One-hundred-and-seventy-nine years ago, a 24-year-old Soren Kierkegaard met 14-year-old Regine Olsen and fell in love. He waited nearly three years to profess his love and pop the question — then after just 13 months, grew anxious over the prospect of being a loving, attentive husband and broke things off, completely devastating Olsen. Kierkegaard wanted to make things work but feared his devotion to both Christianity and his work would make for an unhappy marriage, and so he got out while the getting was good and lived the rest of his life a celibate bachelor (which is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy as he once said, “My melancholy is the most faithful sweetheart I’ve ever had”)
Everything we do in our daily lives is surrounded by this thing we call "love." We struggle day in day out to fulfill our love to either someone or something we think we care so much about. It may be our families, our children, our lovers both the known and unknown, our religious beliefs, our leaders, et cetera...which at the end of the day, we question our intellect on whether we achieved what we wanted or not.
Love is a grave mental disease that many people do not take note of, as Plato once said. The whole idea about the belief in this 'love' thing is that the person expressing it to someone or something, has to benefit something in return. It is simply blackmailing the other person and fooling him or her or it, to fulfilling our heartily desires without being direct. Thomas Hobbes, a philosopher during his time, said that "Love is a person's idea about his/her needs in other person what you are attracted to."
So what is love?
Since age immemorial, not one definition of love has ever been accepted universally as true. Cultures around the world have defined it according to what they claim to know. What we only know from all those differences is the attributes of love. A good example is the most popular letters to the Corinthians from Paul.
(Corinthians 13: 4-8):
In other words, love is one foolish, open minded and blind idea that is not practical according to Paul. If love is not patient, kind, jealous or boastful, then marriages would never have worked. We could all share wives without any disputes. It bears all things, believes everything, hopes all things, and endures, such wonderful attributes that cannot be found in love. Also, it never ends. Would it be true, there would have been a declining rate in divorces, wars and rape cases. Such irony!
Thinking about love critically makes us wonder if we are really doing the right thing to those we claim to love or even to the things we do in life. We all aim for peace, but peace is based on love. We all aim for jobs, good education, financial stability, but it is still based on love.
Love can hence be categorized into three groups which totally distinguish 'love' as a general word for misunderstanding the real meaning in different contexts, as well as the lack of language to express them. English is a great language but still poor in expression.
a) Parental Love
In the Conquest of Happiness, Bertrand Russell writes that, "The relations between parents and children are in nine out of ten cases a source of dissatisfaction for both sides, and in ninety-nine out of one hundred a source of suffering and agony at least to one of the sides...The adult, who wants happy relations with his children, or wants to provide them with a life of happiness, must think deeply about fatherhood..." (Russell, 1930, p. 120)
Every parent says that s/he loves his or her child. On the contrary, they do not really love them as they claim. It is an obligation they have towards the child, which if violated, may lead to legal disputes as well as some 'curse' for those who are religious. And so the obligation turns into what they term as love because there is no other word to express the connection.
The parent, being human, strives to make his or her life better. They have ambitions, goals and aspirations of their lives. They are not only tied to the children but also to something they look forward to. The child likewise has his her goals and plans for the future.
If two vehicles pull each other, either both drivers stop and make peace, or they keep on and each goes his way or they break their vehicles. Similar to families, since both parents and children have different mindsets and goals, they have to agree on what they both want which will in turn favor both of them. So the parents educate the child in hope for him or her to help them someday. The child is obligated to work hard and have a good life in order to support the parents at old age. This in real sense in not love, but an inter-dependent cycle of survival. "Scratch my back I scratch yours."
With time, both the parents and children grow distant as they mature in age and experience putting them under one class of adulthood. The child becomes a man or woman independent in most cases, and the parent no longer holds his/her custody. He becomes a citizen of the world and belongs to everyone. Where is love in this case?
b) Love from another Person
In all our life's struggles, the least we expect from someone is some expression of love. Our parents are our mentors. They met, loved, lived and died still together. For those lucky enough to be in one marriage till death. The cycle goes on, just as insects go from egg to larvae to pupa and finally to adult.
But is this really love? We all look for salvation from our loneliness, our desperate-for-attention, and our ego by finding someone to place our burdens of life to. It's more of dependence and satisfaction which goes both ways. A quote from John Ciardi states that, "Love is the word used to label the sexual excitement of the young, the habituation of the middle-aged and the mutual dependence of the old." So much truth in those words.
Theodore Reik, a great psychologist, shares the same idea with Ciardi. In his work, he states that "People seek out love and especially passion when life is disappointing and when they need someone else to fill the void within."
Some people seek salvation in love, much as other people do in religion, hoping to find in another the perfection they cannot find in themselves. At first, they may well think that salvation is at hand. Early in a relationship, their partner may indeed seem to be just what they are looking for, and their being in love is tantamount to being saved – from the world and from themselves. But eventually disillusionment is almost certain to set in. They discover two facts. First, the other person has flaws: they cannot maintain the illusion of perfection is the face of ever more evidence that the partner is not, in fact, perfect. Second, no other human can save them, not even the love of their life.
Isn't this the truth behind love between two people? The weak men and women in the society find it impossible to live and have a life on their own without leaning to someone, yet there is so much to be done on earth for the human race.
It goes on,
Perhaps one can save oneself, but one cannot expect or even ask this of another. People have either to adjust to a new kind of love or else forever live with the disappointment of knowing that they cannot find salvation through love of another. Of course, some people take a third course: they try to find someone else to save them and once again reenter the cycle of high hopes followed by disappointment. (Sternberg, 1998, p. 126; Reik, 1944).
Thus we cannot live by ourselves and we become dependent on other people for our lives. Our parents are so dependent on each other, our friends are so dependent on us, our government is dependent on us as citizens. At long run, we all become bugs like ticks on cows, and cannot live in happiness and enjoy life without the other person. This is not love, its over-dependence on someone who might fail us some day.
We become so obsessed to people that we become weak by ourselves. We claim to love hem so as to cover our known motives to them. We lust for their bodies for satisfaction in return of our emotional, physical and financial needs but none of us is brave enough to say it out loud for the fear of loneliness and rejection.
Shakespeare's greatest works apart from his plays include short sonnets which became so famous after his death till this day. One of his notable sonnets, sonnet 130: My mistress's eyes are nothing like the sun, goes on like this:
Would it be false to state that lust of the flesh is termed as love by both men and women to cover their direct goals? Of course not, it is poetic of every man, every woman and every child to express his words to those they think they love in this way so as to cover the lust their hearts await.
This is by no means, not love.
c) ............ continues