Celebrating Valentine’s Day: What is LOVE?

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latest-Heart-love-wallpaperWhat is LOVE? … a question of the ages. Psychology Today says: “Love is a force of nature. However much we may want to, we can not command, demand, or take away love, any more than we can command the moon and the stars and the wind and the rain to come and go according to our whims.

We may have some limited ability to change the weather, but we do so at the risk of upsetting an ecological balance we don’t fully understand. Similarly, we can stage a seduction or mount a courtship, but the result is more likely to be infatuation, or two illusions dancing together, than love.

Love is bigger than you are. You can invite love, but you cannot dictate how, when, and where love expresses itself. You can choose to surrender to love, or not, but in the end love strikes like lightening, unpredictable and irrefutable. You can even find yourself loving people you don’t like at all. Love does not come with conditions, stipulations, addenda, or codes. Like the sun, love radiates independently of our fears and desires.

Love is inherently free. It cannot be bought, sold, or traded. You cannot make someone love you, nor can you prevent it, for any amount of money. Love cannot be imprisoned nor can it be legislated. Love is not a substance, not a commodity, nor even a marketable power source. Love has no territory, no borders, no quantifiable mass or energy output.

640px-DickseeRomeoandJulietOne can buy sex partners and even marriage partners. Marriage is a matter for the law, for rules and courts and property rights. In the past, the marriage price, or dowry, and in the present, alimony and the pre-nuptial agreement, make it clear that marriage is all about contracts. But as we all know, marriages, whether arranged or not, may have little enough to do with love.

Sexual stimulation and gratification, whether by way of fingers, mouths, objects, fantasy play, whips and chains, or just plain intercourse, can certainly be bought and sold, not to mention used to sell other things. Whether sex should be for sale is another question entirely, but love itself can not be sold.

One can buy loyalty, companionship, attention, perhaps even compassion, but love itself cannot be bought. An orgasm can be bought, but love cannot. It comes, or not, by grace, of its own will and in its own timing, subject to no human’s planning.

Love cannot be turned on as a reward. It cannot be turned off as a punishment. Only something else pretending to be love can be used as a lure, as a hook, for bait and switch, imitated, insinuated, but the real deal can never be delivered if it doesn’t spring freely from the heart.

This doesn’t mean that love allows destructive and abusive behaviors to go unchecked. Love speaks out for justice and protests when harm is being done. Love points out the consequences of hurting oneself or others. Love allows room for anger, grief, or pain to be expressed and released. But love does not threaten to withhold itself if it doesn’t get what it wants. Love does not say, directly or indirectly, “If you are a bad boy, Mommy won’t love you any more.” Love does not say, “Daddy’s little girl doesn’t do that.” Love does not say, “If you want to be loved you must be nice, or do what I want, or never love anyone else, or promise you’ll never leave me.”

Love cares what becomes of you because love knows that we are all interconnected. Love is inherently compassionate and empathic. Love knows that the “other” is also oneself. This is the true nature of love and love itself can not be manipulated or restrained. Love honors the sovereignty of each soul. Love is its own law.

Excerpted from The Seven Natural Laws of Love, by Deborah Anapol.

Below are five more thoughts on emotional love:

The physicist: ‘Love is chemistry’

Biologically, love is a powerful neurological condition like hunger or thirst, only more permanent. We talk about love being blind or unconditional, in the sense that we have no control over it. But then, that is not so surprising since love is basically chemistry. While lust is a temporary passionate sexual desire involving the increased release of chemicals such as testosterone and oestrogen, in true love, or attachment and bonding, the brain can release a whole set of chemicals: pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin. However, from an evolutionary perspective, love can be viewed as a survival tool – a mechanism we have evolved to promote long-term relationships, mutual defence and parental support of children and to promote feelings of safety and security.

• Jim Al-Khalili is a theoretical physicist and science writer

The psychotherapist: ‘Love has many guises’

Unlike us, the ancients did not lump all the various emotions that we label “love” under the one word. They had several variations, including: Philia which they saw as a deep but usually non-sexual intimacy between close friends and family members or as a deep bond forged by soldiers as they fought alongside each other in battle. Ludus describes a more playful affection found in fooling around or flirting. Pragma is the mature love that develops over a long period of time between long-term couples and involves actively practising goodwill, commitment, compromise and understanding. Agape is a more generalised love, it’s not about exclusivity but about love for all of humanity. Philautia is self love, which isn’t as selfish as it sounds. As Aristotle discovered and as any psychotherapist will tell you, in order to care for others you need to be able to care about yourself. Last, and probably least even though it causes the most trouble, eros is about sexual passion and desire. Unless it morphs into philia and/or pragma, eros will burn itself out.

Love is all of the above. But is it possibly unrealistic to expect to experience all six types with only one person. This is why family and community are important.

• Philippa Perry is a psychotherapist and author of Couch Fiction

The philosopher: ‘Love is a passionate commitment’

The answer remains elusive in part because love is not one thing. Love for parents, partners, children, country, neighbour, God and so on all have different qualities. Each has its variants – blind, one-sided, tragic, steadfast, fickle, reciprocated, misguided, unconditional. At its best, however, all love is a kind a passionate commitment that we nurture and develop, even though it usually arrives in our lives unbidden. That’s why it is more than just a powerful feeling. Without the commitment, it is mere infatuation. Without the passion, it is mere dedication. Without nurturing, even the best can wither and die.

• Julian Baggini is a philosopher and writer

The romantic novelist: ‘Love drives all great stories’

What love is depends on where you are in relation to it. Secure in it, it can feel as mundane and necessary as air – you exist within it, almost unnoticing. Deprived of it, it can feel like an obsession; all consuming, a physical pain. Love is the driver for all great stories: not just romantic love, but the love of parent for child, for family, for country. It is the point before consummation of it that fascinates: what separates you from love, the obstacles that stand in its way. It is usually at those points that love is everything.

• Jojo Moyes is a two-time winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year award

The nun: ‘Love is free yet binds us’

Love is more easily experienced than defined. As a theological virtue, by which we love God above all things and our neighbours as ourselves for his sake, it seems remote until we encounter it enfleshed, so to say, in the life of another – in acts of kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice. Love’s the one thing that can never hurt anyone, although it may cost dearly. The paradox of love is that it is supremely free yet attaches us with bonds stronger than death. It cannot be bought or sold; there is nothing it cannot face; love is life’s greatest blessing.

• Catherine Wybourne is a Benedictine nun

Love is a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes that ranges from interpersonal affection (“I love my mother”) to pleasure (“I loved that meal”). It can refer to an emotion of a strong attraction and personal attachment. It can also be a virtue representing human kindness, compassion, and affection—”the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”. It may also describe compassionate and affectionate actions towards other humans, one’s self or animals.

Ancient Greeks identified four forms of love: kinship or familiarity (in Greek, storge), friendship (philia), sexual and/or romantic desire (eros), and self-emptying or divine love (agape).

Modern authors have distinguished further varieties of romantic love.

Non-Western traditions have also distinguished variants or symbioses of these states. This diversity of uses and meanings combined with the complexity of the feelings involved makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, compared to other emotional states.

Love in its various forms acts as a major facilitator of interpersonal relationships and, owing to its central psychological importance, is one of the most common themes in the creative arts.

Love may be understood as a function to keep human beings together against menaces and to facilitate the continuation of the species.

agape

What is Your Concept of LOVE? – Speak Your Mind

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