My wife and I just saw the new DC flick “Wonder Woman.” At its core, the message of the film is about the duty of helping others. The other, however, is not the person that I choose out of partiality, that is, it’s not one that is chosen because of what I can gain from him. On the contrary, the other is anyone who cannot, for whatever reason, help himself.
The setting of the film is WW I, and Diana Prince / Wonder Wonder, who lives on an island paradise with her people, says that she will go and fight for others even if no one else will go. Later, we see that her devotion to duty is real and that she learns to love others not because they deserve it but simply because it is what she believes is right. Love is right.
I happen to have been reading Kierkegaard’s Works of Love, and he makes this same point at the beginning: that love is a duty. For love to be Love it cannot be spontaneous love, as the poets would like. Rather it must be based on something higher than whim or “falling in love”–something much higher: eternity. The words “you shall” in the second greatest commandment give love this eternal quality.
Another interesting facet of the movie was the fact that Diana was fighting not just for one side or the other but for all mankind. It was up to her not to defeat the Germans, but to defeat Ares, the god of war, who sought to bring death to mankind by provoking war among them. Diana’s hope was to kill Ares so that she might free people to love one another and have peace.
In this way again I see Kierkegaard’s point about the second great commandment. He says that one particular phrase in the command is the secret to killing selfishness and partiality; that phrase is “as yourself.” What the phrase does is make sure that selfishness is put away because we are called to love the neighbor as we love ourselves. There is no room then for choosing to love others because of something they give us, that is, because in some way they feed our selfish desires.