The Three Dimensions of Love

The Jeweler’s Shop, a play written by Karol Wojtyla, now Pope St. John Paul II, is explores love and the sacrament of marriage by telling the stories of three different couples. The play is divided into three acts: The Signals, The Bridegroom, and The Children. Through the stories of these couple (Teresa and Andrew, Anna and Stefan, and Monica and Christopher), Wojtyla deals with the three dimensions of love (metaphysics, psychology, and ethics) in a unique but beautiful way.

Love is .  . .

METAPHYSICAL–The metaphysical dimension of love is something that pertains to the very existence. Wojtyla describes three components of metaphysical love: fondness, desire, and benevolence.

Fondness – “Not merely thinking of some person as a good; fondness means a commitment of thinking about this person as a certain good, and this commitment can be brought forth ultimately only by the will” (Love and Responsibility, 59).

Desire – “Love of desire is not manifested in the least as desire alone. This love is manifested only as longing for the good for oneself” (65).

Benevolence – “Through benevolence we come as close as possible to what constitutes the ‘pure essence’ of love. Such love perfects its objects the most; it develops most fully both his existence and the existence whom it turns” (67).

However, all three of these components deal with the individual’s experience of love, so Wojtyla goes on to discuss reciprocity and love. For love to truly be reciprocated, it must move beyond a desire for satisfaction, it cannot be infatuation or lustful. Sympathy, then, is something better; nevertheless, it is still dependent on the individuals feelings. Thus, we are brought to companionship–love that exists: “it is necessary to find the means by which affections not only will, but–what is more–will bring about the unity of this will…thanks to which two ‘I’s’ become one ‘we.’ It is precisely friendship that contains this unity” (Love and Responsibility 77). Indeed, this is what JPII means by spousal love.

Throughout the Jeweler’s Shop, there are several examples of couples who struggle to live by this spousal love, rather than be driven by their own desires.

PSYCHOLOGICAL–Love is psychological, it deals with the human persons interior life. JPII explores three notions of psychology: impression, emotions, and values. He writes: “If human love begins with an impression, if everything in this love must be based in some way on this impression (even in its spiritual content), it is precisely because impression is accompanied by emotion, which allows us to experience the other person as a value, or in other words, which allows two persons, a woman and a man, to experience each other as a value” (86). However, this poses a problem because part of love is sensuality, sexual desire. While it exists, it cannot exist by itself, there must be a deeper integration; this occurs through affective love. Love, first and foremost, is a virtue that must be lived. The way we live this virtue out, and receive others living this virtue out, deeply forms us–for better or worse.

Monica and Christopher give insight to the psychological dimension of love. Monica has witnessed conditional love, a love based on desire, rather than a spousal love. This experience is deeply embedded in her psychology and it becomes a stumbling block in her and Christopher’s relationship, as she fears marrying Christopher because of what she experienced as a child. JPII touches on the lasting effects of distorted love when he rights, “the rift of that love is so deeply embedded in [Monica] that her own love stems from a rift too” (78).

ETHICAL–Love is ethical. It’s a norm that’s given to the human person that allows one to unite the metaphysical and the psychological with the true and the good. The ethics of love is founded on living out the virtue of love and not by merely living out one’s desires. Ethical love requires one to acknowledge the personhood of the other–that you don’t just love and idea, but a person. A beautiful example of this is when Andrew fully recognizes Teresa for who she is, not the ideas or values he wants to acknowledge, but the entirety of Teresa. His love has matured beyond fondness, desire, and benevolence, as he utters “Teresa – Teresa – Teresa – like a strange focus of my way to maturity – no longer a prism of superficial rays, but a being of true light” (30).

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