In our world today, love is a word that is used more commonly than any other. It is thought of to the point of obsession by nearly all mankind, yet how many people truly understand what love is? When I look around the world I see some acts done with love, but my overwhelming sense is that most acts are done out of insecurity, fear and selfishness. How can it be that as a society we talk of nothing but love yet still fail to act in a loving way to one another? We know deep down to our core that love exists and that we have experienced it. Even if it only lasted the briefest of seconds, once it has been experienced it is never forgotten and forever sought after. So what is love?
Before we try to understand what love is, perhaps we should discuss in more depth what it is not. Love is not an emotion. Emotions are impermanent and tightly linked to the ego. Emotions quickly change as new information becomes available and is processed. The most powerful emotions tend to spring forth when you have the least understanding about a situation. Love, however, is a constant that starts as just a hint and grows only if it is nurtured. Love is the root of all emotions, not the other way around. When we truly look at the emotions we will see that none of them would exist without first experiencing love. Anger exists when something we love is threatened. Hatred exists when something we love is taken from us. Hope exists when something we love begins to take shape. Happiness exists when something we love is present. But all forms of emotion first require love to exist.
Love is not desire, for desire is a selfish act. Desire is looking at a person to see what you can get from them to further your own needs. Often desire is rooted in lust, but it can come from other needs as well. We also desire a sense of security, a better life, someone to nurture, or someone we can walk all over. But in the end all of these desires come from a sense of emptiness inside that needs to be filled. Love is looking at a person to see what you can give to them to help them along their journey. It pours out of you when you see an opportunity to improve another’s life, so it cannot be desire.
Love is not passion, for passion is an uncontrolled fervour. Passion is looking at a person through a lens and only seeing the aspects of them that we are interested in seeing. It places a person on a pedestal. It is an overwhelmingly emotional experience, which leads it to be easily confused with love. Its flames burn out quickly as your delusions about the other person become apparent, though. All of a sudden they cannot compare to the perfect partner you have created in your passion. There is no truth in passion, so it cannot be love
Finally, love is not sex, for sex is merely a physical act, albeit one which results in the formation of life. Sex is a powerful, emotionally connecting moment between two people and can certainly result in an experience of love, but it is equally a powerful tool for destruction and pain. Sex can certainly exist without love, as love can exist without sex. In fact most of the loving relationships in our lives have zero sexuality. Family, friends, pets all exist in your life quite lovingly without sex. Until we can accept the reality of our sexuality, we will continue to confuse it with love.
So what is Love? When have we experienced it in the past? How can we recognize it in the future? We must remember that love is simply an interaction. Love is the sharing of a powerful experience between two or more souls that leads to truth. Love is walking down a dirt path on a fall day. The air is crisp, but your jacket is cozy. The leaves are turning beautiful shades of yellow and red. Coming towards you on the path is a father with his two year old daughter on his shoulders, piggy-backing. As they bounce past the daughter looks you straight in the eyes and lets out a loud screech of laughter, her face exploding into a toothy smile as yours does the same. A chuckle bursts from your lips as your eyes descend to the father’s and you see his face aglow as well. The feeling that washes over all of you at that moment; that is love. The connection made with the laughing child and her father, two strangers who you will most likely never meet again, is a moment you will remember. The child has seen that an enthusiastic laugh and smile will bring the same out in a stranger, the father has seen how the innocence of a child can bring together previously unknown people and you have learned to appreciate every bounce along the path of life. All three have grown, all three have participated in a beautiful moment. All three have loved.
If we want to enter a realm of higher thinking, in an attempt to break love down into its simplest form, then I would imagine the definition for love would be that it is. I think you will find upon deep introspection and analysis of the experiences in your life that they all break down to variations of the same thing: Love. The confusion in our assessment of love, I am convinced, is simply one of misplaced labelling when one experiences a connection to love. Love is the lesson. It is the core, the root, the essence. All things in our solar system arise from infinite, minute variations upon the same theme: Love. Because love is it, when we catch a glimpse of it we become filled with a sense of awe, wonder and happiness. But this is also where the confusion enters. For we associate the emotions of happiness and bliss that arise from love as being love, but this is not the case. Love is the lesson learned. Love is what arises when another step down the path towards Truth has been taken.
Many people go through life looking for ‘the One’ that they will fall in love with and live with in eternal bliss. This mindset, that there is one person out there in the midst of seven billion who can satisfy you and make you complete, is one of gross ignorance. By thinking in this way we set ourselves the task of searching for love, or worse still, waiting for love. In both cases, when someone does meet another person that they have a close connection to, instead of nurturing their shared happiness, each person begins to categorize their partner. In an attempt to decide whether or not this person is ‘the One’ they rate various attributes about their partner, judging and measuring them against their own lifestyle. Never making compromises, but instead seeing how the other person fits into their rigid idea of the perfect relationship. The problem with this way of thinking is that no one will ever fit, and no partner will ever be ‘the One’ because no person is perfect. We all have bad habits and imperfections. But if we are constantly critiquing our partners we are sure to notice every imperfection. And with time these imperfections will begin to grate upon our nerves. Our original feeling of love towards this person is being replaced by annoyance. Perhaps, because our original feeling of love was actually lust, which wears off relatively quickly. All in all our relationship is doomed to failure because we are waiting for love to happen, or searching for love so furiously that we instead uncover all of our lover’s imperfections.
How can this be avoided? Wise men have said that love can be found between any two people, and I tend to agree. All that must be remembered is that love is not something that arrives, or something that needs to be found. Love is something that is created. When two people who share something special decide that they want to engage in a loving relationship and they make the effort together to create love between one another, then it cannot fail. But both parties must understand that love is a journey with ups and downs. Love is multi-faceted and is expressed in many ways, some unpleasant, but all of which need to be experienced. The ‘perfect’ relationship is one where two souls are content to share the majority of their experiences in this life together, so they can compare notes, reminisce about past shared experiences and learn from one another as they grow.