that the issue was among the theological concerns of the figure of no less stature than the American physicist Ch. Townes, Nobel prize winner for his discovery of Laser together with his colleagues from the former Soviet Union. He believed the question to be so complex that he ventured to apply to it the principle of complementarity. The more we focus on the aspect of divine love, the less determinate becomes our concept of His justice and vice versa. Professor Osipov, a theologian from Russia, claims that God is love and love alone with such characteristics as divine wrath having just an educational value.

Another important lesson from my search of love was that it involves compassion. My mother manifested a lot of it, while trying to restore my loving relationship with the father. In return, I would always feel grateful to both of them. Loving them even more than before, I tried hard to find ways of expressing my love. I used to engage my father in serious conversations on the issues running the whole gamut from the Bible, natural sciences and languages to philosophy and the poets of the Russian Silver Age. All of these things eventually led to my love of philosophy, languages, and theology.


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