First and foremost we should remind ourselves that some things are under our control, whereas others are not, and that only what is ‘up to us’ can truly be good, or part of our happiness. One of the keys to grasping this to love someone ‘as a mortal’, who may leave us at any time.
When we love without wisdom, we become overly attached to individual things or people, forgetting that external events are outside of our control. This causes us to irrational ‘craving’, and to vacillate between love and hate depending on external circumstances: ‘in short you grieve, fear, envy, are disturbed, you are changed.’ Epictetus actually says all the enmity between people is down to single judgement of this kind, they ‘put themselves and what belongs to themselves in the category of things which lie outside the sphere of volition’. We see dogs playfully fawning on each other and might say they love each other as ‘friends’ but if we throw a piece of meat between them then they are quickly pitted against each other. Similarly throw some money, land, fame or women between two friends then a fight breaks out.
According to Epictetus, wise men remember that their families are merely parts of the whole of nature, which they love above all. The wise men loves others in accord with the ‘discipline of desire’, accepting that the relationship is ultimately beyond our direct control, and that change or loss may be our fate. Love is thereby turned from an irrational ‘passion’, a kind of ‘lust’ or ‘craving’ characterized by over-attachment or dependence, into a more ‘philosophical’ or detached form of affection. This brings us into harmony with nature by placing our relationships with others within the broader context of our relationship with the whole of existence. However, ‘healthy emotions’ to love require consistency and natural affection, that’s only possible if our underlying attitude of benevolence is, in a sense, unconditional, and does not change just because others change their behavior. Crucially, although loving others is within our control, being loved in return is not, which means love others, but don’t even preserve any desire, to desire for receiving anything in return. It reminds me of a beautiful couplet of Abhey Kumar ‘Abhey’:-
ऐ ‘अभय’ माँगना वफ़ा का सिला
जज़्बा – ए – शौक़ का मर जाना है
जज़्बा – ए – शौक़ :- emotion of love
To conclude, We should not compromise our own moral integrity or mortal serenity in our love for others, nor is our love impaired by our knowledge of the mortality of our loved ones. Our love and affection serve only to enrich our humanity, never to subject to psychic torment. Remember if what we are calling ‘love’ or ‘affection’ makes us enslaved to our passions and miserable, than it’s not good for us, and that’s the sign something is wrong.