In my life, I have been in therapy. The most difficult concept for me to accept when I was in therapy was the notion that any emotions and thoughts that were fighting for attention in the theatre of my mind were neither new nor unique. The idea that anybody else could have felt my feelings or thought my thoughts seemed absurd to me. If anyone else in history had ever suffered the magnitude of exquisite agony that I, in my teenage years, had to survive on a daily basis, surely that would have been recorded somewhere to serve as warning for all future generations of human beings. If this had happened before, why wasn’t I warned? My thoughts, too, seemed earthshatteringly brilliant and revolutionary. It was obvious that all the adults around me were far too asinine to synthesize the intellectual gems that were occuring to me, so this at least must be new and unique.
Good grief, I was an ass. Yes, I’m afraid that in the thousands upon thousands of years of recorded human history, other people have experienced the righteously self-deluded feelings and thoughts that I have had. Your feelings and thoughts, too, probably. I still think I’m pretty great, but at least I realize that most of my brilliant observations on life have gone observed before. My thoughts on the topic of Love are no different — people have thought it, felt it, and said it before (in many cases, more eloquently). Some writers who have contributed to my opinions are M. Scott Peck, Terry Goodkind, Ayn Rand, Terry Pratchett, C.S. Lewis, David Gerrold, and Robert J. Sawyer. Those authors never became Jane Austin, and I don’t say I wholly agree with all of them on the topic, but they do inform my beliefs.
Love is an active relationship with a person of worth who has the capacity for reciprocation. Love is investing the effort necessary to better yourself as much and as constantly as possible to become a greater person of worth to your loved one and yourself. Love is committing just as much energy to supporting your loved one as your loved one works to become an even greater person of worth for herself and for you. Love is a wholly selfish endeavor that just happens to expand the notion of self that it may include another person. And Love is hard and Love is easy and Love is not guaranteed and has no guarantees and Love is worth it.
Since there is no way to quantify or prove the existence of love in an empirical fashion, it should go without saying that every statement I made in the previous paragraph was an opinion. But here I go saying it, because people do not understand facts and opinions, just as they do not understand Love. I understand it well enough that I try not to misuse the word; I like things, I enjoy things, I adore things, I even heart things. I try to be careful, out of respect.
I am happy to say that right now, I definitely Love at least four people. I suspect that I am a very rare person indeed to be in such a fortuitous position. I’m not dating or engaged to or married to any of those women, but that does not lessen the Love I feel for them, my friends. I am glad, in fact, to have my loved ones as my friends. As I better myself, they support me. Should I lean toward bad life choices, they warn me. I do the same for them. And because we are all persons of worth, I enjoy the time I spend with them all, in person or in remote conversation.
When I was that foolish self-absorbed teenager, I thought Love was just strong emotions and a willingness to give up any part of myself that was necessary in order to be with an object of my affection. If I ever met that teen, I would give him such a smack that it would reverberate up the timeline to hurt me, too! I realize today that the feelings I’ve labeled love in the past were really affection, lust, addiction, obsession, adoration, devotion, and avarice. You cannot love someone who doesn’t know you. You cannot love a thing or an animal. You might love a pastime or an organization but most people do not.
People in my society use the word so frequently and so incorrectly that I wonder if there is an undercurrent of such desperation for Love that they use any excuse for the mislabeling? “I love my dog!” “I love tiramisu!” “I love those shoes!” “I love my team!” “I love my country!” “I love that photo I saw on lolcats!” Only two of those statements are possible but none are probable.
I have a dog. I like her, I adore her, I care for her, I’m devoted to her, and I even dote on her on occasion. But she is a source of unconditional affection. If I beat her (never!), she would still want to be affectionate, though her fear might overcome the yearning. True Love is not unconditional; there must be the requisite persons of worth. If you think that it is somehow possible or noble to love an unrepentant villain, you should be locked up. You should be locked up because you are so blatently insane that you might do harm to others, if you think this way. I cannot love someone who is purposely self-destructive. I cannot love someone who purposely hurts others for no good reason. And, I cannot love someone who is an imbecile. I might like those people, say at a party, but love would probably be a lie. Those people are usually not people of worth to me.
Another assessment of people of worth derives from our first impressions. Xenophobia and its ramifications are discussed by many of the best speculative fiction writers, many of whom note that we classify our interpersonal encounters as Superior, Equal, Inferior, and Other. I am not the first person to propose that you can only Love an Equal, with a bit of a leeway towards Superior or Inferior. I could define these categorizations, but the point is that you already do. You already decide those estimations of the people you meet, though you may not realize or admit to it. Lying to yourself about that assessment will lead to heartache.
Trust and truth are essential components to a Loving relationship. If you don’t know the truth about your significant other, how can you support her positive growth and advise her against the negative choices? If your so-called loved one doesn’t know the truth about you, how can you expect to receive that consideration, either? Relationships fail in misery the worst when there is deception involved. Either of the self, or of the partner. We are fallible, we make mistakes, and we can always try to make the better choices. I have high standards but I could not love an infallible robot (they would be too Superior or Other). On the other extreme, there is a significant difference between a partner who chooses to do the wrong thing and the partner who generally chooses to do the right thing but makes mistakes. I wholeheartedly believe in forgiveness, but I believe in acts of contrition as well. I would not absolve a loved one of her wrong choices if she had no intention of making the right choices the next time. It may be difficult, but you have to get away from unrepentantly bad people.
The hardest thing about Love is realizing that you love someone who isn’t the right person for you and then taking the right next step. After all, companionship, friendship, sex, and inside jokes are pretty hard to give up just because it’s the right thing to do. But I’ve come to think of that situation in this light: if I love someone, then I want the best for her and for her to have the best possible life. Those feelings would be true whether she and I were suited for a relationship together or not. So if we’re not right for each other and I claim Love, how could I do anything else but get out of the way so that she could find the right relationship? The right relationship should contain Love, it’s true, but it should also contain a unified set of goals in life. In simplest terms, if her goal is to the right and mine is to the left, there’s only so much we can each do to support ourselves and each other before realizing we’re still stuck in the middle.
As I review the paragraphs I’ve written so far, I fear this blog reads like a warning sign for Love, making it akin to the Hell of the Divine Comedy: Abandon all hope, ye who enter here! Far from it. Humans are a social animal who need affection, companionship, and yes Love, in order to live. Without Love, we are merely surviving to get through the next day. With Love, we grow, we better ourselves and the world around us, and there is a completeness that seems to whisper in our hearts that there is nothing we cannot do, no obstacle we cannot conquer. Love gives us the strength to be the people we want to be, and with your loved one supporting you, it feels like that doesn’t take so much strength after all. You can grow and be a good person and have a good life without Love, but I would feel sorrow for you and the hardship you must endure.
I write this article to help people. I find that I’ve spoken to my loved ones a great deal recently about their lives and their struggles and I wished to get my opinions pinned down to the page for closer examination and for retrospection in the future, to help myself. I want to help my friends who seem to be struggling and I want to help people I haven’t even met. I think a world in which everyone believed in concepts like these would be a better place. A place where people don’t settle for fear or from exhaustion, a place where people believe in the dignity and importance of Love. I hope that I will find a relationship with someone whom I can Love and will Love me in turn and that we will build a wonderful life together. If I do not, but some of these words help you to find that life, then I have done a good thing and will be happy for that, too. Perhaps if we are very lucky, my friends and you readers and I will all find that life, a worthwhile life of Love.