Synopsis ~ Written late one night in 2003, then edited and reposted in 2011. This is a short essay about the meaning of love, how people perceive love, and love’s purpose.
One of the greatest human fears is living and dying alone; however, there is something that can overcome this fear. That is one of the many powers of love. But what is love? Can you see it? Is there a taste to love? Does one touch love, or is love relegated to some other sense? Does true love exist, or is it just a cheap thrill that lasts for one night? Does love have substance, or is it merely a word fabricated by the pressures of society as a way to justify the means of propagation and selling candy?
It is true that love is a formidable and thoroughly proven commercial engine. People will do almost anything for the promise of love. This is the thought behind many large enterprises: greeting cards, stuffed animals, boxed candy, dress makers, florists, etc. Is love merely a conglomerate’s concoction or is it something more? I think that depends on how we define love, and how those we love define love.
Love is something that happens. Be it a chemical switch driven by lust or a feeling of comfort you get when you are around that certain someone, love has a way of sneaking up on you. You can’t really chose with whom you will “fall in love”. How you chose to express that love is something you can choose. While society sets certain assumptions and pressures on how people express their love, there is no right or wrong answer in that expression. If you realize one day, that a person means more to you than you previously realized, then that is when you know that you are in love. Love exists in different forms in different people’s minds.
The word love, and its related words, have been created in countless cultures and languages. People have been trying to define this idea throughout history, but has anyone really shown that love actually exists? Love is a state of mind, but it can also be fleeting and transitory. Loves comes and goes between people. The truth of love is nearly impossible to find. It is not tangible or logical. Love is primordial and utterly emotional.
The concept of “true love” is a shelter for those people who believe that without love there would be no point to life. These people would argue that life isn’t about existence, learning, or propagation of a species. To them, life is about love. It is obvious that love means many different things to different people, and that to each it has a different value. Because of these different values, some people throw the word around meaninglessly. They know it is a word that someone wants to hear, and exploit that to get what they want. They say that they love, but with no meaning or substance to back it up.
That isn’t love. These people use the idea, perverting it and weakening the basis of love. They use the term in place of what they are really feeling, lust. Are those people missing out on something, or do they have the best of both worlds? Does physical intimacy fill the void that our society says is left in a loveless relationship? It is difficult to tell, but it is certainly a less expensive approach to mating. Could it be that love is really just a beautiful metaphor created to justify these types of actions? Unfortunately in our society, shallowness and this misuse of love are applauded by the troglodytic masses. So it becomes difficult to distinguish simple lust from the goal of reproduction.
So is reproduction the ultimate goal of love? Many people would argue that the concept of love did not exist before societies developed in a way to create an abundance of leisure time. Those who buy into this idea say that our conveniences are the very trappings of love’s tangled web. But is that the case? Did our instinctual need to reproduce require love? Probably not. A quick glance around the animal kingdom will definitively illustrate that lust long out dates love as the means for propagation. So where did love’s origin’s begin?
The concept of love exists within almost every language and culture on the planet. Love, it would seem, is a human concept which goes far beyond simple leisure. But as you study love in different cultures, you find that many of them break love down into various categories: romantic love, familial love, sexual love, etc. Even the dictionary has different classifications for the word love. Does this deep connection with human language prove that love is a basic human emotion or something more? Does one definition carry more weight than others, or is love truly unique to each individual?
It would seem that maybe there could be a place for those one-night-stand in love’s many definitions. But that creates a new problem. How do people express their love, when they each have different definitions of love? Can love truly exist between two people who accept love at different values? People don’t have to agree on the value and place of an object for it to exist, but two objects cannot exist in one place simultaneously. I think the same is true for love. Without at least a similar definition of love, two people cannot have a truly loving relationship.
This does not mean that one person’s definition is more valid than the other’s definition. It just means the topic is even more complicated. Some people can search all of their lives for love and never find it. Yet, there are those who can live the lie, thinking that they have found it when they have not. Love is not what it is because people desire it to be so, and love is not what it is because of our day-to-day human interactions. Love is what it is because of the different ways we imagine love to exist. Our emotions guide us, they are a constant force driven by our instincts.
In Bizet’s opera “Carmen”, the seductive title character warns, “Love is like a rebellious bird that nobody can tame.” This description paints a very irrational picture of love, and rightfully so as love and logic are often at opposites. (Something Carmen later learns while being stabbed to death by one of her former lovers.) Love and logic play against each other, but love could not truly exist without the other. Because of this relationship, love can have both a light and a dark side.
When you give your love to a person, you are sharing a portion of yourself. You are showing you trust them, and thinking that they would never hurt you. If betrayed, this once euphoric feeling turns cold, empty, and bitter. This is the side of love which has the power to devastate someone emotionally. Often times, people have used this pain as an excuse for taking their own lives, or the life of someone else. This makes love fickle, and in turn makes those people abused by love weak. This is the dark power of love.
Love has a serious influence over people, one which is too often taken for granted. Love has horrid consequences if you do not respect it for what it is to others. Love is not always what you think it is, or what you think it should be. Love can take many different forms, and can even be deceptive. Love can be healing, or it can be devastating. Love is ecstasy and torment. Love gives you strength, but can make you weak. Love can be freeing, or enslave us under its power.
One thing about love is for certain, once you find it you never want to lose it. Love is everywhere and in many different forms all around us. Love permeates our thoughts, fills our dreams, and effects our actions. Even though love permeates the world around us, it is still so hard to assign a definitive value. Of course, love is different for everyone, and this is part of what makes defining love so difficult. No one can tell you what love is to you, that is something you have to find for yourself. I think love is something you define through your own desires, and express through your own experiences. Love is unique to each person, and sometimes those values are incompatible. In the end, love is what you make of it.