Tuesday, 8 August 2017

What is Love, Really?

Many philosophers and scientists over the centuries have tried to determine what love really is.  Shakespeare wrote in The Merchant of Venice, "Tell me, where is fancy bred; or in the heart, or in the head? How begot, how nourished?"

The ongoing debate over LBGT people and whether their relationships are a threat to heterosexuals has me shaking my head in disgust.  It should be no business of anyone's to worry about what goes on in a private home between two consenting adults.  And yet LBGT people have been marginalized, threatened, and worse.

I am reminded of the Star Trek The Next Generation episode, "The Host" in which Dr. Crusher has a romance with a male Trill - a humanoid who has a symbiotic relationship with a worm-like creature inside the belly.  When the Trill is badly injured, the symbiont is forced to transfer to Cmdr. Riker temporarily, and then to a new Trill host which happens to be female.  Dr. Crusher balks at continuing their affair, saying: "Perhaps it is a human failing, but we are not accustomed to these kinds of changes.  I can't keep up.  How long will you have this host?  What would the next one be?  I can't live with that kind of uncertainty.  Perhaps, someday, our ability to love won't be so limited."

It seems that, indeed, some people are limited in their ability to love and understand others.  Homosexuality, divorce, adultery - all these "sins" have broken friendships, torn apart families, and embittered too many people to count.

It has been postulated that love is not an emotion but a state of mind.  "Because love, it's not an emotion.  Love is a promise," states The Doctor in the episode "Death in Heaven".  Blogger Karla McLaren wrote:  "Those things we've learned to equate with love – the longing, the physical attraction, the shared hobbies, the desire, the yearning, the lust, the projections, the addictive cycles, the passions – those things move and change and fluctuate in the way emotions do, but they're not love, because love is utterly stable and utterly unaffected by any emotion."

How else can people stay together long-term?  Without the stability of true love, the relationship can't last.  The emotional high of infatuation and lust is short-lived, addictive, and ultimately unsatisfying.  It's little wonder that some get bored with their relationships and seek another high elsewhere, leaving bewildered ex-partners in their wake - they couldn't stay long enough to allow love to cement.

I once overheard someone tell their relative who had cheated on his wife, "Have your fling but go back to your spouse!"  Cheating is easy but going back isn't, because it involves a great deal of work in rebuilding the broken trust and love, if there was any there to begin with.

Of course there is the other side of the coin where couples stay together "for the sake of the kids" or for other reasons, despite their unhappiness with the situation.  In such cases they need to take a close look at themselves and determine what is really keeping them together.  If there is no love, what's the point of maintaining a farce?

Here's hoping that someday we will all have a better understanding of what love is, and its relevance in our world and to each other.

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