What is Love?
Baby don't hurt me.
I've been asking people this question over the last few days. First I'll ask, "Do you think someone can fall in love at first sight?" and the person inevitably says no in their roundabout way. And then I ask the real clincher: "What do you think love is?"
I've gotten all kinds of responses. Some say love is a feeling you get deep down when you want to be with someone. Some say it is a choice, a commitment to stay with someone forever. Others say that love is a feeling, a chemical imbalance in the brain that incentivizes attachment and ultimately reproduction.
But when they've each asked me what I think, I haven't had an answer.
Because love is a choice, deep down - it's not just about that wild feeling of 'being in love'. And it does make people happy, it brings people together, it gives life...But there's more to it. It goes deeper than that somehow.
Why else would soldiers be willing to go off to fight wars to protect people they've never met? Why would mothers and fathers work two, three jobs just to support their children and give them a home? I mean, if it was only a choice - a purely human experience - or just a cognitive phemonon, how would we have the strength to do something like that?
So here I go trying to explain the unexplainable again. What a marvelous job.
Personally I don't think love can be described as a conventional 'emotion'. In my experience, it has always been more alive than anything, actively moving and interacting with the things around it. However, looking at emotions can help us learn a bit more about humanity and how we experience love.
So I made a list of binary emotions:
Just a super quick way of seeing on paper some of the emotions we feel every day but often forget to name specifically.
As you can see, many of them really are opposites - it's difficult to be both happy and sad, or both enraged and apathetic about something. On the other hand, some of them feed the other - insecurity feeds cockiness, just as often people act confident to avoid their fears.
But where does love fit into this? It could be something like this:
Because hate is the opposite of love, right?
Well, some believe so. If love is viewed as an emotion, then it is considered the strongest positive emotion, just as hate would be the strongest negative emotion. But like I said before, I don't think calling love an emotion really does it justice.
So I want to make an alternate proposal. I think each pair of emotions also has a spiritual component, which is related to the emotions but not reliant on them in any way. For example:
Whereas many will say that joy is just a synonym for happiness, I think it is something else entirely. Happiness is the condition of having fortunate circumstances - being comfortable where you are, and feeling like everything is going your way. But even if your life goes absolutely sour, if you lose everything you know and love and have to fight just to get up in the morning - even then I'd like to argue that you can have joy.
Because joy is a choice - you have to want it - and even though you have no control over it, when you really
need it, it will be there. It rises up within you like a wave, whether you expect it to or not. If you've felt it the way I have, you know what I mean.
So that's the argument I'm making: Emotions are not one dimensional, one or the other, but multidimensional - One can be both sad and joyful because that person's spirit has chosen to find strength, and to not give up, and in response, joy or rest or humility came to seek that person.
Applying that lesson to some other emotions, here's a new way of looking at our list:
Now how does this play into our whole discussion on love? Well let me tell you.
Like I said before, love is unexplainable. It's a conviction deep down in someone's soul that can't be chained down, can't be trampled on, and can't be ignored. It's uncontrollable, and if we're honest with ourselves, it has a mind of its own.
When I look at those characteristics in the middle column - 'courageous,' 'peaceful,' 'humble,' etc. - I see a human experience fully and absolutely uncontained by the world. I see someone untainted by their past, uncorrupted and blameless. As a Christian, I see Jesus. And it's a beautiful depiction of what a human can look like.
If we were to look at love as a bathrobe you can choose to put on or take off, it's like all these characteristics are different threads that weave together to form the truest form of love - the perfection that every human being desires deep down.
So what is love? Well, it is a choice, in that you have to seek it actively and wholeheartedly if you want to find it. But the reason we can experience love as humans is because it comes to seek us. We can't 'achieve' love no matter how hard we try, but when we take a step towards it, it in turn takes a step towards us, and leads us just a little further into the profound mystery that is life on this crazy Earth.
If I had to give love an official name, I would call it God. But God is more than an old man in the heavens making decisions about what college we go to and how much money we make at our jobs. God is the force that binds us all together. The breath in our lungs, the wind blowing through the trees, the post it note your roommate leaves to make you smile...These things are my evidence of love.
To me, that is enough proof that God is alive, that love is powerful, and that I am involved in that mystery.
"You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear."