Humanity has been trying to define this since the first musicians and poets, perhaps even earlier. So I figured I might as well take my shot at it.
My central thesis is that love is too narrowly defined by society and as a result we don’t experience as much love as we are capable. I am of the opinion that no feeling of love should be discounted and that love when it happens is always a good thing. I am normally one that approaches everything from academic standpoint, but I am going to try and keep most that out here, because my opinions are a product of both what I have read, but also from experience. And ultimately, regardless of what we might learn academically about love, much of the views we form about love does seem to be experiential.
So perhaps to start, we should look at what we love. I feel that love deepens in accordance with the complexity and changeability of what we love. Which is why loving another human being is the most satisfying, but also the most difficult and sometimes rather perilous. I feel that this is one of the reasons why people find it easier to show love towards pets, because they are relatively simplistic in comparison to humans, and are less likely to change in personality. Provided you show love and care they will give back that love in care. In many ways I feel this is the attraction of God as well. However a religion defines God, God while perhaps quite complex is also unchanging and I think many people find this appealing.
In the realm of other humans, we feel love towards family, we feel love towards friends and lovers. As a quick academic aside there is an evolutionary reason for feeling love towards family (genetic interest), love towards friends (reciprocal altruism) and love towards those we have sexual relationships with (both genetic interest combined with reciprocal altruism for the purposes of helping offspring survive). But putting this aside, I believe that we categorize love we feel towards different people, but I would see the feeling of love is often indistinguishable only the way that express that love is different. This is for obvious reasons and that is important, but in general I feel that when we over categorize love and in essence try to define it under narrow criteria we lose some of its value and joy. For instance we accept the fact that if we have a second child that we can love that new child as much as the first. You can love your mother just as much as your father or one cousin just as much as another. And this would be true for friends also. Now obviously all these people are slightly different and so how you express and show that love towards them or the reasons why you love them will be different.
What we don’t accept is that when you fall in love with someone, that you can’t fall in love with someone else and still feel the same love you felt for another person. There is some logic to this of course. Part of this has to do with the act of “falling in love”. Falling in love is quite the emotional roller coaster. The physiological changes are immense, and anybody who has had that to happen will know that they are literally not in their right mind for a good period of time. There is a reason for the expression “love is blind”. The act of falling in love often defies reason, which makes it more wonderful because that sort of loss of control is so intense and so unique that it makes the experience very spiritual. This is probably a good thing again from an academic standpoint because you want the experience to feel very significant since the care of offspring is a long term commitment. (And yes I know that we don’t have to create offspring, but that is the evolutionary goal of all life of which we are included). The key is that intense feeling of being “in love” fades, which is not to say that love gets worse, but the way it feels simply changes. You get your sanity back. J That feeling is not supposed to last 20 years and probably not even 10 years. The point I’m trying to make here is that nature has not prescribed how many times we are supposed to fall in love, only that we will fall in love, possibly multiple times. This feeling cannot be control, you do not choose who you fall in love with, it just happens. Just because you are already with someone doesn’t mean it can’t happen again. I feel that we as a society we find it easy to condemn that person and this is wrong. However, I think also if you are with somebody already and you fall in love with someone else, we too often tie more meaning to that than there really is. We can turn our lives upset down, and leave the person we are with for what we think of greener pastures, only to find ourselves, after the “falling in love” feeling fades to the same problems we had before.
I truly believe that our ability to feel love is unlimited, but what we are limited by is energy and time. This is the only limit that can be fairly placed on love. In life we must make choices. Perhaps not about who we love more, but who we expend more of our time and resources on in expressing that love. The amount of love you can show one child if you only have one, as opposed to 3 children is clearly more, even if you feel the same love for all your children. We often regret most not being able to express love in proportion to our feelings. And this can be a sad truth in life.
Love is beautiful. Love inspires. Love gives strength. Love helps you grow and learn. Love makes us better. Even if we have limited time and energy, we should try to never be jealous when someone we love feels more love in their heart for more in this world. Love is a good thing, and often means the most when you love without having a good reason to. Love also happens rarely, which makes it special when it happens to you, and it should always be cherished.
Perhaps the only thing that all love has in common is that it hurts when one is rejected: whether it is a friend, a parent, a child, a lover. We might feel that hurt in different ways, but it all has the power to give us sleepless nights, sobbing, stress, and depression. So maybe Haddaway had it right all along in answering the question.
What is love?
Baby don’t hurt me, no more.
But isn’t this also what makes love beautiful? If love was so certain I truly feel that the joy would not be as a great. Choose to feel the joy, and life will always feel full. I am thankful for all those in this world who have touched my heart and soul. I promise to keep reminding you of how thankful I am for that, and hope I can touch your heart and soul in return.