Whole & One: Integrity, Intrapersonal Love, and the Two Perfections of the Lover

“A man has to live with himself, and he should see to it that he always has good company.” - Charles Evans Hughes

When we personally or collectively find a neighbor to be a problem, we often resort to some of the oldest methods of dealing with such problems: one way or another, we make the neighbor go away. Be it exile or extermination or some other form of de-mapping, we do whatever it takes to gentrify our world back to how it was before the problem neighbor showed up on our radar. Clearly, though, that problem neighbor, just by virtue of his being a neighbor and problematic, represents diversity, and our easy rejection of him is a rejection of increased diversity where it could be brought into harmony. In writing the problem neighbor off, we fail to love. The results of such methods are well-known.

But that’s what happens at an interpersonal or collective level. What about at the intrapersonal level, i.e. at the level of self-love? What does it mean to love oneself?

To start: I propose that within each self operate many components which themselves form a diverse community working more or less in harmony. I even have a map or two to back up this contention:

Now, as I’ve indicated elsewhere, the principle of love asks us to extend to all possible entities, all possible harmony. This includes mental entities, such as the limbic system, the brain stem, Broca’s area, and so on. You might think this is an overextension of the golden rule, but consider: without most of these mental components, we’re not creatures with free will, and neither capable of true love nor obligated to love truly. Our failure to love neighbor as self is inseparable from our internal failure to integrate what we know of our neighbors, including their needs, with what we know of ourselves, including our own needs. When we fail to love, we fail, in other words, to harmonize components of our own minds, chiefly our models of self and other, but also, in any given instance, almost every other part.

For instance, in our fiction, we often imagine a race of beings stripped of emotion as being inherently more harmonious than ourselves, but to simply remove our limbic systems and expect peace to flower forth, overlooks the fact that we would be, if so lobotomized, at the very least incapable of understanding, loving, harmonizing with other, emotional beings. Furthermore, beings entirely without emotional feeling are beings who can experience little reward for anything they do, and therefore beings who can little understand the value of their own existence.

For another instance: Some people are born without the ability to feel physical pain. These people usually don’t live very long, because they have a hard time remembering not to stick their hands in wood chippers. They also, as a corollary, have a hard time remembering that other people feel pain, and that they don’t like it. I’m sure many of these people are capable of great love, but to develop this capacity they must overcome a great handicap-having nococeptors and attendant capacities to fear and avoid pain, makes it easier for us to love others insofar as that means helping them avoid pain.

For a third instance: Helen Keller. By all accounts, this blind-deaf woman achieved greatness in her life as an advocate for the poor-in-sense-organs. But by all accounts, she spent the first years of her life in torment, incapable of navigating the world of others’ needs, because so trapped in the world of her own. In other words, she was a holy (innocent, guiltless) terror, and would have remained that way if not not for her tutor, Anne Sullivan, who provided large doses of wise and patient love. Without Ms. Sullivan, Helen would have remained all her life a soul in need of great love, incapable of reciprocating much of that love directly. A beloved more than a lover.

Depiction of a Young Helen Keller (with Tutor), Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Here’s another way of looking at the importance of intrapersonal diversity of components: Since genetic life tends to favor an apparent self-bias (while actually in all cases favoring a bias toward one’s own genes), it’s a fair bet that one will be able to share lovingly with others only those things one has learned to provide for oneself. Now, to provide, say, air for oneself, is a relatively simple matter-the only mental component you need to answer your need for air is a brain stem. But complex beings like us have a whole hierarchy of needs, and by the time you’re near the top of the need pile, you’re having to coordinate a whole lot of different components to answer those higher needs-just think about how many elements of your mind can get involved answering your need for a mate, or friendship.

We can conclude that as a general rule, the more mental components we have, the greater the diversity within ourselves, the more capable we are of loving others. We might say that to bear this rule in mind is to hold out hope for a certain kind of perfection, the perfection of an individual self’s wholeness.

Note, however, that for your mental components to add up to a loving self, they have to be coordinated; they have to act in harmony.

Most of us have heard of cognitive dissonance, or internal conflict. To some extent, cognitive dissonance is just another way to describe the state of making a choice between two or more options. But if we can’t eventually make a choice, the results aren’t pretty.

For instance, you might be permanently conflicted, and suffer chronically, about whether to come out of the closet as gay or bisexual, or remain in good standing with the blackmailing cult you belong to and/or the majority of people who buy tickets to your movies.

For another instance: You might want to make millions by shooting yourself full of ball-shriveling amounts of male hormone, but also want to enjoy your success partly by having a family that you don’t destroy over the course of one or more episodes of roid rage.

For yet another instance: You might want to take on the Nazis, but also completely avoid being ferreted out as a double agent, to the point that after the war, nobody believes you weren’t a Nazi.

And so on. There are a million examples of how incompatible desires, or lack of intrapersonal harmony, lead to personal suffering.

And of course, from a certain point of view, the greatest intrapersonal disharmony comes in the form of hypocrisy, where genetically driven self-bias, AKA lack of objective perspective, AKA a lack of love for God, leads to conflict between 1) the standard by which we regulate ourselves, 2) the standard by which we judge others, and 3) our basic need to believe in shared, objective reality, upon which is predicated our attempts to communicate with and imaginatively model the selves around us, where 1) through 3) are mental components acting in disharmony.

For instance, just turn off your monitor for a moment and stare into the nearest smooth piece of glass.

For another instance, just consider the author.

So that’s one way of looking at the importance of intrapersonal harmony-without it, bad things happen. There’s another way to look at the same issue, though. Recall that we all have an aforementioned hierarchy of needs. One might argue that above and beyond our needs for air, water, food, shelter, friendship, and the latest version of Grand Theft Auto, our greatest need is to love and reap the fruits of love. Now we’ve covered what the fruit of love is on an interpersonal or communal level: Joy. If you remember, joy, or communion, results from the pursuit of two goals-harmony and diversity. If you pursue the same goals, only within your own single self, you get a different fruit: peace, or union. If you wonder why I might say that intrapersonal love, with resultant peace, is a more important need to be filled than, say, our need for oxygen or water, well, read on.

Peace isn’t quite like joy. Joy has no upper limit. It’s not perfectible. No matter how much joy you have, you can have more, by sharing it more with more neighbors. Peace, on the other hand, is perfectible. Peace is complete harmony within a single self. To understand what is meant by “peace is perfectible,” just take a look at this guy:

That there, in case you’re not a student of history or a Rage Against the Machine fan, is a human man alive what done gone and doused hisself in gasoline and lit hisself afire, on purpose, in full possession of his faculties, preeee-meditatedly, in order to protest the wars in SE Asia c. 1970. Think about that. Think about the worst burn you’ve ever received. Think about how much less that burned than the burn this guy’s feeling in this photo. Then think about how you flinched or flailed or rocked and swore and moaned and hissed when you got your little burn. Then think about this guy and what is happening to him and his NOT MOVING AT ALL. This is a guy who has established complete cooperation among his various mental parts. He is a union, and the union is striking.

A self at peace has the option of disregarding any other need. A self at peace the way the monk above is at peace, can be perfectly cool going without air, water, food, shelter… I mean, look at him, he’s right there in the picture going without air, and he’s OK with that. No part of him is moving to reverse his executive decision. You might say he’s achieved a certain perfection of himself, the perfection of oneness.

(Remember that only insofar as one knows how to love oneself, is one capable of loving others. This is why Jesus “Not Quintana” Christ urged us to take care of our own hypocrisy first, and achieve peace first, before trying to help others achieve the same thing. You can’t share what you don’t have. If you have bread, share it. If you have knowledge of how to make bread, share that knowledge. If you have everlasting inner peace, then by all means, share it. But until you do, you’re bound by the golden rule to limit your loving to those things that are yours to share.)

If all we need is intrapersonal love, with resultant peace, then, why indulge ourselves with other needs? Why keep breathing, drinking, eating, living in houses, making friends, perfecting talents, and so on? Well, for one thing, without bringing all mental components into harmony, we won’t have union, won’t have inner peace. And a lot of those mental components can be brought together only by embracing our free will and the golden rule and the platinum rule. In other words, we love ourselves perfectly only when we love our neighbors as ourselves. There is no saving oneself without loving others.
In loving ourselves, then, we must seek to be as whole as possible, with as many mental faculties or components as possible. But harmony must take precedence-it’s better to be one, or united, or harmonized, within oneself, than to be whole and have one component of oneself wreck one’s entire self and/or all of one’s neighbors. Without intrapersonal peace, without having oneness, one has nothing. If that sounds a little too Zen, try this on for size: It’s better to pluck out one’s own eye than lose one’s entire self.

Not that this requires we always resort, intrapersonally, to the old genetic-life impulse to de-map those parts of our interior community who don’t cooperate. For instance, when all else fails, we might choose to lobotomize a tormented self, but the result is a person more like an animal, less capable of loving others, than the same person more precisely treated, more narrowly altered between the ears.

For another instance, yes, some cults solve the strife attending our sexuality through castration, but these cults suffer the side effects of hormonal imbalance and an inability to perpetuate their community and beliefs in the most dependable manner-through reproduction. They sort of literally throw out the baby with the bathwater. And some other cults try to destroy or disable the part of our minds that wants our sexual mate to commit to us and also be our most constant friend. But consider that these free-love cults tend to produce things like River Phoenix, Joaquin Phoenix, Rose McGowan, and horrendous conflagrations of bruised ego.

Federalis Got Their Guns

An oversized zeal for repressing or destroying parts of our minds rears its ugly head in other contexts. Zombies-not the movie kind, the real kind-are humans who’ve been kidnapped and chemically lobotomized in order to turn them into more ideal workers. And junkies are often humans who’ve decided they’ve had their fill of pain and would like to live out the rest of their lives in a false bliss of repressed pain.

Nobody ever says they want to be a junkie, a zombie, or an emotionally tormented cult member when they grow up. So it behooves us each to value our diverse mental components greatly, and devote ourselves wholly to trying to make all of our parts work in harmony. This means, instead of writing off a certain part of us like our sexuality, or our ability to self-model, as something always to be killed, we do best to seek out how to be whole AND one. To figure out how to put everything in its right place.

To harmonize as much of our minds as possible, though, requires that we know some standard by which to determine superiority where our minds’ components conflict (a.k.a. how best to resolve cognitive dissonance). This greater than golden standard, by which we can follow the golden rule, would be an obvious choice for Most Superior Intrapersonal Component. Considering that this standard is in some sense our internal model of God, we’re really right back at the platinum rule, as the first principle of deciding how to maximize our intrapersonal wholeness while also achieving oneness. Beyond that, might I also suggest we employ an understanding of true superiority (as vs. the satanic kind), as a second rule of order by which to orchestrate our souls?

I’m guess that for some dear readers, what I’ve just proposed sounds pretty tyrannical, imposing a rigid hierarchy on the mind, with one part emperor and the other parts slaves. In other words, it might seem a little neurotic, a little Ned Flanders:

“I’ve done everything the Bible says - even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff!”

Or a little control-freakish, a little Lawnmower Man:

“I’m God Here!”


The critique is valid. What I’m proposing is, in some sense, intracranial slavery. But this is OK, because slavery’s only wrong where it wastes, prevents, or destroys a free-willed soul. Let’s carefully remember that our mental components are not themselves souls with free will. That way lies a silly recursive homunculism, excessive anthropomorphization where it’s most confusing and least helpful as an analogy. For instance, our capacity for lust, as a mental component, is not itself capable of choice, because it always wants one thing, insofar as it’s active. It doesn’t have free will, and we don’t have to ask its permission for anything, because we already know its one-track (sub-) mind. If we restrict or even delete it, we and our neighbors are the ones who might suffer from the loss, not it.

Still, the image I’m painting of wholeness and oneness, of ideal intrapersonal love, seems a little brutal, a little too much like the images in Plato and Hinduism of the soul as a charioteer (the superior mental component; our best internal model of God, our platinum standard) whipping the crap out of one or more horses (inferior mental components).

But remember that by my definition of true superiority, the superior is that which is most capable of loving others as self. In other words, an ideal soul’s charioteer loves his horses as himself. If he uses the lash, he feels it; he is fully committed to his horses, fully connected to them. He is one with them. Together they make something new, something fantastic. In fact, scrap that whole chariot symbol. I’ve got your symbol for a whole and unified self right here.

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True.”


Tags: , , , ,

One Response to “Whole & One: Integrity, Intrapersonal Love, and the Two Perfections of the Lover”

  1. » Blog Archive » Love Gone Platinum: Rationality and the First Two Laws of Love Says:

    […] embraces diversity as much as it embraces harmony. (This same principle holds true as much for how we treat our selves’ own components as for how we treat our external neighbors.) Thus, in order to be able to love one’s neighbor […]

Leave a Reply