On Love

Personal pronouns are never used by me when writing analytical texts, as I always try to keep myself as distant from what I am writing as I can, so that rather than taking the form of a fiery opinion, the writing in question can be shaped as a reasonable, well supported argument. Yet, in this case, I utterly refuse to discard personal pronouns, for such impersonality would not allow me to adequately analyse the most important of all human emotions: love.

It is surely not only the most important of all emotions because of the undeniable immensity of its power, but also because there isn’t a single place where it cannot be found. When reading a beautiful book, or listening to a heavenly melody, we are filled with intense sentiments of a calm happiness which is almost melancholic, a sort of magnificent joy which is at the same time the most wretched of miseries. I do not mean to say that love is beauty; not at all, love is much, much more. Instead of that, I state that beauty is love, and that while we have come to regard it as a material, and subsequently, egocentric sort of state, it is far more than that, owing to the fact that it is entirely subjective. It is this subjectivity which elevates beauty from a selfish and unemotional state to one of the essential compounds of love.

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To explain this, I find myself forced to use that very old cliche, which states that beauty isn’t only external, but also internal. Therefore, when one feels attracted to another individual, it is often because of this internal beauty, which is why love, or at least its platonic counterpart, is a cultivated feeling. The tree of love therefore springs from a small and extremely simple root, which consists of this adoration for an unseen beauty, an almost musical splendour because of its lack of visual existence. However, when in love, it is only natural to have an aesthetic admiration for the object of one’s affections, which is an entirely different thing. This external beauty alone is at times so great (always at a subjective level, for every state is subjective) that it cancels the need for internal beauty altogether and causes one to be in a state of adoration for someone who may be a virtual stranger. Whether this is love or not is debatable.

Doubtless some will describe it as passion or infatuation, but one most remember that both these feelings are quickly passive, whereas love, although not necessarily permanent, takes a longer time to evade one. Therefore it is this search of a compatible beauty that causes an individual to fall in love with another, be this compatibility internal or external. Having discussed what I consider to be one of the most important causes of love, I proceed to analysing the actual emotion, and I do so with some anxiety, for being the most important sentiment of all, it is composed entirely of contradictions. When I think of love, or rather, of what I feel when I am in love, I always come to the conclusion that it is a dreadful beauty, a nightmarish dream, and in the end, a sort of half-dead life. Naturally, this may sound like a very grim view of things, but one must remember that love is an emotion which grasps one at a nearly obsessive level, and that at times it is not only a feeling, but a wonderful disease.

Indeed, love is possibly the most selfless of emotions, in which one wants nothing but the best for the target of such warm feelings, and for that, one feels almost angelic in one’s altruism. Yet, in utter contradiction, this selflessness is derived from an immense selfishness of a completely possessive type, in which we want to practically have the individual whom we love more than anything else in the world, much to the resemblance of the stereotypical spoilt child. From this juxtaposing standpoint of altruism and egotism, we embark on a whirlwind of contradictions in love, mainly an immense joie-de-vivre parallel to an almost suicidal sadness, which clearly shows that in this emotion, there are no moderate midpoints, merely extremes. When in love, one perceives the world in an entirely different way, a way of which one feels almost ashamed, and yet, absolutely confident. There is boundless joy at the fact that we have found that what we see as our own beauty is compatible with the beauty of someone else.

What better feeling could there be than this enrapturing, powering stream of indestructible beauty? It seems, momentarily, to slay all thoughts of dark loneliness, and all insecurities, for a time, slip away, for when in love, the object of this powerful feeling is our first and foremost concern. That individual casts a shade over all that is sweet to the eye, for their attraction is far greater, and nonetheless makes all that would be unappealing far fairer than it is in truth. Indeed, thinking of this, I am reminded of an aria from an oratorio, Semele, by my favourite composer, George Frederick Handel, which is very simple, and yet very true to love: Where e’er you walk, Cool gales shall fan the glade; Trees where you sit, Shall crowd into a shade. Where e’er you tread, The blushing flowers shall rise; And all things flourish, Where e’er you turn your eyes. Indeed, the aria is one which expresses the purest love, elevating the object of the singer’s tender affections over nature, and yet stating that the mere fact that that individual lives makes all wildlife fairer than it already was. The aria is made more beautiful by the fact that the singer is Jupiter, god of gods, who speaks here of his love for one of his mortal creations, Semele, who, despite not being divine, is in his eyes fairer than every other Roman deity.

Thus, love is a bringer of immeasurable delight, and temporarily eliminates all concerns that one may have. Indeed, when one feels like a mediocrity unable to achieve whatever it is that one toils for, the idea that one is in love is often a comfort. Yet love is a turbulent river, and its water is only half clear, for it has a much more agonizing side which seems to relish in the protracted torture of its victims. It may sound exaggerated to call those who are in love the victims of such an emotion, but it is certainly true. One of the most barbaric sides of love is the fact that one is nailed to a mast of hope which may fall at any minute.

Despite knowing this, there is hardly ever the cowardice or bravery to release oneself from such bonds, for the idea of reciprocity is the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. To aggrandize the already barbaric pain of this journey, when one is in love this light is not always seen, but blinded by the power of the sentiment and intoxicated by hopeful sorrow, one lies to oneself until the aching truth can no longer be fought: there is no love in return. There is pity from the object of our affections, and often even contempt, but not the emotion for which we so maddeningly toiled. After such torment, such hesitation, such excruciating self-doubt, and above all, such perseverance, the battle is unexplainably lost. It is a feeling of failure of unimaginable bounds, which inflicts on its helpless sufferers the most atrocious heartaches that they are ever likely to suffer, and though it may strengthen them, it does not make them immune. Indeed, what makes love so wretched, and yet, so sweet a disease, is the fact that it is one which has no possible cure.

When it strikes, only fools resist, for there is nothing to be gained in defending the defenceless heart. In the end, love is not difficult to understand, but surprisingly simple. I have explained it in several paragraphs, and if I were asked to give a short definition, it would be that it is an overpowering sense of immense joy and brutal misery in which one has vast feelings of pure affection for another individual. The only mystery in love resides in the ocean of contradictions by which it is characterized. We cannot come to terms with the fact that one emotion which can shape our entire life consists of equal amounts of sadness and joy.

It is truly a puzzling thought, and one which leaves me, I confess, rather speechless. This speechlessness, however, is not owed only to the fact that I do not have an answer, but also to the fact that I do not wish to find one. Rather than studying the complications of love, we should instead be in a state of serenity at its existence, for painful though it may be, there is no sweeter pain to be felt. Much has been written on the opposing nature of the feeling, and there has never been an answer. However, the most perfect definition of love which I have had the honour to read was written by the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in his poem Love’s Philosophy: The fountains mingle with the river, And the rivers with the ocean; The winds of heaven mix forever, With a sweet emotion; Nothing in the world is single; All things by a law divine In one another’s being mingle; Why not I with thine? See! the mountains kiss high heaven, And the waves clasp one another; No sister flower would be forgiven, If it disdained it’s brother; And the sunlight clasps the earth, And the moonbeams kiss the sea; What are all these kissings worth, If thou kiss not me? It is true. What Shelley says indeed is that regardless of what it is, when it is felt, love is the most important of all things, not only emotions, and it is for this that we constantly wonder why those who we love “(…)kiss not(…)” us.

It matters not what love is, nor why we feel it. All that matters is that it exists, and that with its existence, whatever divisions there may be in mankind, all of us are complete.