Love is… This is one of the most challenging open ended confusing sentences to complete, probably in the history of the world. I have decided to start an open ended love themed blog post to be added to in the future when I have more revelations to this mythical beast of an emotion. It is also because I recently was thinking about love, and my hands just started typing, there was little I could do. The purposes of this monolog on love are twofold. First, this is so I and others can look back in the future and laugh about how silly my attempts to describe love actually were. Second, it is so I can get these thoughts out of my head. I also should say that once I experience more of you know, life, my opinions and view points and thoughts are likely to change drastically and may swing to the polar opposite of what they are now. I have no clue. Now, keeping in mind that I have absolutely no clue what I am talking about, and there’s a very real possibility that all this is rampant speculation, I’ll go ahead and dive right in.
I am currently in a humanities class in school entitled ‘HU 143, Introduction to Rhetoric.’ The class is actually incredibly interesting, and I’m learning a lot about the subtle art of persuasion. The class involves the reading of articles that can be found in places like the Washington Post opinion section, or the New York Times op-ed section. As it turns out this thing rhetoric is actually surrounding us in virtually everything that we do. Advertisements, politics, relationships, family, school, church, work, walking down the street, at the post office, wherever you are right now, and many many other places. It deals with a lot of emotional appeals in arguments, and this is (I know you were wondering) exactly how love came in to the picture.
The other day in class this kid brought up that he thought love was a selfish emotion. Love as a selfish emotion. I almost see his point. This whole idea came in to view because of an article that we were reading in class. The article was “The Dying of the Light”, and it was written by a doctor who worked with patients who were commonly near the end of their lives. He sees every day the kind of nightmare that we all dread will be our last days. Medical technology has advanced so far that we mortal humans now have the ability to actually play God in a way. We can artificially prolong the lives of the ones that we hold dear to our hearts. Which defaults most people’s minds to a ‘this is good’ reaction. And to some extent I’m sure that it is. The advancement of medical technology is a good thing. Except when it results in the prolonged suffering. Which brings in to question what is the definition of being alive versus living. Which I am only qualified to answer for myself, and isn’t the thing that really stuck with me in the first place.
The thing that really stuck with me was this kids comment, that love is a selfish emotion. Love is the reason that our brain defaults to wanting to keep our relatives alive and around as long as possible. Which, is something that is easy to understand. Anything to the contrary at first seems ridiculous and hurtful. Why would you want someone to no longer be present in this world? The part of us that is convinced that we love the person who is suffering will want them to stay. While this evidence might logically make sense, I could not wrap my head around the idea. I was actually pretty mad about it. In my mind love is nothing but good, and the idea that love could cause pain was idiotic and stupid. The emotion that causes that pain isn’t really love, it’s actually something else. We just THINK it’s love. I kept telling myself the part of us that actually loves them will want them to go. The thing is that it IS love that does this. It IS love that is selfish and give us a need and want to hold on to the people that we hold dear. See what I didn’t realize until this afternoon was, the kid was right. Well, sort of.
My friend and I were arguing about this, and my friend who is way more qualified to be talking about love said that yes, love is selfish. When it is felt that way. When it is wanting people to be around even though doing so causes them pain. It is a selfish thing to do. But my original dissonance with the comment was that love is supposed to be selfless. Love is not supposed to be a selfish emotion. Love is supposed to be knowing that the loved one is in pain and letting them go to a place that is much less painful. But that’s just it, all these sentences are starting out with supposed to be. If you look back through history we, humans, are absolutely terrible at doing what we are supposed to do. I mean virtually right from the get go, Adam and Eve, we did not do what we were supposed to do. So what’s to say that we use love as we are supposed to use love. Love is not a selfish emotion. We are selfish people who feel love, and simply can not separate the two.
Ultimately I reached the conclusion after thinking about this for several hours and discussing it with my buddy, that the little dweeby kid in my class wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t right either, not entirely. While, yes, in the case that sparked this whole thing love is selfish, and causes selfish actions to be taken and selfish decisions to be made, there is also another aspect of love in the exact same scenario that is incredibly selfless. It is an incomplete diagnosis of the situation to address one without addressing the other. It’s only telling half the story, and after all a half finished story is a half finished love affair. This love that we feel, it’s a complicated thing. In all aspects, and it is in fact both the cause of the decisions to keep loved ones in pain and suffering but a live, and it is the very same emotion that allows us to finally let them go. And I don’t understand that one bit.
I don’t know why love is such a complicated animal. I don’t know a lot of things about love, as you can plainly see by reading this blog. Love seems to be all things. The Bible says it best (as often is the case) in I Corinthians chapter 13 verses 4-8. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” The best thing that I can come up with then to explain the affects that love has as described in this post is; love never fails. We fail love, because we’re human. Love is not supposed to be selfish. We just make it that way. And it’s still one of the greatest emotions that there is.
Come back next week for part 1 of a 4 part short story about many things, including love, life, and trains. Thanks for reading, see you then!