Why do I say it is difficult? Because it (the type of love relating to interpersonal affection) appears to be both elusive and super-human, yet seems to be what we crave for. Now of course it seems I should define ‘love’, for if any concept should be the most frequented in literature, arts, music, entertainment, and the modern civilisation, I think it would be love. In fact, for this post I will attempt, probably not very well, to tackle the definition of this word.
Love is an emotion, however we need to be very careful with the terms used here. ‘Emotion’ is defined (on the Free Dictionary) as “A mental state that arises spontaneously rather than through conscious effort and is often accompanied by physiological changes; a feeling”. What does this seem to tell us? That this ’emotion of love’ is really not that much under our control – there is some sort of inner working within us compelling us to experience this ‘mental state’ that arises ‘spontaneously’. It also induces physiological changes (mostly pertaining to the physical state of our body) which we would also seem unable to organise or to order around.
In summary, love as an emotion means that this state of mind is involuntarily induced in us, and can lead to (sometimes visible) changes in our bodies.
Up to here, it has been rather technical and dry, so here would come something interesting: to me, it seems that love cannot remain as an emotion. It is not what we call ‘viable’ for a long term relationship between persons. Why? A surface look at emotion would reveal a subtle (if not clear) level of superficiality. After all, other emotions such as joy, anger, happiness, and so forth do not seem to stay with people constantly – a person can feel joyful for a general period in his life, but 1) there would be short periods of time of other emotions such as frustration, or loss of patience; 2) it is difficult to maintain an emotion for very very long, such as for a lifetime.
Yet, love in our civilised society is often depicted as supposedly a lifetime emotion towards someone – whether that person is one’s child, one’s family member or sibling, one’s life partner, or one’s dear friend. It is said that a mother’s love for her child is the strongest thing in the world, and that it never goes away. Couples can be happily married from the inception of their union to the final breath of one spouse on the deathbed. Of course, this isn’t always the case, and we see love ‘fading’ away – some people say they simply stop loving (usually, their lover or spouse is the subject).
Is it the intensity of emotion of love that drives some brides and grooms to actually hold their vow of loving each other till death do them part? Are some married less intensely loving than others? Does dating fail because an emotion is unable to overcome differences or conflicts?
Surely the word ’emotion’ seems to be unable to explain these ‘phenomena’ of love for another person.
Part 2 probably coming sometime soon…