My professor for the class “Faulkner’s Vision,” a Cistercian monk named Fr. Robert Macguire, while talking about Vergil’s Aeneid (and don’t ask me why he was talking about Vergil in a Faulkner class), defined Aeneas’ virtue of “pietas,” i.e. “piety,” as “blood-duty-bondedness.” I interpret this to mean, roughly, that love of family and country that creates a bond based on the duty one has towards them.

What I think is interesting is that connection between “love” and “duty.” This showed up again while reading Jean-Luc Marion; he said, while discussing “The Intentionality of Love,” that to love another is to allow one’s “I” to become a “me”, to surrender oneself to objectivity. This entailed, he said, an accepting of ethical responsibility, of duty, towards the other that perceives the “me.”

I take this responsibility to mean that “love,” i.e. “charity,” is not a pure gift; rather, though the act of love is free, made without constraint, it involves acceptance of a situation (the subjectivity of the other) which entails an obligation. It is like the lover, in loving, realizes that he is constrained by shackles which he could throw off by simply not believing in them, has certain obligations which he could disregard, but which would be obligations nonetheless.

But the important point is this: if he does believe in them, they are no gift on his part. He cannot claim credit as benefactor for the charitable deeds he does; rather his acts of love are acts of piety, blood-duty-bondedness.

A strange result of this, I think, is that if the lover’s love is unrecognized, he cannot (without it ceasing to true love) point it out; to do so would be to say “look at me, I’m performing acts of charity!” He would, in doing so, claim that he deserves honor for his good deeds; but good deeds, the lover knows,  are obligatory.

It’s an interesting connection, I think, that between piety, love, and humility. No wonder that Dostoevsky’s catch-phrase in The Brothers Karamazov is that “each is responsible for all,” and Melville in Moby-Dick is always going on about how “it’s a mutual, joint-stock world.”


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