If we’re lucky, we know love through the love of and for our parents, siblings, aunts and uncles. What the ancients might have termed Philia.
We have known the ‘love’ of having a great meal in a fabulous restaurant and we’ve loved the head first plunge into a 90 minute feature if it hauls us from the drudgery of everyday life into the fantastical.
But what is love? Is it real, or a construct?
While Jim Al-Khalili (2012), a theoretical physicist defines it biologically as ‘a powerful neurological feeling like hunger or thirst, only more permanent; you only have to breath to know Love is a many splendid and varied state of being.
It can be momentary (love to see a smile), it can be an expression, an act, a feeling.
From youth, we are told that we should love all humanity (Agape) because Love is EVERYTHING. Something to strive for, something to be cherished and worth searching towards as we build towards success in a lifetime.
However, love has a dark side, which should come as no surprise, it is, afterall, a four letter word!
Romantic love, to a large extent, in your 20’s remains embedded in the practice of exploring both the physical, the adult as well as tredding water in the whirlpool of opportunities that exist for self development. Afterall, don’t you have to self love (Philautia) before you can truly love another…?
Love can and is defined across a spectrum. From the flirtatious (or Ludus) to Eros: the apex of sexual passion and desire, (especially in your 20s), is traditionally centred around finding a partner, settling down and getting married.
In our modern western and patriarchal society, I think it’s fair to say that in your 30’s, love tends to be about the establishment of self and family.
A time of formality and process of love. Of delivering the wedding, the child, the family home and car, not to mention the added extras, which depending on your means may be abundant or negligible – but nonetheless expected … and defined by that oxymoron we call ‘success’.
However, in your 40s the romanticism of youth morphs into the feasible and there is a lot of inherent (read unexpected) comfort in settling. Not retreating or compromising, but rather embracing a manageable and mobile space where the gentle sway of love is both nurturing and reassuring without being suffocating. Where the individual is exactly that, however, also part of a shared and ‘settled’ sphere.
Once the hustle and bustle of young familial love morphs into adulthood, love for 50 plus’s appears to be motivated more by companionship than a burning physical need or emotional desire. A logical next step in the evolution towards the utopia of ‘content’. What the ancients might have called Pragma.
I’m no expert in love, just a mere observer and sometimes naive participant, so these cyberthoughts might rightly be deemed by some as sweeping generalisations, but from what I’ve seen and what I’ve experienced, they appear to ring true across boarders and social classes, yet highlight an intrinsic flaw in all: The need to find it!
So what really IS love…?
A moment? A habit? An ideal…?
Love is anything you want, need or ask it to be. However, what it is not always, is an intangible. It can be something that morphs to create an environment that is inherently nurturing.
In considering the cosmic, and our interpretation of it, how do we nurture love of self, our partner, our family and friends?
Love really is a many splendid thing… but only if and when we choose it.