Love is something which gets used a lot in so many different contexts.  It’s something that I’ve been mulling over a lot lately and I just wanted to get some thoughts down, and share some perspectives of mine on the matter.

There’s the context of food, as in ‘I love my mom’s cooking’, or ‘I love chocolate’, then there’s relational love between two people, as in ‘I love you’.  It’s this second emotional relational context that I’m keen to explore further.

To start out, I just want to note how clumsy the English language is in relation to the word for love.  Compared to Urdu/Hindi which has a number of different terms to denote the degrees to and the levels of love one might feel towards another.  There are the terms Pyar, Ishq, Mohabbat, amongst others that all relate to love, but some more intensely than others.  Knowledge of these subtly different words might be partly to do with why I’m able to articulate some of these distinctions below.

Briefly reviewing some of the different types of love, there is the ‘infatuation’ type of love, that generally translates into an obsessed, I must be with them type of feeling.

There is also the cutesy high school crush, sort of romantic comedy style love.  Especially common between a young couple that’s freshly dating, and are at the stage where they like each other but don’t necessarily know how much nor do they have deep feelings for each other. Perhaps you might even think of it in terms of the phrase ‘puppy love’.

Then there’s the love that’s very caring, concerned for the wellbeing of another, in a real sibling/spouse/parent child kind of way, where you care about the wellbeing and safety of the other. In such situations you will always ultimately care about the health and wellbeing of the other, but at times you may prefer to not spend all your time with these people, or you may prefer to keep them at a distance, especially when familial relationships are involved, but ultimately if any tragedy were to befall them, or any mishap, you would want to be the first one to come to their aid in their time of need.

There’s also that very platonic kind of all embracing, love everyone and everything kind of love, that a lot of hippies, new age spiritualists, and perhaps spiritually inclined people would engage with, trying to be loving and caring towards everyone and everything.  It’s the kind of love that has you aspire for world peace, the end of poverty, protecting the environment (though many of those behaviours can also derive from a sense of guilt, a desire to escape a certain life, or to just receive kudos, and recognition, as a form of status, as well as the more noble reason of a desire to genuinely want to make a difference for others).

With each of these different forms of love (and I’m sure there are more that I haven’t included), whilst the word love is used, it seems to relate to some very different things.  Even though for the most part it seems that it relates to the relationship between two people or a person (or conceivably any living species that appears to express emotion), there are two more perceptions of love that I have yet to mention, that are remote or different from these.  One is considered truth, or divine love, a state of being, or a state of grace received or entered into through a divine blessing or continuous devotion, prayer and worship.  (There are some commonalities between mystics of different faiths when bringing them together and having them share their divine experiences, especially when relating to or describing a state of ‘pure love’).

Another perspective that is starting to surface is of love as being a force of the universe. Some people describe love as the force that literally holds everything together.  It’s referred to as a subtle force that underpins the whole of reality.  For those of a more scientific bent, this usage of ‘love’ is akin to the scientific theories of everything that describe a sub-atomic component to physical matter which permeates all form in the physical dimension. An energy which exhibits intelligence, forms a non-physical blueprint to the physical universe and informs the creation and evolutionary direction of all that is alive.  A bit incredulous perhaps for some of you readers out there to believe, but a perspective that’s out there in the world nonetheless.

What interests me most, in connection with love, is this idea that there exists an ideal soul mate or a perfect life partner for each of us. Having personally only been in a single romantic relationship in my entire life, and that with a woman that I married, and came to love, over the few months prior to the wedding, knowing that I was to marry her, perhaps my personal perspective on the matter might be a little biased.  Especially as the marriage and relationship didn’t last very long.

But having said that, there are some patterns that I’ve noticed that I believe to be true irrespective of personal experience surrounding the nature of love, and how it affects us.

One observation is that love can be cultivated over time.  Especially through repetition.  The best example I can think of is from my high school days, when we would have the radio on in certain classrooms, in the background.  Certain songs which I found really annoying or irritating when I first heard them, after prolonged exposure to them on the radio my opinion of the song would change and I would start to like, and even enjoy the songs that previously I had considered terrible.  It’s happened quite a few times since as well, that upon repeatedly hearing the same songs over and over again, whether I liked them or not, I would eventually learn to like them if I were exposed to them over time.

This does make me wonder if a direct connection exists between the frequency and length of exposure between two people and how that affects just how much attraction exists between them.

Indeed having seen successful couples spend a lifetime together, through compromising with each other and making an effort at making their relationship work, and ultimately seeing their spouse as a life partner that they choose to spend the rest of their life with, I really do have to question that idealistic notion of a ‘romantic’ love being capable of amounting to anything more than a short term romantic infatuation of sorts.

Even the fact that the majority of marriages in the UK and even the USA as far as I can tell, end up in divorce or separations (I shan’t make any guesses as to the rest of Europe, or other parts of the world, as I don’t know much about those cultures/countries comparatively speaking). However the one country that stands out as the one with the highest percentage of successful marriages is India, and having a Father who was born and raised in India, and having been bought up in Indian Culture, I do know a little something about that too, even if I was born and raised in the UK.

Some people attribute the greater rate of success in Indian marriages down to the societal pressures, and influence of the extended family.  Personally, I’m of the opinion that those factors support and increase the chances of success, as divorce does exist as an exit from marriage, but is just a route less used when experiencing marital challenges in most cases.  Having lived for 6 months in South Korea during my youth, I did learn that there are many Asian family values, that are common across Asia, and so perhaps the notion of successful marriage and the understanding behind what makes a couple stay together in Asian families can help us breakdown further this notion of love.

From my limited understanding of it, love between two people, at least the kind that gets protrayed in films, appears to generally only be a temporary passionate kind of intense short lived infatuation type of love and generally only lasts up until the point that one party has obtained the ‘unobtainable’ object of their desire.  Once that threshold has been crossed, be it marriage, intimacy, or just acceptance from the other and the commitment to be together, then the dynamics of the relationship change and the real ‘relationship’ challenges begin.

It’s at this point that the breakdowns and the cracks in the relationships start to appear, and depending on how they’re dealt with they will either fortify the relationship or begin to rot the foundations of it.  Part of it does boil down to how committed each partner is to the other, and also to how accommodating one partner is of the other.  It’s at this point that I believe love stops making a difference in terms of how things progress.  However it is only because of the original love, that a couple would work through their challenges and find a place of mutual compromise.  In these situations, love has stopped to be a factor, however it continues to be there between the couple.  What I find a little ironic is that the couples that work through their challenges and make the commitment to make their relationship work have a much stronger bond, through their challenges, and whilst their love may not exhibit the same fiery intenseness and spontaneity that occurs in the early stages of an infatuated romance, it tends to be much more enduring, and longer lasting.

When I think of a married couple growing old together, I imagine them to care for each other, to rise above their differences, and to know each other intimately in such a way that they can read each others mind almost, and be able to predict what the other needs.

Ultimately, no matter how much love exists between two people it really doesn’t matter.  For whilst you can always cultivate, or develop your love for another person, it is only a mutual determination or desire to make a relationship work that ultimately leads to there being enough love between two people to sustain a long term relationship, that endures over a lifetime.

With that in mind, I think love is a force, or an energy that bonds people together, or flows between people that care about each other.  Taking a slightly wider perspective, love doesn’t just flow between people, but between all things that are animate and alive, and contain a spirit and contains a form of consciousness. It permeates between all things and beings that are aware.  Hence why people can feel love for pets, and plants, and feel loved by them as well.

It feels like the love we experience from different people is unique to each person, which suggests that love is generated by each person and is a different energy unique to each individual.  But then at the same time, the love that we feel for siblings or parents or our children is different to the love we might feel for a lover, or partner.  This suggests that either we generate different frequencies of love towards different people or that we receive the love and interpret it differently from different people.

Most significantly, in my observation, there are different strengths of love, for example the intensity of a new romance, the platonic almost docile love that comes of a sibling, parent or good friend, but that has a tremendous amount of strength attached to it.  I believe that love is an energy that flows between us, and the more often and the more frequently it flows between two people, be it through caring, and sharing, or through concern, or compassion, the more strongly an individual becomes both a conduit for love for the other person, but also the other person has the potential to more strongly be bonded to that love, if they receive and acknowledge the love they receive.

It’s analogous to molecules in the body, which according to Candace Pert, are capable of experiencing emotions, and over time, the receptors on the cells in the body adapt, to be able to receive and interpret the dominant emotion that exists within the psyche of the individual.  In a similar manner, I’m going to suggest that we are all capable of receiving love from different people, and sending love to different people, and that as we attune ourselves to sending and recieving love to certain people, over time, our sensitivity towards individuals changes, and we become more receptive to, and amorous of people that we have chosen to love, if we so choose to send and receive love to and from those people.

There’s definitely some ‘hard wiring’ of the love receptors and transmitters when we’re born (for example, we receive by default the love of our parents and siblings and even extended family more strongly than anyone else), hence our need to receive a certain amount of love and attention when we’re born, and also the negative consequences that occur when a child is deprived of love and attention.  But that would also account for why ‘families’ mean so much to us, as a way of helping us survive, and be sustained, through their love for us, and our love for them.

The only question that remains, is if we are hard wired to ‘love’ certain other people in our lives.  That whole question of ‘soul mate’ springs to mind, of how different people feel like they are destined to be with another.  Some folks only experience it one way (i.e. they are in love with someone, but the other person isn’t necessarily in love with them), whilst others just have an ‘instant’ connection.. But ultimately, isn’t all of this just opportunities to connect, or make a connection with another person?  It doesn’t always mean we always do, nor does it always mean that we should.  But what of those stray sparks of love, or romance, or passion, that do come onto our radar?

For now, I think I’m going to stay open to the possibility and the mystery that life presents when it comes to soul mates, and life partners, but being single, and alone, it probably biases my perspective a little.  I’d be interested to hear what other people out there think.. Especially those folks that are in loving relationships, or who have made lifetime commitments to an individual, and are living that through.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments, and in your responses.  I’m of the opinion that if you spend the time and attention with pretty much anyone, in time you can come to love everyone, since love develops directly in proportion to the effort, and energy you put into creating it between you and another.

What do you think?

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One Comment to “What is Love?”

  1. Lynnclaire says:

    i sent you an email earlier, but received a notice that you were no longer with total media, so i went looking for how to resend you the email. hopefully, this will work as well as anyplace else.
    isn’t it strange how time passes? i recall so well our meeting, what, seven or eight years ago? a very strange experience actually, not our meeting, the experience! how goes your life? are you experiencing any of the challenges in the UK that are on the headlines of our paper?
    farhan, did you marry?
    incredibly, i committed myself to this institution two years ago! what a shock.
    to see what’s up with me, i hope you will check out the links below. good news is that there are two books to come out in the next few months on this work, one academic, the other social. i am so impressed by your use of social media, something that terrifies me!
    ciao for now!

    High Play:

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