On the Nature of Love

Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Originally posted on April 8, 2008.

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Over the last several years, I've been giving a lot of thought to the nature of love.

Patriotic love, romantic love, platonic love, parental love.

And like Meg in The Wind in the Door, I've come to the conclusion that love is not a feeling. It's an act.

Someone can say they're a patriot, and they love their country, but really, what does that mean? Nothing. It doesn't mean a damn thing, unless that love is expressed in action. Action in service or action in support. Either you serve your country, in the military, or in politics, or in community, or you support those who serve in some meaningful way. Professing love for country without action is meaningless.

When you're in love with someone in a romantic sense, love is still an act. Anyone who's been involved in a long-term relationship knows that sometimes maintaining the actions of love when times are tough can be a challenge. But if you truly love the person, you perform the acts of love, whether that's doing your partner a favor when you're tired, maintaining your honor in the face of temptation, or sticking with them in good times or bad.

Platonic love was the hardest one for me to figure out, perhaps because over the course of my life I've had very few true friends that I could honestly say I loved. I have many, many acquaintances, many casual friends, but very few true friends whom I love. The part that took me a while was the realization that if I love my friend, then that person is as important to me as my partner or my family, and my actions should reflect that importance. Once I got square on that, my behavior has changed accordingly. If I'm unwilling to take the action I know demonstrates my love, then that relationship may turn out to be casual, or an acquaintance, but I won't make the mistake of thinking I love them.

In many ways, I think the love between a parent and a child is the most complex, because there's no choice involved. My parents will always be my parents, and my kids will always be my kids. I didn't choose any of them, but our lives are intertwined in such a way that we'll never be free of each other, regardless of whether or not they would be people we would choose if there was a choice. In both cases, there is an expectation that we'll take care of each other, performing the acts that need to be done to ensure health and happiness. I also think a failure to perform those acts is a failure of love - if you don't do what's necessary, then you don't love the person, regardless of what you say. Sometimes the failure isn't any one's fault, but it's still a failure.

I expect I'll still be exploring the nature of love 10 years from now, and 20 years from now, and 30 years from now. I expect my perceptions and opinions will change as I age, and hopefully gain some wisdom.

But for now, I believe love is action. Acts of love.

7 comments:

Marion said...

I've been studying aand exploring the nature of love for as long as I can remember, and I expect, I will be exploring it until I die. I wonder, if this isn't something that everyone does, even if they aren't aware of it. I wonder if understanding love is the reason we exist.

Random Michelle K said...

I meant to reply to this earlier, but...

Oddly, when my aunt spoke at my grandmother's funeral, this is the subject on which she spoke: my grandmother and the great love she had. How she loved unconditionally, and was able to forgive those she loved, no matter what.

Love is good.

filelalaine said...

I suppose a certain amount of gratitude comes into play with parent-child kind of love: Child grateful to have been born, parent grateful to have kept child alive despite many screwups. I can see how that can create a mutual bond.

But what about siblings.. you are REALLY stuck with those for life.. how do you explain THAT love? Specially when they drive you crazy, with actions and words? That's the one I'm working on explaining, sibling love... I suspect that will take me a while to do...

Janiece said...

Siblings are tough. I'm deeply envious of people who have close friendships with their siblings, since I've come to the conclusion that having a relationship with mine is neither worth it nor in my best interest.

Random Michelle K said...

Sibling love comes from a shared past, but like Janiece said, it's not automatic.

My brother and I have have a lot of hard work to achieve the relationship we have now.

It's worth it, but it wasn't easy and it most certainly wasn't automatic.

But then, I think my grandmother would say that all love is work--but it is a work that is worth doing.

Janiece said...

Michelle, your Grandmom was a wise woman,.and I think the idea that love is work worth doing is fundamentally correct. Provided, of course, that the recipient is also willing to work and has the fundamental generosity of spirit required. I'm no longer willing to expend much effort on the selfish.

filelalaine said...

I hear you about the selfish part. The hardest thing one can teach/learn is empathy (as I have come to conclude after extensive grad work on the subject and years in practice).

With my siblings (I am the middle one of three girls), I have found that any and all of my efforts seem futile at best. In fact, maybe they are counter-productive. Our relationships just ebb and flow, sometimes entirely randomly it seems. One thing I can always count on, though, in my hour of need, regardless of how bad things have been or for how long, one phone call to let them know they are needed and they are both there in a NY minute. Explain THAT!