Who Has the Better Life?

Many years ago, the following question was posed in psychiatrist Thomas Hora’s spiritually oriented group: “Who has the better life, the first violinist or the second violinist?” After much discussion among group members concerning income, virtuosity, recognition, prestige, leadership, and other factors, Dr. Hora supplied the answer: “Whoever loves the most.”

We were all somewhat taken aback and slightly embarrassed not to have considered or mentioned this quality of consciousness. Immediately it seemed so obvious, and yet it had eluded us. Our inability to identify love as the principal value in life revealed the common human tendency to focus on external, primarily material characteristics as responsible for our sense of well being.

It is precisely this lack of understanding of the significance of love in consciousness that keeps us mired in discontentment. To recognize that love, which Metapsychiatry (Dr. Hora’s teaching) defines as non-personal, non-conditional good will, is the sole resource that can rescue us, first from the error of comparison thinking to which we are all more subject than we are usually willing to admit, and second from our preoccupations with what is missing from our lives, is our most vital need.

Love may be directed toward, or represent, sincere, single-minded interest in, something or someone, or, in perhaps its purest form, it may be utterly objectless. In the characterization extolled by Metapsychiatry, we most appreciate the “love of being loving.” Under any circumstances, it clearly blesses those absorbed by it. Love has also been defined as the realization of the uniqueness, hence the incommensurability, of every individual.

The statement “whoever loves the most” does not imply that love can be quantified or measured. It merely indicates that where attention is directed determines the quality of life. Like all spiritual values, it can only, truly be known to the individual imbued with it. The term “soul” may be understood as that dimension of consciousness that is capable of becoming aware of and appreciating spiritual values, qualities and ideas.

Moreover, love is not a characteristic of mind that can be deliberately invoked or induced through some operational procedure or behavioral practice. Rather, it obtains in our awareness when we consciously esteem something without regard for any ancillary gain that might accrue to us from such a valuation. Such purity of motive can only emerge spontaneously; it transcends intentionality.

In “The Epistemology of Love,” Thomas Hora observed that love is a cognitive mode of being in which concern for whether one feels good or bad has diminished in importance. In its place, motivated by a wholehearted interest in understanding, love is manifested as a reverent attentiveness to whatever reveals itself in the present moment. It elevates consciousness beyond both the usual, narrow exigencies of the self and the oppressive limitations of a time-bound perspective. It liberates man from “should thinking” and allows him to fulfill his true potential.

Instead of dismissing the examination of what constitutes the better life as a youthful exercise or speculation in irrelevant philosophy, there is much that can be learned from its consideration. In fact, it is only by exploring such fundamental existential issues that one may come to find answers of a radically transforming efficacy.