The age old question… “What is love?” Modern psychologists define it as the strong desire for emotional union with another person. The ancient Greeks called love “the madness of the gods.” Aristotle stated, “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” Plato said, “He whom love touches not walks in darkness.”
When I ask this question, I’m not just asking what love is but what is love in its purest, truest form. In the form where it is not just romantic but it transcends mere romance and becomes a meeting of two souls.
Love answers to no one. Love is unfettered by the gods of time. It knows no bounds. It is endless and infinite.
Countless books, poems, sonnets and songs have been written about love. Yet do we really understand what love really is? Is it a release of chemicals in the brain? Or is it something the soul experiences above what simple anatomy and science can comprehend? For some, it’s simply brain chemistry; hormones released in the brain that make us “feel” this emotion called “love”. A human emotion needed for relationships, for pair bonding, for parent-child attachment. Simply chalked up to the need for finding and keeping a suitable mate, procreating and then nurturing the child created so that the species may continue to live on. For others, it’s simply attachment that doesn’t need to be explained by science or faith but just is.
Then, I ask, of those who write books and songs and poems on love, do you feel something more? Something deeper than just chemicals in your brain or what is described as “love” by those that came before you? Can love exist beyond the physical? Can it be so pure as to touch your soul in a way that moves you, in a way that awakens ever fibre in your being and brings light in a world where there is so much gray? Is it love when you are connected in such a way that when your love needs you, even if asleep, you would hear their soul call out to you and you’d awaken?
Then, what is love? Is love the total and complete absence of indifference? Can love exist without pain, without… passion?
Philosophers and poets talk of “love at first sight”. Could you argue that it is two souls connecting on a level higher than the human mind can understand and that without knowing, they find their other half, as Plato interpreted it? Or is it simply infatuation which can just as quickly fade away as the two get to know each other and find that they are, in fact, incompatible.
In said case, and as I’m sure many have experienced, so many people confuse infatuation and love. So what is infatuation? Infatuation is understood to be a feeling inspired by unreasoning passion. So, then, how does one distinguish it from love? Infatuation can mature into love, sure. Therefore, clearly, the two can be distinguished retrospectively. But can one know while one is in the state of infatuation? I guess the only way to differentiate would be to compare to the way one experiences love. Does this apply only to romantic love or can we look at how we love our parents, our friends, our pets, ourselves? Possibly a purer form of love. When we look at the love we feel other than romantic love, we consider it unconditional and accept it to mean love. Then why is it that when it comes to romantic love, it becomes acceptable that it has an end, conditions, restrictions and bounds? Why can’t it be truer?
“What love is depends on where you are in relation to it. Secure in it, it can feel as mundane and necessary as air – you exist within it, almost unnoticing. Deprived of it, it can feel like an obsession; all-consuming, a physical pain. Love is the driver for all great stories: not just romantic love, but the love of parent for child, for family, for country. It is the point before consummation of it that fascinates: what separates you from love, the obstacles that stand in its way. It is usually at those points that love is everything.”
Love, pure love, knows no bounds. Love is endless and infinite. It answers to no one. It is unfettered by the gods of time.
It is of course possible that everyone experiences love in different ways. We are all “special snowflakes” after all, each individual and unique in our own way. Yet, we do share common experiences and we have emotions that we can all agree feel a certain way such as anger or sadness or happiness. Then, how is it that we feel love differently? Could it be that what separates our experience is simply how much importance we give to it? To one, love with another may be one experience in a sea human experiences where the others hold more weight such as maybe the love for one’s craft or the love for oneself. To another, the love felt for another may be the most enlightening experience in that same sea of human experiences. It may be love in its purest, truest form, fully recognised.
To love so deeply and completely, to surrender to love and its unpredictability, may not be everyone’s cup of tea but we all feel love. The only difference is, “some have sought to analyze it, others have preferred to leave it in the realm of the ineffable”. But what is the mature, real, true, pure love that is spoken of and how can we tell if we feel it? How does one explain pure love to someone who has never felt pure love or never been in love?
Love develops from a sense of deep attachment and passion. Love is grown, not commanded. Love cannot be turned on or off. It is constant. Love knows no bounds. It answers to no one. Love is eternal. Love is infinite. It is unfettered by the gods of time. It exists without wants. It stands steady without expectations. Love is free. It is freeing. Love knows that the “other” is also oneself. Love is protective. Its is emphathetic. Love is fire. Love is serenity. Love is arriving home.
So how do you know when you’ve reached real, true, mature, pure love? When another becomes a part of you, when they become you’re home.
Fundamentally, love is allowing your partner to be entirely who they are, even when their very being needles you to the core. It is a profound acceptance of the personhood of your lover, while dropping your need for them to be anything different. Yes, it’s a tall order. But who said it was going to be easy?