I love you.
I love ice cream.
I love my kids.
I love Ed Harris. (Squeal!)
I love my parents.
I love purple.
“Love” is a catch phase we slap on anything we like, enjoy, feel obligated to, or care about. We walk out of a movie and say, “I loved that!” We think of our favorite famous person and say, “I love him” when we’ve never even met him. We turn to our significant other and say “I love you so much.” This word is so convoluted we may not understand its true meaning. Lately, I’m asking “What is love anyway?”
According to many spiritual traditions, the highest level of human capacity is love. But, how can we attain love when we don’t know what it really is? So I charge you, dear reader…what the heck is it?
Is it caring deeply about someone or something? Is it being nice even when you don’t want to be? Is love equal to patience, allowing others to be who they are and accepting them no matter what? Is love the same as peace? Is love serving others, even when you’re exhausted? Is it being the best parent you can be to your child? Is it letting someone go when you know it’s time?
Language fails us when it comes to love.
It’s like trying to see air. We know it’s there. We know we experience it, but defining it is like grasping water. So we’re left with dumb analogies to describe it.
Is love a feeling? Or is it an action, something we do? We can love someone that we dislike. We can perform a loving action when we are angry or hurt. So apparently the feeling and the action don’t need to match. The Bible tells us love is patient, kind, and does not boast. But what about “tough love?” Also, sometimes love hurts like a sword through the heart. So…wtf?
Love is like the Eastern concept of the Tao.
“The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao.” Anytime we try to define it, it eludes us. However, we toss the word around like it’s no big deal.
“Love” has become synonymous with anything that makes us feel good: junk food, sex, a hot musician, a place, a person, a book, a new outfit. OMG, I am so confused! We have a lot of things and emotions disguised as love. Maybe they point toward love, but they still aren’t love itself.
I’ve grown suspicious of this word. If someone says they love me that can mean ten different things. It might make better sense to say, “I care about you.” Instead of “I love chocolate”, how about “Chocolate brings me pleasure!”
If we look beyond the human notions of love, we can sorta grasp that love is the force of creation. It’s the energy that runs the universe. But if that’s the case, why can’t we just use the word creation? Also, this gets hairy because if love is the essence of the universe, mustn’t we also admit a huge part of that is destruction? But it seems incorrect to equate love with destruction. Creation and destruction are two sides of the same coin. Maybe love is the space that holds this coin. If so, love is still responsible for destruction. Maybe destruction isn’t a bad thing then. Perhaps destruction is merely transformation. If that’s the case then we should “love” death, hurricanes, and wars. Sigh.
Love is sometimes promoted as something to be earned or bought when we know damn well it’s neither. Marriage can’t be equated to love. Sex is not love. We love someone but later fall out of love. That doesn’t seem like true love then, does it? Or we say “I love him, but I had to let him go.” How can we love someone that is no longer a part of our reality? What we really mean is “I love the memory of him.” Again, it points to love, nothing more.
I prefer never to utter the words “I love you.”
First, the plainness dilutes the profound feeling of fondness. I’d certainly feel offended if you addressed your esteem and attachment to me in those barely attired terms; doesn’t our relationship deserve a better-dressed expression?
Second, “I love you” are not your words! They belong to millions of people before you. Why borrow such a hackneyed expression dulled by universal habit?
Choose a more personal verbal assembly-something that expresses your personality or, more to the point, your complex appreciation for the one you love.
–Philippe Petit, Creativity, the Perfect Crime
I understand words like care and peace. But, I do not know what “love” really means. I can only savor the occasional moments I experience it, laying down my desire to grasp it or define it.