Monday, 14 February 2011

What is Love?

Well, it's February 14th, and that commercial feeding frenzy that is St. Valentine's Day, is in full swing, with men scurrying to petrol stations to buy absurdly expensive red roses, and stores trying to shift the last of their Valentine's Cards and tacky gifts.  I find it all very sad.  Such over hyped expectations; such inevitable disappointment.  I would wish for a return to a simple re-affirmation of one's love for those by whom one is loved in return.  It's so easy to take those nearest and dearest for granted.  And to realise it too late to prevent the catastrophe which often follows.  I speak from bitter experience.

But what is 'Love' anyway?  It's a much overused word, and can mean so many different things.  I remember as a boy my favourite sermon was the one about "...There remain Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is Love" The word Love has been changed to "Charity" in more recent versions, but it does not have the same cadence and depth of meaning.  But 'Love' can mean just about anything to anybody.  Maybe we should try harder to find different words to express different emotions and desires.

And is the passion between two people who share their lives together 'contra mundum' really love at all in any sense other than in that very personal specific singular relationship?  It certainly seems to me to be unique in causing so much mental pain and suffering.  Again, I speak from experience, both recent and in the past.  As I write this the heartbreak I feel is real.  Its like a physical pain in my chest, combined with a feeling of emptiness and despair.  And like depression, I cannot convince myself that one day I will no longer feel it, even though I know this logically to be almost a certainty.  How can she now transfer all her love to someone else when I still love her so passionately and totally.  Unrequited love is the most painful experience of all.  And the greatest irony is that when I was unreliable and let her down she was more keen on me than when I changed my ways and became a model partner.  Humans seem destined to crave that which they cannot have, but if and when they attain it they no longer want it. 
All around me where I sit writing this I see happy couples laughing and feeling love, and loved in return.  I miss it all the more.
Life's such a painful, frustrating and absurd experience.  I shall not miss life.

Later:  Just saw the following post by Alain de Botton on the BBC website.  I guess one could say that what he writes is not new, but it's helpful to be reminded, particularly what he writes about 'unrequited love':


  1. I think more people feel the way you do about Valentine's Day than do not. "Life's such a painful, frustrating and absurd experience." Yes, for sure it can be at times.

    One word: Metanoia

  2. You're absolutely right Stacy. I was feeling rather self-indulgently morose when I wrote that post today. I do know that really there are probably more people who think and feel the same way I do. Just sometimes it feels like I'm in a minority of one, even if that's irrational.

    Metanoia... Hmmm. I think I have to ask whether you mean in the theological or psychological sense of the word, but I suppose it encapsulates a useful idea in whatever sense.

  3. We don't make much of Valentine's Day either. The kids like to make things for thier friends but I refuse to buy them anything. I've been thinking a lot about Christian love vs. "other" love and it seems that word (metanoia) has a lot to do with how you view "love." That's one reason not to make much of Valentine's Day. It's just a day.

    My husband told me this a long time ago and it took years to get my head around it. "Love is born of sacrifice."