Sunday, August 23, 2009

What is Love?

Awhile ago I posted something on love. I have, not surprisingly, further and more refined thoughts. This is based on Plato's Symposium (it was the bonus question of an assignment for my Theory of Knowledge class)

What is love? Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more. This is not love.

Love is a kind of bond that occurs from a person's acceptance of someone or something. It could also be called interpersonal peace, and comes simultaneously with inner peace. When one is in a state of acceptance, love abounds.

People have very little idea of what love is these days, but one fundamental way we do understand love is the idea of “love you for who you are”. However, this isn't quite right. Rather, love is when somebody “loves you – and you are”. Loving somebody for who they are implies that you might not love them if they were were different. This means that you are attracted to their characteristics, not to them.

Trying to change somebody is alright, and can still fall within the boundaries of love. Most of the time, though, it does not. This is because we typically try to change people without any respect or acceptance that they're in the current state they're in. This means, simply, that we are trying to fix them, for we have labeled their condition a problem without coming to terms with the situation. With love, one first accepts that the person is how they are, and this love allows the person to change.

As Diotima says, eventually one will develop a love for all beautiful things. This is easy. What is more difficult is to also love things that are not beautiful, or even things that are ugly, for they are much harder to accept. When we live without love we live in a state of denial, ascribing random value to things based on their perceived beauty. This is inaccurate and is fundamentally flawed. Somewhat like Descartes says in Meditations, facets of objects are not the objects themselves. This is a basic part of the deceit of the senses. We look at things and perceive them, but frequently we are not looking at an object itself, but merely examining some qualities it happens to possess. Love is beyond this.

However, there is a place for physical form in love, it is just not that of beauty. Anything that has a physical form is presenting itself to us openly. At each moment, we are bombarded sensually by everything. To not accept and love everything is to create hell. There is far too much coming to individually address everything, but with love one can take some moments to accept a few things. Loving in this way will allow you to move freely through life. If one stops at each moment and hates things (or does not accept them) then there is far too much resistance on the journey of life.

“If you love someone, set them free.” Richard Bach, in saying this, makes a very good point about acceptance and love – that if you love something you will also accept its departure. However, he continues to say “If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were” which is not at all true. The very nature of love is incompatible with ownership.

It has also been said that “love is an verb”. This is somewhat true, but not entirely. Love certainly is not an adjective, and the term “in love” almost infallibly refers to infatuation. However, love is not a verb, because there really is no sole action that is “love”. If I said “I love you”, does that inherently mean that there is any specific action I'm performing toward you? There may be some general actions that go along with love, but really,

love is an attitude.


Darshan Chande

September 7, 2009 at 4:48 AM

This is a very finely thought out post about love. You have tried to define love in a very deep way and I liked it a lot. I too have my own thoughts about love. What interested me is that your thoughts match mine a lot, though not completely... But that's fine enough... M liking your blog :)


October 1, 2009 at 2:57 PM

Hi Malcolm,

I've been meaning to comment on this post for some time now, but I haven't been checking my Google Reader :S

Anyways, very interesting thoughts about love.

It's irritating when people talk about love and seek to promote it, without first defining what it means.

I think love stems from our personal values and - most importantly - how these values relate to our Self (who we recognize ourselves to be).

We love the people, things and behaviors that cherish what we value, and hate what ignores or destroys what we value. Our natural outlook is to value ourselves, which is why we can develop hatred to those who show us (or anything we relate ourselves to, such as God, king, country, religion, beliefs, etc) disrespect.

Hate is the natural response to disrespect, or any form of compromise to our values. Some people choose to abandon their values so that they don't end up experiencing hate. But that's not the appropriate approach. Rather than abandon our values, we should widen them. Rather than identify ourselves with one corner of the globe, we should identify ourselves with the whole.

In practical terms, if somebody was to insult my religion, I can see his attitude as an attempt to protect his own values and his means of seeking the truth. I would disagree with his approach, but it doesn't mean that I will hate him, or seek to retaliate. I can (as you say) accept this person, and accept his human quirks. I can value him as a human being, which would help me see that his insult was insignificant in the great scheme of things.

However, I would say that love needs to be expressed in our conduct. You can't say you love (i.e. value someone) without expressing any interest in that person, or demonstrating that love through action. There needs to be consistency in what we value, what we feel, what we say and what we do.


October 1, 2009 at 5:41 PM

Wow Haider - great insight!

I especially love this: "Rather than abandon our values, we should widen them." It's so true.

Thanks for this =)

Darshan Chande

October 17, 2009 at 9:16 AM

@ Haider,

Yeah, absolutely great insight. I am 100% with Malcolm's comment.


October 17, 2009 at 10:11 AM

Malcolm & Darshan,

I'm glad you enjoyed my comment. :)

Thank you for your feedback.

Darshan Chande

April 18, 2010 at 2:12 PM

Finally, I found myself clear about love and have written a post on What is love (Click) on my blog . You may like to read it.