" L O V E " as I was raised to see it was a NOBLE enterprise..any way you looked at it. Today in the 21st century it is just a cheap four letter word and a commercial vehicle. It has been AMERICANIZED...or is this too suvere :: it has been commercially consumed ! I tend to look at "MODERN LOVE" as a condition I call "THE ZHIVAGO SYNDROME" (copywrited) :: Let me here study the context of what I mean.
As the Neoclassical Period occurred (der Sturm und Drang) and the beginning of the R O M A N T I C E R A ... there was a lot of talk about "MODERN LOVE". From Schopenhauer to Shelley, from Freud to Marlon Brando... the discussion has continued to escalate. PERCY SHELLEY had the beginning discussion for FREE LOVE, the SEARCH for LOVE, and a position of the nobility of LOVE in any case. The ultimate realistic goal of love is marriage. But then the question became :: do you marry young and have life become a series of trials, or, quiet desperation. OR :: do you marry later after a period of deliberate search after the "right one"? To elevate to the even more philosophical :: are we looking for some domestic constancy or stability : OR : are we looking for an IDEAL, to develop our IDEAL, and learn to make our IDEAL livable?
Then some clarifications :: we are talking about LOVE; not lust. VIRTUOUS LOVE :: and the MODERN SPIRIT talked about the possible eventual union between our IDEAL and a LIFESTYLE that becomes reality. This was the dream; for Shelley and many others particularly focused upon this dilemma of "MODERN LOVE".
Then there came the awakening of ultimate INDIVIDUALITY and such intellectual gymnastics as Nihilism, atheism, and Deism..etc. The backlash against Christianity as the narcotic of the masses from DIDEROT to Heine/ Nietzsche : because these thinkers could never forgive Christianity for imposing the concepts of "sin" and perpetuating it's functioning "hypocracy" upon the human civilization, or Christianity taking away individual responsibility for some answer in an afterlife.
Thus what began to mature at the dawn of the 19th century and the ROMANTIC MOVEMENT was a struggling articulating rise of "freewill" and the motivation of LOVE on the individual's terms. LOVE for the SAKE of LOVE began to compete with the other transactions in modernizing society. This relatively NEW approach to civilized life continued to gain momentum right up until the ultimate "destroyers" of LOVE regained control during the Reconstruction Era: the post Civil War: the rise of the Robber Barons where once again $$ - power - and woman's only recourse to liberty without economic independence became quite simply prostitution and a slavery to the men in positions of $$ - power..etc. This has been the dominating rule of the 20th century through oil power, Hollywood, advertizing, and the corporate structure in general.
Yet, still the Aesthetic explosion of LOVE for the SAKE of LOVE evolved; and more precisely really taking on a force around 1860. The mature ROMANTICS :: Gautier * HUGO * Tchaikovsky * the Bronte Sisters * Thomas Hardy * Henry James * echoes of Shelley and Mary Shelley's long shadow * the Pre-Raphaelites..
The LOVE of NEW IDEAS
Edmund Burke's "Sublime" in essence was a learning to accept new conceptions and even the facility of our new emotions. This awakened the MODERN esteem for embracing a continued search for enabling VIRTUES and IDEALs which could become NEW cultural values. To embrace the NEW; although there was always the flip side of the coin where searching didn't hold the distinguishing values of VIRTUOUS and noble aspirations. Embracing the American IDEAL ala' Founding Fathers or the Europeans who wanted the American experiment to succeed such as BURKE and de TOCQUEVILLE :: one still found the difficulty that " one of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a NEW IDEA.." but it is one of MODERN MANS best VIRTUES and finest ARTS :: to embrace the NEW!
ASCETICISM :: for the early catholics was a virtue against the orgy of materialism that ROME debased itself in. A materialism which did little for ROME as the civilization fell of it's unguarded excesses. This lesson to societies after such materialism (our present plight ?) should go DEEP. Petronius' "Satyricon" showed Western Man (ROME) in need of the purgative of Christianity :: yet this also proved a shallowness to Christianity as the extreme fanaticism against the extreme reality of human excesses, egocentrism, and blatant stupidity. In more MODERN times, the poet Heine once again shouted the unnaturalness of Christianity to prevent other perspectives in MODERN PERSONS to becoming cultivated individuals and citizens. The generation of Thomas Paine, William Godwin, P. B. Shelley, William Blake, S. T. Coleridge, and Thomas Carlyle insisted in this NEW COMMON SENSE, not unlike the Elizabetheans, in the search for human truths... only now it was the beginning of the Industrial Era.
The PURITANS for all the criticisms after a prudery and single mindedness should be continued to be held up as examples of MODERNS. A healthy sexuality for the Christian was a problem : yet for the PURITANS in the union of marriage sensual embrace was part of the celestial charter realized. They were not puritanical in their ways of LOVE. A great Protestant thinker ; Oskar Pfister wrote to Freud that the Reformation was nothing fundamentally other than an analysis of catholic repressions under antiquated and abusing authority.
Thus the MODERNIZING trends of the ENLIGHTENMENT and the R O M A N T I C S had in the core of change and social evolution a direct confrontation with Western definitions of LOVE. LOVE of existence well beyond LOVE of LOVE :: even with the backsliding of the goal, with the well intentions of a Freud, or the commercial appropriation of Freud's theories toward capital gains in theater and then Hollywood; of the rise of prostitution in the MODERN Era, also; which motivated much of late Victorian commercial culture and the 20th centuries Hollywood market. The oppertunism of love (small 'l') has always deflated the will to higher aspirations, and with the rationalization of making so much $$ money, for nothing!
VOLTAIRE's intellectual aggression had the VIRTUOUS underlying profundity that inspired the best of the more noble Avant-garde virtues. Even as the continuously backsliding elements of oppertunistist derided the efforts through commercial baseness and profiteering or porn with Pater and Boucher; then Courbet and Baudelaire to Manet and Picasso. The Culture of LOVE for the SAKE of LOVE has been fighting with the MODERN for some 150 years, in it's MODERN context of "freewill" and individual determinism. Unfortunately it has been more a boon for lawyers, exploiters, and general commercial elements in society, also.