On love


What is love to you?

I think about it less and less nowadays – but I used to be really fixated on it for years, really. I studied the Catholic definitions of love:

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. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

I studied Shakespeare’s definitions too (Romeo quoted below):

‘Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;
Being vex’d a sea nourish’d with lovers’ tears:
What is it else? a madness most discreet,
A choking gall and a preserving sweet.’

I studied psychologists and philosophers, Fromm (and his ‘Art of Loving’) made most sense to me:

‘Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision.’

I also learned about love that shakes the foundations of who we really are, stripes us of ourselves and leaves nothing behind. And so today I think of love less often, but when I do it always goes back to my parents. I guess they give us the first glimpse of love, right?

Yesterday was my Nameday. Back in Poland some of us like to celebrate the meaning of our name on days pre-defined in our calendar. 3rd of November happens to feature both my dad’s name (Hubert) and mine – both strongly connected to our heritage of woods and nature (Hubertus was the god of hunters, Sylwia – the female version of Silvanus – Celtic god of woods – was a forest fairy). And so we have always both quietly celebrated that day together. Yesterday was difficult to get through. My dad thought me many things but the practice of love was probably the most important one. I cannot really practice it the way he was teaching it to me. I can only try to remember it.

Regardless of smart definitions of love, experience and practice of it I still think love is the ability to be there, listen, but also act, give, speak and do something for the other. Fromm was right – we are all doomed to be isolated by society and seek love but forget that we need to learn to accept others but also ourselves, understand our isolation and heal first:

‘A person who has not been completely alienated, who has remained sensitive and able to feel, who has not lost the sense of dignity, who is not yet “for sale”, who can still suffer over the suffering of others, who has not acquired fully the having mode of existence – briefly, a person who has remained a person and not become a thing – cannot help feeling lonely, powerless, isolated in present-day society. He cannot help doubting himself and his own convictions, if not his sanity. He cannot help suffering, even though he can experience moments of joy and clarity that are absent in the life of his “normal” contemporaries. Not rarely will he suffer from neurosis that results from the situation of a sane man living in an insane society, rather than that of the more conventional neurosis of a sick man trying to adapt himself to a sick society. In the process of going further in his analysis, i.e. of growing to greater independence and productivity, his neurotic symptoms will cure themselves.’

I’d like to think that I learned that well by now. I’d like to think that my definition of love for people is maturing now. I’d like to think that I am where Fromm wishes me to be:

‘Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you.’

How about you?

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