What is Love?
I’ve had the itch to write again, which means I come once again to my blog here. Summer is dawning upon us, school is ending and the yearly glut of weddings has arrived. Normally this means little to me, but this year it seems every second or third friend of mine is attending a wedding, either as a part of the “party” (which unless you’re the guy in charge of the bachelor party it really isn’t,) or as one of the two focal points. This all culminates with a few other factors to lead me to thinking about what “Love” really is.
So just what is love? Is it an action, or a feeling, or both? Perhaps something else entirely, the dictionary seems confused slightly on this issue. As a noun, Love means any of the following; an intense (like camping) feeling of deep affection, a person or thing that someone loves (which is a cheat in and of itself, defining a word using a form of itself?) or even a score of zero in tennis. Thats right, tennis needs love too. But that’s not all! As a verb to love is to feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment too. My conclusion here is that the dictionary believes love is a feeling or to feel something.
The infamous Urban Dictionary has numerous definitions, the second of which is respectable long miniature essay ending with a quote from Sophocles. I like the first especially though, short and sweet, “Nature’s way of tricking people into reproducing.” Beautiful, boiled down to the base (pun slightly intended,) Love a way of perpetuating the human race, whereby we either rise above our animal companions here on Earth, or join them somehow.
I prefer the definition given by an assassin droid from the Knights of the Old Republic games. Shocking isn’t it? “Definition: ‘Love’ is making a shot to the knees of a target 120 kilometers away using an Aratech sniper rifle with a tri-light scope… Love is knowing your target, putting them in your targeting reticule, and together, achieving a singular purpose against statistically long odds.” -HK 47 Beautiful isn’t it? Nothing at all about romance, feelings or even (specifically) about another being, let alone one of compatible reproductive organs. But in those philosophical words of an overly cynical (remember, I’m the one saying that here) imaginary droid from a game touched most recently by George Lucas, are true gold I believe.
In the grand scheme of things, I’ve only recently begun dating my girlfriend, and before asking her to fill that role in my life, I actually asked her father’s permission. Regardless of the vintage nature of the request, and the fact I hadn’t ever done something of the sort before, I truly feel that it was the correct thing to have done. And we all know how I feel about “feelings.” (Or maybe you don’t, in which case ask and maybe I’ll write on it sometime.) Before eventually granting my request, much to my joy, he sat me down and we talked for a bit, mostly about what Love is and our thoughts on the matter.
Now, I will say here and now that the next time I say those words to a female not of my family (though I do say it to them rarely enough) they will be immediately followed by “Will you marry me?” or some suitably cheesy equivalent query. I will also admit to having used that word “Love” (and honestly felt them, inasmuch as an 18 year old is able) with once person before, and I will say; it is a terribly powerful word. The nuclear missile, as it were, of words in the relationship world.* But on to what Love has been developed in my mind and taught to me.
Love is a mixture of emotion and action, both choice and not. Part of loving someone is to cherish them. Cherishing in this sense is nurturing and caring for, during both their “lovable” and unlovely moments. Cherishing is a chore at times, and at others flows naturally out with no effort at all, and make no mistake, even the most perfect (inasmuch as is humanly possible) person is never always lovely. Even the most beautiful person looks terrible after a weekend with the flu and not enough tissues. Period. The same thing goes after a particularly distressing emotional bout. Say another loved one (the Greeks had it better than us, holding claim to three different words for the concepts we call Love) has recently passed away, or betrayed the trust of said person.
Everyone in this world has something that will eventually break them down, and typically the more stoic and reserved person they are, the more spectacular the breakdown is. I speak from personal experience here having experienced some of the most reserved people I know to break down, and it is never a pretty sight. Even when this breakdown occurs, and especially now in truth, is where the cherishing of a person comes into play as a part of love. Being a shoulder to cry on, a person to drive on the way to Starbucks to talk, or just to be close to and empathize with, these are all parts of love.
To do so on that most intimate of levels known to humankind, Marriage, requires something far closer to true love than many these days find. When that person is struggling, love knows and hurts for them, wanting to do its best to help that person, to hold them and shield against everything bad in the world. And in this situation, that cherishing and shielding is amidst trials no one else may ever know about.
Further, Love abides amidst hurt from the other party. We hurt worst those we know the best, and frequently, those are those we love. Knowing much more about a person opens up them to reveal their weakpoints, their faults, their fears. Whether one wishes to admit it or not, true Lovers, and in descending strength down, know how worst to hurt the other, and it happens sooner or later in a moment of anger. Abiding those barbs and vitriol is painful, both as a betrayal of trust and as a true strike against us, but wise is the one to look beyond that, or best, overlook it entirely.
Similar to cherishing and caring for, is growing and nurturing and self sacrifice. Even after someone has past that period of hurt that cuts deepest, they still need building up. Love helps heal the hurts, after having salved them closed and stemming the bleeding, resetting the broken bones of a broken spirit. Being healed and recovering hurts though, hurt and pain cause more lashing out of one sort or another, and so abiding once more becomes important, even necessary.
Love is also waiting for the other to be ready, while being forceful when needed, and wise to know when the need is real, and willing to compromise when the time for that comes as well. Rare is the circumstance two people feel exactly the same about any large decision, or small for that matter. Love says “Lets work together here to decide” and doesn’t press all out to win every single time for the sake of being right or getting their way.
And finally, Love is sacrifice. While few are the times that we are called to lay our lives down for another in America, and only “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.” -Rom 5:7, sacrifices need be made every day, to some level or another. Love finds out what is best for the other, and weighs that heavily into what the possibly paths ahead are. Recognizing the other as more important than oneself, and that you are willing to act on this knowledge, is a huge step in and towards love.
So what then is Love? Love is a state of being and choice to place another above yourself. While the “warm fuzzes” are indeed warm, fuzzy, and adorable, they are also pernicious and fickle, prone to leave at the slightest discomfort. The word “Love” is tossed around more frequently than the price of gas rises, and has truly lost much of the meaning it was meant to have. Indeed, love frequently is used as a cleaner substitute for Lust, most marriages and relationships based on that last about the same amount of time a professional politician’s word does.
Love, as it is and was meant to be is self-sacrificing, persistent, and other-serving. To love is to sometimes consciously make the decision to go against your instinct to put yourself first or ahead of another and inconvenience yourself. It is also to trust another to do the same for you, but to not take advantage of that trust or knowledge. Simply, Love is a Verb.
*It is at this point that cheesy song popped in my head, not having realized earlier what my title was fully