(I still don’t know)
My friend’s observation about love having been missing from Getting Directions up until now was right. Accurate criticism as a spur to action.
But even now, after hours spent thinking about love … After writing about it and trying to understand it… I’m still not sure.
I’m lying here wondering if I’m a coward. And that’s not nice.
I’m wondering if cowardice has underpinned how I’ve thought – or, rather, not thought – about love, for all my life.
And I don’t know what I think it means, that – apart from the odd cliched use of the term – love is something that’s been rarely talked about in my life. And it always has been thus.
And so I don’t know about you and the love in your life.
The Challenge Of Love
A friend said love was missing from ‘Getting Directions’. He said love was something he knew was a big part of my life but that I was hardly mentioning it.
He was right.
I knew I rarely mentioned love – not in ‘Getting Directions’; not in life. I knew it was an emotion I ought to … What? Discuss? Acknowledge?
My get-out excuse was that there have been any number of brains far better than mine, who’ve tried to explain it, invoke it, celebrate it, extol its virtues or lament its loss. And so on and so on. But that was just an excuse.
Perhaps I tended to avoid love because it felt such a vaguely, imperfectly-used term. I’d admit, if up against the wall, that perhaps the real issue has been because it was an emotion I ought to understand. And I didn’t. For some reason I’d always found even talking about love a challenge.
In the past, my un-thought-through response to being challenged about love would be that it’s a word that’s over-used, mis-used. A word that’s used simplistically. That it’s an emotion that’s perhaps felt more rarely in life than popularly imagined. But it’s an emotion that stays with you forever once it has been experienced.
But I think I’ve always known that was trite, even if I didn’t say so – not even to myself.
(A Daunting) Challenge
Time passing. Too much time. A dense fog obscuring what should be an active exploration of an emotion. Synapses not firing.
Thinking about love takes you into the murky territory of whether love’s merely yet another basic unconscious instinct. Perhaps it might get dressed up as a conscious emotion, but in reality that might be after the fact.
But even if you measure brain activity to the Nth degree with the most sophisticated instruments devised by humans, I doubt that would help us reach a conclusion. A conclusion that changes how we live our lives.
(A Challenging) Challenge
A grinding effort. Eventually, reflecting on love further, I could only conclude that it’s my own un-thought-through response that’s wrong, that’s simplistic.
Looking for options and inspiration, I recalled once reading that the ancient Greeks had a far more nuanced understanding of love. That was my way back in to the problem, to the exploration I’d embarked upon.
(The process by which my brain could eventually dredge up that memory of Greek sophistication is worthy of exploration in its own right. Something for another time.)
(Rising To A) Challenge
Eventually, I’ve come to suspect it comes down to a question of language. We have ‘love’ as a catch-all term – a catch-all emotion. But the reality is that love manifests itself in a variety of ways. These ways are not mysterious. We can understand them. But we are rendered simplistic in our own approach to love in our lives because don’t have clear, single-word terms for them.
There’s innocent love of a crush; the love of youth. (Youthful-love)
And there’s the love of romance, of passion – the focus of so much art over the centuries. (Passionate-love)
There’s the love that’s bound up with friendship. (Friendship-love)
And there’s the love that feels closest to instinct, to being somehow natural (whatever that means). Most commonly, this is the love that might exist towards a close group such as a family. It could also be for a larger group – something like a team or similar. I think for some people, in some circumstances, it could even be love people say they have towards a country. (Instinctive-love)
There’s a love that can be selfless, unconditional. This is the kind of love you might believe is a universal reality. The kind of love that you might feel is infinite and that you can extend to everyone, whoever they are. (Unconditional-love)
And there’s love which becomes obsessive. (Obsessive-love)
There’s also love that’s different in that it’s also a function of time – its defining feature is that it is long-lasting. It is a love of enduring commitment. As such, it’s built on understanding and compromise, maturity and patience. (Enduring-love)
These types of love aren’t themselves exclusive. You can experience many different types of love simultaneously. And, of course, love doesn’t have to be reciprocated. Hence it’s possible to feel you have a love, say, for a pet animal.
But underpinning all the other forms of love, there’s a need for there to be a strong foundation. To be able to love others you first have to be comfortable with who you are. I think of this as a core love; it’s a long way away from vanity or selfish love. (Core-love)
(The Value Of The) Challenge
Thinking about love in conjunction with another defining-refining term can make how we convey our emotions, and think about our emotions, more precise. And that precision can help us better understand our lives as a whole.
And having a clearer understanding of love means you can properly value it, in whatever form or forms it exists in your life.
“To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.” (Bertrand Russell)
Arguably … it is interesting to consider why so many of us seem to have what would appear a simplistic notion of love (insofar as we consciously consider it). Common working conceptualisations of love may well lack any nuance. Possibly, they are being corrupted.
Attitudes might be commonplace and generally accepted. That is no guarantee of their validity.