(I’m running late this week. I hope to be on time next week).
Love. The word is thrown around with gay abandon, people claim to be motivated by it when they do extraordinary things. It’s been the subject of literature, from classics to stuff which perhaps should never have been written. Atrocious poetry attempts to define it and celebrate it, and sublime poetry achieves its heights for the same reasons.
There are many sorts of love, man for woman, woman for man, and also the love of a person for another of the same sex. People love animals and people love children, though there are certain loves of these kinds which are strange, bizarre, or wrong. There are the loves for team mates or squad members which strengthens the team or squad, to the extent that in wartime a squad member may sacrifice himself for the sake of the others in the squad.
People love things. The new Maserati, Holden or Ford. The latest iPhone. An iPad, or other tablet. A new dress, new shoes, new Gucci bag. A new hairdo, new sneakers or a nice juicy steak.
I love a good lie-in in the Morning. Some (who in my opinion are slightly insane) love to be up with the lark. Some love a tropical beach, others an alpine traverse. Some love to run, to the extent where sometimes they will run for hundreds of kilometres.
Most people love a challenge, a crossword puzzle or Sudoku. Some love competing with others, some love to challenge themselves by jumping out of a plane, or climbing a high peak in the mountains.
Maybe some would quibble that I have used the word ‘love’ above where others would have used ‘like’. I make no apology for that as the one shades in to the other. But what are the characteristics of love? I’d say that no one definition fits all cases, as is common with any human characteristic.
Love primarily is understood to be most simply defined by the (usually) male/female couple. In a marriage ceremony, at least in the Christian rites, the couple pledge to love each other, (amongst other things). In other religions where marriages may be arranged by the parents and the couple may not know each other very well at the time of the marriage, I do not know what pledges are made. Of course, it is not unknown for marriages to be arranged in countries that have adopted the Christian religion. If fact it is probably more common than people realise. The opposite probably holds in countries where the religion is not Christianity.
I’m aware that the above is horribly full of unwarranted assumptions and suppositions about culture of which I know little. Someone once joked that in a Hollywood love story, boy meets girl, they fall in love, and get married. In a Bollywood (Indian film industry) love story, boy meets girl, they are married, they fall in love.
A quick scan of the synopses of both Hollywood and Bollywood shows that the truth in much more complex. The Internet Movie Database like 50 Best Bollywood films, and the teasers for the films show plots which would not be out of place in a similar list of Hollywood love films, with only minor amendments. The Hollywood films tend to replace parental pressure with a societal one, but much else remains the same. The gloriously over-generalised Hollywood love story is boy meets girl, they are forced apart because perhaps one is one is from the wrong side of the tracks (a Hollywood favourite), or they initially hate each other, or they are about to be married to others, or they somehow misplace each other. Finally they resolve whatever difficulties separate them.
Perhaps there is only one love story, across all of mankind – boy meets girl, difficulties keep them apart and either they resolve them (happy ending) or they don’t (tragedy). Now I come to think of it, most love stories apart from fairytales are of the second sort – the films “Love Story”, “Titanic” and perhaps “Gone with the Wind” bear this out.
But what is love? It is something some people spend all their lives looking for, and something which others find easy to find. Spousal love seems to be a binding force. It creates an unbreakable team and gives a couple extra power over adversity through synergy. Spousal love can lead to a long lifetime together and passing on within hours of the second spouse when the first dies.
Love in unidirectional. One can love someone without being loved back, but if one is loved back a positive feedback is achieved. Love is happiness, except for the case where the love is not returned, not even recognised. Love is eternal, except when the love ends. That is, if one loves one cannot conceive of the love ending. Love is generous, gentle and giving, unless the love of the loved one is claimed by another, in which case love engenders hate and loathing. Love is unselfish, unless the love is such that family and friends are cast aside. Love is selfish when the lovers are so engrossed in each other that worldly events pass them by.
The Bible says this about love:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
This verse from 1 Corinthians 14:4-7, which is often used in marriage ceremonies in Christian churches only gives the positive aspects of love which is returned. Misdirected love has caused everything from domestic disputes to full scale wars. The mythical Trojan Wars were supposed to have been about the love of Helen who was already married to Menelaus for Paris. The story may have been based around true events which may have separately happened over some time around 1190BCE.
One can paraphrase the writer of the Epistile and say “Love is impatient, love is unkind. It is envious, it boasts and is proud”, because often it is. Love is not always good. But when it conforms to the Epistile writer’s definition, it is the oil that helps to make the world go around.