The Anatomy of Love
What is love? Is it the mother-son bond which seems unbreakable, even by time. Is it the love often portrayed in movies such as Titanic and the Notebook? Death nor distance could keep them apart. There’s the hippie love where even a tree is seen as worthy of affection, all jokes aside. Love, love, love! Aristotle claims, “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” Robert Heinlein states, “Love is the condition in which the happiness of another is essential to your own.” And then, Kahlil Gibran so beautifully presents a poetic display of love in The Prophet:
“When love beckons to you follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.” – Kahlil Gibran
There seems to be as many different definitions for love as there are people, and as many different expressions of love as there are sentient beings. Where does one begin in the discovery of love when constantly bom
barded with a million depictions of what love is supposed to be. How does one cope when the love that is in their life is not a reflection of what people tell you it’s supposed to be? Well first, it is important to identify what love IS NOT.
What Love is Not!
As previously stated, it is essential to understand what love is not. This will provide clarity within your life and relationships. It will also help to eliminate many of the misuses of this word. The word love is used in such abundance that it is easy to forget that it is meant to have significant meaning. So, let’s get right to it. Shall I make a list?
- Love is not jealous
- Love is not possession
- Love is not desperate
- Love is not finite nor limited (same thing haha)
I will briefly explain each of these 4 points. First, love is not jealous. My first experience with this concept stemmed from the Bible. I was taught that God was an all-loving God who had an unconditional love for us. Later, I also learned that God was a jealous and vengeful God. This was quite the contradiction. You see, true love cannot exist in jealously. Jealously has roots in hatred and fear, both of which oppose love. When you are in relations with or interested in someone and they show interest in someone else or do something that makes you extremely jealous, what does this say of your love? Now this is assuming they were honest and not of harmful intent. Question where your jealousy comes from and what grows from that jealousy consequently.
Love is not a possession. I (love) this point! Possession says that I need or want something, and I can’t deal with not having it. This ties in directly to the point of love is not desperate. When you seek to possess something and desperately hold on to things or people, you cannot truly love. This is because you are living in a selfish state of being. Your need for possession and desperation to hold is you saying that I “love” you because you help me. I “love” you because I fear that my life will be worse without you. That is a survival instinct, not an expression of love. So many times, “love” kills the object of its affection. I remember a very important lesson I learned. I would always see a pretty flower or play with grass and pluck it from the ground. I would then possess that beautiful flower or blade of grass, feeling proud of my new companion. Then a friend of mine called me out on it, saying I was killing the flower. It had never occurred to me that the very pulling of that flower was the death of it. I thought that me possessing that flower was an expression of love for it. I had good intentions, but those intentions led to the end of its being. This is where I learned an important lesson. Love is appreciation. When you genuinely appreciate something, you don’t need to possess it for the appreciation to remain. Appreciation of the existence of someone or something is an instant generator of the love feeling.
Love is not finite nor limited. Now this is a tricky one. We often describe love as being associated with only a sexual partner or family member. We also use the word love to show our connection to certain occurrences, possessions, and distant people in our lives. But when you get to the root of things, true love has absolutely no limits. The only actual limitation is our perception and the feeling of love available to us through the current reality we have created for ourselves or that’s been created for us. This is an incredible realization! This means that we are constantly surrounded by love at all times, we are love. If love is infinite, then love is truly a decision. Open your eyes and heart to it. I will explain this further in the next section.
My Love Theory
Over the years, I’ve developed my own theory of what love is. As mentioned earlier, there are as many definitions as there are people. However, a lot of what Kahlil Gibran, Aristotle, and Robert Heinlein said fit into my vision of love. I will make this as brief and easy to understand as possible.
“True love can only be expressed by a being who needs and wants nothing for himself…because he is aware that all he could possibly want has already been given.” – Neale Donald Walsch
The above quote is the foundation of my theory. True love is detached from self-want or need. It is free of expectation and desire. When you feel the need for your love to be reciprocated, the need for some sort of return for your favor of love, or even the need for your love to be acknowledged, it ceases to exist. You become anxious, frustrated, or even confused when love seems to “fall flat”. But hey, we’ve been taught to look out for ourselves first. We’ve been taught to use “love” as a tool to attain the things we lack. When you yourself are full of life and realize that everything you could possibly need is within you, then your love is no longer looking for a reward. You aren’t looking for someone to complete you. You aren’t looking for self-validation. You aren’t looking for someone to fill the void of your loneliness. This obviously isn’t an easy realization to actualize. You will have to let go of a lot of pride and do a ton of inner work and exploration. People will come in and out of your life. The only difference is that you will allow them to move in and out. You will love them regardless. And when someone hurts you, you will realize that their attack was one that hit them the hardest, and you’ll hope that they heal properly. And when someone gives all their heart to you, you will gladly give yours in return…NOT because you don’t want to lose their love, but because they are deserving of it.
The next component ties to the idea of love is not finite. A beautiful thing happens when you begin to see love everywhere, and it is possible. You see the (uni)verse and all of existence is a beautiful love story. It is in perfect harmony and balance. The tree stretches its arms toward the sky as the clouds rain down teardrops of love which nourish that very tree and the earth which supports it. The bee, which we so fear, participates in a love dance with nature’s flower. Their communion contributes to the spreading of life. Both the bee and flower offer their services to the other, and all benefit from it. Had the tree had our vision of love, it would say to the surrounding land and grasses, I am bigger than you! Therefore, I’m going to control the flow of water in the region and store more for myself. However, I love you for this service and will do my best to make sure you don’t die. No, this is not the case. The large tree takes only what it needs and leaves the rest to others in need. All of existence is participating in a dance of love and is worthy of our love. The good, bad and indifferent. You can have the a genuine love experience with anything or anyone, all it takes is a shifting of perspective.
Now it would be untrue of me to say that love is all positive all of the time. This is far from the truth. This is why I am so fond of the Kahlil Gibran quote above. When you love with no expectation or no judgement, you will naturally experience discomfort. Thing might not go how you would have originally thought they would or hoped. When that happens, people often feel robbed of their time or love which was given. The important thing to keep in mind is the process of loving is worth it in itself. The feeling of love and the giving of love is never a loss or a waste!
The most amazing realization can occur. Love is pure experience unfiltered by language or conditioning. Love is life itself! There is no shortage, you can never run out. Therefore, you can always give!
I challenge you to find moments throughout your day to give the gift of love to people around you without any expectations of getting something in return. Everyone expresses love differently. You could give someone a big hug, give a genuine compliment, help someone in need, etc. Also, a big step that helped me to transition is to appreciate nature. I started to look at animals, plants, and the world as a whole as a beautiful creation worthy of appreciation and love.