I want to talk about love. And to talk about love I probably have to start with the most inflated question in the history of humankind: what is love?
In the fashion of analytic philosophy that lovingly guides my thoughts like a gun pointed at my back, I would subdivide the question into two.
1. What is “love”? As in, what does the term “love” mean: what is the concept behind the word “love.
2. What is love? As in, what is the practice of love and what are instances thereof.
(As a fan of the Black Eyed Peas I have to at least mention a third question, namely: Where is the love?)
I want to address only the first question. Why? Because I fear that the second question would resemble to The Ultimate WikiHow-Guide To Love, and my thoughts on that would end up at the level of a Wiki entry on Particle Physics written by a Vitalist. (Fyi infinitely roughly speaking, a Vitalist does not believe there to be atoms- you see the conflict of interest in writing a Particle Physics entry). And the third question, well I don’t want to lose a reader due to my ancient historic music tastes.
So what is “love”? I do not think that the analysis of a term will give us more insight than we all have- everyone can link affection and, in some cases, attraction to it; most of us accept that there are different kinds of love (towards family, friends, lovers) and those of us who watched Interstellar probably became a “love-Reductionist” (a Reductionist is (infinitely roughly speaking) a person who believes that all events and facts of the world can be explained by means of physics). If you have become a love-Reductionist, that is if you think everything can be broken down to, and explained by, love… well, then welcome to the club.
What though has not been so clear to me is that, I quote, love is also a verb. And that is how I want to answer this question about what love is.
At this point, if you are not struck by this and plan on reading on, then this entry may complete itself in being a feast of banality for you. The point is that for me it was not clear, even if I have claimed to love before and that says a lot about how inflated the word love is or how naive and hypocrite my loving is and has been.
A verb describes an action. Hence to love describes an action. Until now I assumed that to love is a passive action, and I realise only by writing this down how absurd my concept of love is: A passive action to imagine as a Platonic idea wandering on our heads and splashing down on us to decorate moments of our lives with love. As if love was a universal gift, or a free resource.
I took an introductory class in Economics on Khan Academy lately and they explained how fundamental the concept of scarceness is for Economics. Funnily enough as an example for scarce resource they suggested bananas, while as a free resource they suggested love. I quote approximately from the Prof.Dr.-guy on Khan Academy: Love has no limit in availability, hence it’s a free resource.
Now, while arguing whether there is limit or not to love is a very hard existential issue, I will limit myself to say that to love as a verb is an active action, and not a free gift from some higher source. The idea of loving by assuming that it is a free resource is naive.
I have said “I love you” many times, starting with my family members. I would agree to say that there is a more relaxed understanding of loving in one’s family. Something closer to unconditional love, that is absolutely not a given for love relationships. But even then if our actions do not match our words, then saying “I love you” has no meaning. Roughly put, it would be like saying “I am drinking tea”, without drinking tea. Then the phrase we said is at best describing a hypothetical, theoretical possibility. “I am drinking tea” would mean something like “I am able, generally, to drink tea”. Or an outright lie, because we say we drink tea, when in fact we are not at all drinking tea, but just uttering a sentence. Now the point is: nobody cares if we are drinking tea, if we are able to or if we are lying about it. But we do care if someone saying “I love you” is in fact not loving at all.
I like to think that most of us (and I keep using the plural to feel less lonely in my misery), do not lie about loving, they just don’t realise it’s an active action.
We cannot say that we drink tea, when if fact we have no mugs, no electricity, no kettle, no teabags. Drinking tea is an effort: we have to care to find a kettle, to pay our utility bills or even to start a utility plan to have water and electricity, to buy a mug and teabags and then we have to fill the kettle with water, boil the water, take the mug and the teabag, fill it with water etc. Suddenly an activity that seems so easy, if broken down in actions becomes complex. Love is approximately the same. We have to communicate, to communicate we have to be less proud and less afraid; we have to listen, to listen we need to be open-minded and receptive; we have to voice our complaints, for that we need to be clear about our feelings; we have to take into account changing our behaviour when we hurt our loved ones…
Why do we accept this complexity for drinking tea, but not for loving? Why do we know that we have to fulfill all these actions to drink tea, but we do not know that we have to do so to love? I do not have answers to these questions, but I believe that we often feel like we can drink tea even though we didn’t fill the kettle with water and do not own tea bags. And analogously, we think that in order to love, it’s enough to voice our complaints, or to listen to our loved ones’ complaints, without even taking into account to change our behaviour.
Why is it so evident to us, that we cannot drink tea in those conditions, but we think that we can love?
Take control of your mind and just meditate
And let your soul just gravitate
To the love, so the whole world celebrates it.
BlackEyedPeas, Where is the love, 2003