Tuesday, 11 March 2008

The Swan's Song

Love. You don’t fall in love.

You fall down, fall short, fall apart; but you don’t fall in love. Besides, if you are going to do any ‘action’ in love then stand in love… don’t fall. Now I am assuming we are talking about romantic love, the sort of love that is lasting, one hopes. I agree there is a sense of weightlessness when one becomes enamored with a new relationship—there is a euphoria that exists and it is true a certain endorphin is released which might give one a sense of ‘falling’ I suppose. But love? Are you sure you aren’t talking about infatuation?Webster defines love
Love (1): strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties <maternal love for a child> (2): attraction based on sexual desire: affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3): affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates> b: an assurance of love <give her my love>2: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion <love of the sea>3 a: the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration <baseball was his first love> b (1): a beloved person: darling —often used as a term of endearment (2)British —used as an informal term of address4 a: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1): the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2): brotherly concern for others b: a person's adoration of God5: a god or personification of love6: an amorous episode : love affair: the sexual embrace : copulation8: a score of zero (as in tennis)

Verb1: to hold dear: cherish2 a: to feel a lover's passion, devotion, or tenderness for b (1): caress (2): to fondle amorously (3): to copulate with3: to like or desire actively : take pleasure in <loved to play the violin> 4: to thrive in <the rose loves sunlight>intransitive verb: to feel affection or experience desire

Clearly the word love has many different meanings—at least in the English language. Love can mean anything from something that gives one a little pleasure to the score of a tennis match. It’s no wonder so many are confused about love. Even Webster’s can’t narrow down a definition!

So what then is love?

I would like to suggest that, as my fellow blogger put it, “… the move of a beautiful woman’s hair, and the glimpse of a cute smile,” have little, or nothing, to do with the sort of love I think of when I consider long-term mutually loving relationships. Traps he says? How could one equate love and trap in the same subject line?

A few years ago, I spoke to a group of high-schoolers about the idea of love.

"Someone define love," I said.

No response.

"Doesn't anyone want to try?" I asked.

Still no response.

"How about this: I'll define it, and you raise your hands if you agree. Okay?"


"Okay. Love is that feeling you get when you meet the right person."

Every hand went up. And I thought, Oh boy!

This is how many people approach a relationship. Consciously or unconsciously, they believe love is a sensation (based on physical and emotional attraction) that magically, spontaneously generates when Mr. or Ms. Right appears. And just as easily, it can spontaneously degenerate when the magic "just isn't there" anymore. As my fellow blogger Rob indicated, you fall in love, and you can fall out of it.

But is that true love?

I’ve had a few relationships where I felt what I deemed was “true love” for the fellow. Some of those moments of feeling love were when we embraced. Others were when we shared intimate personal truths together. And for some of them it was love felt when they left!

How do you define love?

Some say it's mysterious, magical, complex, difficult, imaginary, thought-provoking, inspirational, intuitional, joyous, immeasurable, ecstasy, and undefinable. Perhaps.

In one of Dr. John Gray's audio cassettes he defines love as follows:
"Love is a feeling directed at someone which acknowledges their goodness."

On the same cassette, he refers to the definition by M. Scott Peck:
"The willful intent to serve the well being of another."

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. - 1 Corinthians 13:5-7

My favorite is by ParamahansaYogananda:
"To describe love is very difficult, for the same reason that words cannot fully describe the flavor of an orange. You have to taste the fruit to know its flavor. So with love."

Love itself is a universal experience. Yet, every individual occurrence - while perhaps bound by a common thread - seems absolutely unique. Love is what love is! To everyone it expresses itself differently.

Could it be that Love is a story that can never be fully expressed?

Love is a bond or connection between two people that results in trust, intimacy, and an interdependence that enhances both partners. (quotation by me!)

Love is the ability and willingness to allow those you care for to be what they choose for themselves, without any insistence that they satisfy you. - Leo Buscaglia

Making Love is the highest level and the most loving way we can physically express or demonstrate our Love for our love partner. Everyone knows that the sexual experience can be the single most loving, most exciting, most powerful, most exhilarating, most renewing, most energizing, most affirming, most intimate, most uniting, most stress-relieving, most recreative physical experience of which humans are capable.

Love is More Powerful than Sex

Robert Roy Britt, a LiveScience Senior Writer posted a blog a few years back about a study announced in the July issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology which read:

Sex and romance may seem inextricably linked, but the human brain clearly distinguishes between the two, according to a new study. The upshot: Love is the more powerful emotion.

The results of brain scans speak to long-standing questions of whether the pursuit of love and sex are different emotional endeavors or whether romance is just warmed over sexual arousal.

"Our findings show that the brain areas activated when someone looks at a photo of their beloved only partially overlap with the brain regions associated with sexual arousal," said Arthur Aron of the State University of New York-Stony Brook. "Sex and romantic love involve quite different brain systems."

Well, duh! Most of us could have told you that without a scientific experiment. Or is that what we all were doing all along—a scientific experiment?

So what is love -- real, lasting love?

After all this rambling, I suppose I really can’t define love either. Love must be experienced. I can tell you that the opposite of Love is Fear. Think about it.

Expectations and Demands

Last week my buddy Jim said he and his girlfriend were having some troubles. “I love her,” he said to me. “And that is what is killing me.”

I said, “It isn’t love that is killing you, it is your expectations of the one you say you love. Love doesn’t kill.”

Is it possible to have unconditional love? Love for another simply to love them? Expecting nothing in return?

No expectations - no demands… used to be my mantra. That is until I realized I had plenty of expectations and demands of the ones I loved. I expected my husband to come home at night. I expected my children to honor their parents, and in fact, sometimes demanded it. But isn’t real love simply loving someone without expecting anything in return; no judgments, no restrictions; no limitations; no expectations?

My Buddist friend tells me that true love is loving what is. I’m still working on that one.

To me, I’ve discovered that love is embracing differences and discovering ways in which to build a common lifestyle, share decision-making, and taking equal responsibility for the results. True love has a foundation of integrity, respect, faith and trust. Love is the force that brings about unity and harmony.

Although love is at the root of our basic nature, Love for another human being must be cultivated. It takes time for Love to mature.

Robert Heinlein in "Stranger in a Strange Land" said, Love is. . . "That condition whereby the happiness of another is essential to your own." As one who has a strong affection towards eagles, hawks, geese, and so on; I think they may have it closer to 'right' than we humans do for most of these mate for life. Why then is it so difficult for us, the evolved species, to do the same?

So why is it that love receives less instruction than the average driver’s education class? We don’t learn to drive by crashing until we get it right, but this seems to be how we learn about love.

I’ve had my share of crashes. There was even a time in my life I gave up driving all together. But eventually, like most humans, the desire to have companionship won out over my fear of crash and burn. However the first thing I had to do along my own personal journey to love was to learn to love myself and what a ride that was!

And that is a story for another blog…

© Cynthia Stewart