***This is a paper I wrote for my Ethics and Values class. I had the same heartbreak of being the only person to ever appreciate it, and so here it is. Please, comment what you think.***
A brief explanation and example of Mo Tzu’s universal Love, How the Universal Love philosophy is accurate and good, but has one major flaw; the flaw; and how/why to fix it.
Mo Tzu wrote concerning Universal Love thousands of years ago. The main points he makes and the ones I will concern myself with are the following:
- You* should take care of everyone around you
- You should promote good things and discourage bad things
- You should love those around you (everyone), meet their needs, and avoid hurting them
Let us walk through each of these points and possible rebuttals and counterarguments for each.
– You Should Take Care Of Everyone Around You
This point is understandable – if You** want to live according to Tzu’s Philosophy (of Universal Love) then you should take care of those around you. The philosophy is based on loving people – it follows that you should care for those you come into contact with. A possible (reasonable) rebuttal is this: ‘How can you do that!?’ His simple response is not surprising – he maintains that in order to love someone, you need only think of them as one of you. Once you have accepted them as one of you – a member of your country, a member of your family, a member of your community – then it is only a natural extension of events that you would want to love (and, therefore, take care of) them.
– You Should Promote Good Things and Discourage Bad Things
This seems intuitive. If you want to practice universal love, you should support things that are good and eschew things that are bad. Loving people = good. Killing people = bad. Chasing your sister outside because she went into your room and drank your last can of ginger ale even though you hid it in your closet and was saving it for tomorrow = probably justified, though bad. This is where Mo Tzu’s argument gets a little hard to follow, or at least a little hard to agree with. This – the drive to do good and not bad – is why we have problems with wars and
rumors of wars contentions and arguments and petty neighborly garden gnome wars. When you do not include your neighbors as part of your caring circle, it makes sense that you would be rude to them – as long as it is doing you good, why would it matter? His rebuttal I have already stated, but it’s worth making a note of here – this is why extending your circle of i-give-a-flying-f*** to those around you is one of the first points he makes. When you make the people around you part of you, (including them in ‘me’) when you make decisions that do good for me, they’re less likely to do anything bad for those you live next to or go to school or work with.
– You Should Love Those Around You (Everyone), Meet Their Needs, and Avoid Hurting Them
Again with the Universal Love. It’s the title of his work, and it’s not cryptic in the slightest. If you want to practice Universal Love, it has to include everyone – hence the Everyone portion of that statement. Meeting their needs and avoidance of hurt seem to be natural extensions of both the love you (should) have for them and the point of promoting good (meeting their needs) and discouraging bad (avoiding hurting them). The main rebuttal at this point is the everyone everyone statement – ‘Loving everyone is hard!’ He says that that is just because you don’t understand how nice and beneficial and uplifting and practical and happy-making it is to love everyone. If you only understood how good it was, you’d put in a lot more effort, and it’d be a lot easier.
Let me share a personal example of following this philosophy that exemplifies its positive elements and highlights it’s one screaming flaw.
I have a long-standing, firmly held, personal belief**** that if I try my level best to try to love all those around me, the world is a better place. I don’t judge people based on other people, I thank those around me for the work that they do, I accept assignments and leadership positions, I make cookies, I give gifts, I make a concentrated daily effort to make the lives of those I come into contact with better places. This opens doors for me, makes me personally happier, leads to satisfying interactions, experiences, and relationships, gets me out of tough situations, and is generally the best decision I’ve ever made.
However, one thing that took me too long to realize and is not included in Mo Tzu’s Universal Love is that for your love to be complete, it must also include yourself. In order to allow you to escape from abusive relationships, you must not only accept that you can both love and be away from your abuser, you must love yourself enough to realize that you deserve something better. In order to preserve your sanity during finals week, you must make provisions for yourself (chocolate! Breaks!) – because you love everyone, but that includes you – and if you put everyone else first, all the time, always, you end up burnt out, depressed, self-esteem-less, and generally useless as a Love-er because you failed to include yourself in Universal.
That’s what is missing in his argument, and that’s really the only bone I have to pick with him. In addition to loving everyone, you must also love yourself. ‘Why?’, you may ask, and I will answer with a selfish reason, a selfless reason, and a practical reason.
If you take the short end of the stick every time, eventually you’re going to misstep, flail around wildly for a bit, and then go crashing headlong into a fountain of misery in your best shoes and great hair (it will then begin to rain). You must include yourself in your Universal Love in order to wake up in the morning, do your hair, look into the mirror and say, with meaning, that you are going to Love today. You can’t do it if you are a shell, a burned-out husk of your former self.
If you tell yourself that, in order to love a person (or group of people), that you have to take the blame for bad things that happen, you break down any self-worth you may have, and convince yourself that everything is your fault. A depressed You cannot help in any real way. If you convince yourself that if you tried harder or was better that they wouldn’t say those things, you cease being able to Love them and become helpless to help them – exactly the opposite of what you want to do!
He touches on the fact that this (Universal Love) will only really work if it happens to everyone – if EVERYBODY loves EVERYBODY. I agree! However, we happen to live in reality*****, and so their will always be someone ready to exploit the naive, take advantage of the trusting, misuse the loving, and abuse those who are trying to live the best that they can. Extending the Love to us releases us from a helpless, guilt-ridden limbo: ‘if I Loved them more I would do more for them and less for myself’, all the way to ‘I function better as a cared-for human being, and in taking time for myself, I become better able to Love you’
Instead of having the condition of Universal Love be that we love everyone around us – that every single person love every single other person – let us simply extend that, one person further. Let Universal Love become Truly Universal and include everyone, and by everyone I mean both everyone around you and you. Changing the definition and foundation of Universal Love to make it truly Universal allows provisions for personal safety, for taking care of yourself so that you can take care of others, for making sure that you are as kind and good and Loving as you can be, while also being healthy.
Allow me to restate my (and his) main points, with You included.
Point The First:
– You Should Take Care Of Everyone Around You. Taking the time to care for and Love yourself makes you better able to take care of those you find yourself in contact with. Prevention of abuse is an added bonus.
Point The Second:
– You Should Promote Good Things and Discourage Bad Things. By Loving yourself, you are in a better frame of mind, more able to make important decisions. (like good vs.
evil bad) You’re in a better mood, more likely to choose good over evil bad, and more likely to Love others fully when you’re also able to Love yourself.
Point The Third:
– You Should Love Those Around You (Everyone), Meet Their Needs, and Avoid Hurting Them. the main focus I’m taking on this point is the definition of everyone. You should love everyone? You should have Universal Love? . . . Last I checked, You were included in everyone, and Universal meant everyone, not excluding you.
Love of self, while a foreign concept to Mo Tzu himself, is a necessary modern component of his Universal Love philosophy. When practitioners of his Universal Love theory extend the “Universal” Love to themselves, they are better able to help others, happier, and safer. By allowing themselves to be included in this Universal sort of Love, they are more equipped to handle including others and treating them with Love.
*I’m going to use You and you a lot in this paper. I am not going to remember to capitalize all instances of the word You as it refers to my reader. It’s a stylistic choice. I’m forgetful. It’s 11:45.
**I’m not sorry about my y/You usage, either. It makes sense and I know other, published, authors have done it.
***I love how that is a swear word, even though it’s a letter followed by 3 asterisks. I bet I wouldn’t even need the f, just four asterisks. Especially proceeded by flying. “I don’t give a flying ****” See? Asterisks hold power.
****This one isn’t a swear word.
*****This one is.