It's the beautiful month of February, "the month of love". With all the talk about love, the air seems charged with magic and sparks are flying. Everyone seems to have caught a love fever. Everyone except me... But that's talk for another day.
I think it would be understandable that it wasn't so much of a surprise when I was asked to write on the topic of love. When I started drafting this, I tried to find out all I could, jot down all I knew about this powerful and mysterious topic. The result was two weeks of writer's block trying to filter though an overload of information. It was almost overwhelming how many different perspectives people have to a single word- "Love". Love has been a controversial issue and a favoured topic of philosophers, poets, writers and scientists for generations, and different people and groups have fought about its definition. Despite this, it still might be the most difficult to discuss or describe. The best and worst thing about love is that it cannot be fully expressed in words... Yet here we are.
So, let's talk about love.
“Love is, in fact, an intensification of life, a completeness, a fullness, a wholeness of life.”– Thomas Merton.
Love is usually described and understood by its expression and at different stages with different people in different relationships, love is expressed and perceived in a variety of beautiful ways. If you asked me about love as a baby, I would probably (if I could find the words) describe it as the warmth of my mother's body. With my sister and bestfriends, it would be the whispered confessions we shared, the long hours spent gisting, fighting bullies and of course, fighting with and teasing each other. Skipping down time to the moment I had my first crush, it would be the butterflies that suddenly couldn't stay still in my stomach, my racing heart and how I always seemed to forget how words were used when he came close.
This can make love seem ever changing. Is love different in each of these cases? The Ancient Greek Philosophers seemed to have thought so. They gave love 5 labels based on its expressions: The Familial Love (In Greek, Storge), Friendly/Platonic love (Philia), Romantic Love (Eros), Guest love (Xenia) and Divine Love (Agape). So many theories give love many more labels and categories. I think this has only helped to blur what love really is by giving focus to what it looks and/or feels like.
No wonder love has taken such a superficial view. Trust us to be all about the high. When I chit-chat with my friends and the subject of love comes up, it sounds more like we are describing a drug- an exciting, intoxicating and addictive drug. This is often true for how we view love in a romantic or sexual relationship. With the intensity of the emotional experience, I think that pretty much makes sense. However I believe love is far more than we might have concluded it to be. I don't think love changes. The love that is the foundation of a romantic relationship is the love that's the foundation of a friendship. That's why they say that you know you love someone when you take away the feelings and the romance and you still have that same affection and consideration for that person. Love is the same, it is the relationships that differ. Just like the heart is the same, but the blood each beat pumps flows to different systems with different functions. It’s useful to point out that love, itself, is neutral. It is something that can be both healthy or unhealthy, helpful or harmful, depending on why and how you love someone else and are loved by someone else. By itself, love is never enough to sustain a relationship.
Speaking of hearts, I enjoy placing my head on the chests of my loved ones to listen to their heartbeat. It's a reminder of life and love and how fleeting it all is. The best thing to hold on to in life is each other. We hold on to something or someone precious and the heartbeat shows not only the presence of this person we love dearly but also that this person isn't ours to keep and neither are the moments. The heart is often used as a symbolic representation of love. Figures, the heart is the base or core of a human being, the first part that is formed in the creation of human life and the most essential organ in the sustainence of that life.Mahatma Gandhi once said, where there is love there is life. Just like the heart, love makes us human.
Love is the foundation of life's essence, Like a fountain from which everything else is sourced. When we think of it all our actions are, in some way, motivated by love. Sometimes to express our love, to care for those we love, to fill the void created by someone we love, to avenge out of anger at a wrong done to someone we love. Love is existence at its purest and most whole and it's beyond feelings.
Love is the only thing that doesn't hurt. Rejection hurts, Pride hurts, Betrayal hurts. Love is the only thing that does not hurt. It's easy to associate all these things with love because they usually happen in a sequence or simultaniously.
We fall in love with what I would call souls. We fall in love with the "what's more" of a person. We love by seeing imperfect people perfectly. Love is looking at a person past what the senses can pick up and growing to see the person with your mind- understanding, accepting and appreciating all that makes up this person into who they are. Perfect love has no room for fear because it's liberating. Demanding nothing, only loving for the sake of it. Love is unglamarous. Love is not an affectionate feeling, it's a nature. A basic wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained. Love is not an emotion. Desires and emotions are only symptoms of love. There will be days, or weeks, or maybe even longer, when you aren’t all mushy-gushy in-love. You’re even going to wake up some morning and think, “Ugh, you’re still here….” That’s normal! The language of love is truth. People need to be honest about who they are and what they are about to be loved. By presenting falsehood, the person in love is actually in love with someone who isn't you. A lot of us are in lust, in need, in infatuation, in attachment, in obsession, in convenience, in hope, in habit, in fear of being alone, in settling...
But not in love.
When you are upset or hurt by what a person you love has done, Perhaps you're upset at your child or your partner or your parent, do you stop loving them? It's like saying because you feel feverish or you have fallen sick, your heart has stopped working. Or saying that changing weathers would affect the presence of the sky. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal. Can love be lost? I don't think so. Relationships can be broken, but love doesn't end. Even lost love is still love. There is no such thing as fake love. What is tagged "fake love" simply isn't love at all. Love that’s alive is also constantly evolving. It expands and contracts and mellows and deepens. It’s not going to be the way it used to be, or the way it will be, and it shouldn’t be. It takes a different form, that's all. You can't see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken another heightens. Memory. You nurture the person you love in memory. Because that person eternally becomes a part of you. Maybe a part that hurts. But sometimes the pain is proof of the presence of love. It isn't possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you.
Love doesn't end, lovers do.
Afterall, “It is love, not reason, that is stronger than death.”
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4