It’s a Sunday morning. The winter sun is putting up a strong but waning fight with the oncoming spring which is anxious to play out its role in full splendor. The delay has caused untimely rains to dance in and take up the attention on the weather stage. My mind slowly and with no particular direction or aim in mind goes back to a series of conversations I have had over the past year about love. The conversations have been with different people and regarding different aspects of love.
What are my ‘key takeaways’ from these dialogues? Well, the following:
- Try as you may with your respective individual love stories and the myriad emotions that you experience, if you try to arrive at a logical definition for love, you will fail. It will either be a definition that is a by-product of how you feel post the ending of a relationship or it will be expressed when you are consumed by the sublime ecstasies of this emotion.
- There is no middle path in most cases. You are so quietly overjoyed with finding and experiencing love as soon as it comes knocking at your doors (even though you may vehemently deny it) that you let it influence your daily life to such an extent that each hour seems to be defined by the presence or absence of it. Or, you begin to take it for granted, thinking that it will be around forever, and as a result end up neglecting or disrespecting it.
- Love can be intimidating. Too much of an ask. It can cause commitment phobia, claustrophobia, and just about any other ‘phobia’ that suffering or confused souls would want to create for themselves. When the weight of the investment begins to only resemble a burden, and not something that is yielding any benefits in the short or long term – that is when things begin to go wrong. If you cannot define love, you don’t know how to approach it or feel it correctly (if at all there is a ‘correct’ way of ‘feeling love’). A definition as a concept is there in the first place to provide a logical explanation of things. But if an emotion like love defies all definition, then what are you going to do? Where does that leave you? Too many questions it seems.
- When talking about approaches, it can safely be said, that people take up approaches to love basis their personalities. Some people need love as an anchor to be rooted in life. Some need it to gain an identity in their minds – they are the sum of all the people they love and who they are loved by. Some seek it to experience an emotional, psychological, or physical high. It is a medium through which they can explore many facets of themselves. This is when it begins to be defined as an exploration, discovery of the self, spiritual journey, and so on. Some need love to fill up real or imagined gaps in their lives. If something is missing, they think the solution lies in finding love. Something real and tangible, which they can reach out to, touch, feel, and make it a part of themselves and their lives. Seemingly so, love becomes the concrete that fills those gaps and keeps fragmented minds and hearts cemented. In one piece. Not a million pieces floating in the universe at large. Pieces that you want to reach out to and make a part of yourself again – but they seem to float out of your reach with the passing tides of time. Love can be familial ties with parents and siblings who keep you grounded in a world which constantly changes or it can be love of one’s independence and space to seek out what lies beyond the charted boundaries and limits. Love for one’s own self. And then there is the destructive-destroying approach towards love – where you either end up being completely and utterly destroyed or want to destroy somebody else in return for being wronged. When there are so many approaches, how can there be one definition? And there are many more, all of which cannot be all documented in one place.
- Love can be natural or arranged or ill-fated or destined or serependitious – but it can turn preconceived notions on its head and make you run screaming into the wild with the ghosts of the past chasing you at your heels, while some future ghosts sit waiting smugly at the milestones ahead.
- Love is supposed to set you free and you are supposed to see it free as well. No caging for something as cagey as love. But how many people actually and truly succeed in doing so? Not many. It sounds philosophically enriching to be told so, and wanting to do it as well. But setting something free that you cherish and wanting to keep it close to yourself – how is that possible? Or, how do you make it possible? If it is yours, it’ll come back. If not, it was never meant to be. Well, brilliant. What can one say, except that when you think something is in your control, it might not be. And when it isn’t, it might just be! Hence, is love illusory or delusional? Yet another question.
- Love cannot be caged but yet it is often found hiding shy in domesticated corners of households. This is when love is undemanding yet giving. This is when the years and years that a man and woman spend in a relationship sleeping on the same bed and sharing the same space despite many differences find love in just a meaningful look shared or sentences completed.
- Love is obviously quite mind-numbingly painful with the realizations and sacrifices it brings along with the whole package of it being the best emotion ever worth living for! Poets, writers, and actors down the ages have often treaded the fine (not blurring) lines between fact and fiction and often got lost in the mirage of optimism and hope that love provides.
- Love also knows no race, caste, color, creed, or gender. And is often criticized and judged the worst in these very same cases.
- Love also often gets stagnant. Sad but true. What I have learnt is that it might just not be the same as love being taken for granted. Which if it would have been, then it might have been better. Love becoming stagnant is nothing but boredom creeping in after being with the same person for a while (the ‘while’ can vary from 7 weeks to 7 months to 7 years). Seven year itches notwithstanding, stagnant love is often the most toughest to get out of. This is because one usually wouldn’t have a good enough reason to do so. In love that destroys you – either physically or psychologically – one has rationale and justification to step out of it. But in love that has become stale over a period of time, it can be because of the people changing, or lives changing, or lack of respect or consideration, people having got into for all the wrong reasons or because of rebound/revenge, or probably just sheer boredom. None of these reasons are specific in nature. All of them are in the grey. A no-man’s land where love should never head towards. But if it does, it will still not leave you without some sort of learning.
And that brings me to my definition of love. Love is life’s best and worst teacher. It’s the math teacher you hated in school and also the teacher of your favorite subject in school. Students come away from school often debating that they were made to study many topics or subjects that they haven’t used since school ended. So what was the point of it all? But the study of those unwanted topics or subjects has somewhere led to us being the people we are today. After all, should we really be questioning education that is imparted to us when there are people out there who never get the privilege to do so?
Similarly with the different loves that we experience. Some loves can feel unnecessary – why did they happen to us? We could have done without them. In a situation, if either spouse suffers in a domestic abuse case, to question the meaning of it all or the lesson learnt out of it is much, much tougher. Or, even worse, if you are forced by cultural and societal norms to marry and consummate a marriage with someone who is a complete stranger to you, someone with whom you have a significant age difference, or someone with whom you have to get married out of convenience or to settle some scores.
But love or the lack of love still teaches us a lot about our choices, our decisions, our strengths, our weaknesses, and more importantly, the lesson that life was never meant to be fair. Not even the fairy tales you read as a child dared to depict the world as a just and fair place to live in. Children’s literature in hindsight can always be observed as the best possible preparation in a rainbow-hued bubble that life can offer you, before life comes your way and completely unsettles everything.
We may cry out for poetic justice or peace after a long period of emotional or physical strife.
We may want to “settle down”.
We may want to experience the magic of love and fly with every soaring emotion.
We may want love to provide anchorage.
We may want companionship or the quiet solitude of someone who is a lot like us but yet different.
We may want love to add, subtract, divide, and multiply – and take us back to the basics to keep it simple and pure.
If we demand so much from love, why should it demand any less from us?
Love is not about somehow receiving answers from an existential universe. Love is about asking the right questions.