Ah, love. It is a theme evinced everywhere we turn, in books, movies, music, art, and even, advertising.
It is a subject the fascinates us, most likely because its definition is so elusive. But we are in awe of its universal truth: Almost everyone is capable of love and being loved. We yearn for it, we seek it, we grasp it, we dream of it, and yes, sometimes, we even scorn it.
The problem is, there is no one definition of love. It is a diverse concept, meaning vastly different things among people, cultures, even generations. Take romantic love. Some books depict it as a selfless act, while other portray it as selfish. Romantic love can be wildly sensuous, merely pleasant, or heartless, unrequited, and cruel. Because there are so many different types of romantic love, we may not even recognize it when it falls into our laps or knocks us upside our heads.
There is obviously a difference between lust and romantic love. One is bound by physical needs, the desire to satisfy urges that can only be quenched through a carnal coupling. The other is governed by emotion, a need for intimacy, the long sought after merging of heart, mind, and soul. Yes, you can experience both at the same time, but romantic love is what endures. Lust tends to dissipate with time—It is most often fickle and fleeting. Some say friendship is the foundation for love, while others claim compatibility or attraction rules.
Some claim that with romantic love, anything is possible. It sparks courage among the weak, charity among the miserly, and patience among the impulsive. Even the most despicable of human beings can fall in love and be changed by it. Romantic love reveals no pattern, no consistent series of events that lead to a revelation that your heart has been lost to another. It does not require traditional courting and seduction. It can occur in the blink of an eye or build slowly over a period of years. Sometimes love is reborn, sometimes love is lost but found, and sometimes love simply endures over distance or time. It can be a spark or a slow-burning flame. It can lead to euphoria, ecstasy, or nirvana. It an be fleeting, all-consuming, or life-changing.
Even writers describe love in a myriad of ways. Take these lines from song, film, and literature:
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
“Love is a many splendored thing.”
“Love is patient, love is kind.”
“Love is blind.”
And this immortal line from Alfred Lord Tennyson:
“’Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”
Perhaps that is why so many are enthralled by the notion of love, why we bury our noses in paperback novels and weep when love is threatened or finally consummated. We may not know exactly what romantic love is, but every one of us knows that it exists, and some day, hope to find it.