If, as two strangers, we suddenly let our guards down, open our vulnerabilities to each other, feel close and give in to each other, we live the moment of the most exhilarating and exciting experience of our lives. Our hearts pound, our eyes become bigger, we cannot sit quiet, and arbitrary thoughts occupy the cognitive capacity. We listen to our song, remember those moments, try to visualize the eyes, the voice, but only blurred and miss being together. These two feelings, falling in love and separation, changes so much in our lives.
Yet so little we know about love. We are searching for it the whole time, yet we never try to train ourselves on it. Most of us assume that we know how to love, we just have to find someone whom we can love and who can love us back. Can we be wrong though?! Is love a skill we can learn?! Whatever the answer is to such questions, important thing is to think about the characteristics, values and principles of love.
We can assume the love to be the evolution of animal bond against threat, seeking protection and mainly reproducing for the purpose of transmitting the genetic existence to a new generation. Love, by no means, is just an improvement over animal bond for survival and growth. Nonetheless, this feeling is still the evolutionary advancement through mutations of genes impacted by various factors, including our historical environments. Unlike our predecessors, mammals, we have somehow moved away from the nature by gaining cognitive power as an exclusive skill. The cognitive development introduced questioning our feelings and going in a new direction that clashes with the pre-defined natural rules.
If we fast-forward a little bit, in contemporary societies, union within a group is a common means of overcoming an existential isolation. By mixing into a herd, we coalesce our self and disappear into the bigger social ecosystem, which we tend to call equality. Although it is quite monotonous to be like everybody else, it protects us from the vulnerability of loneliness and separateness experience. The main danger of getting into this free flow engagement and integration into collective group is that we lose our own identity and no more feel the cosmos that exist within each of us that is in fundamental level a very unique feature.
Preserving this integrity and individuality of one’s self is the pre-requisite for showing the practice of love towards outside. Unlike symbiotic union, which refers to a physical or mental attachment or interdependence on each other, love lets the separateness and union happen at the same time. Love is an active power that both unites us with others at the same time separating us from them. It is a strong tool to overcome the sense of separateness and persist defining who we are individually and save the completeness of our integrity.
Love is a voluntary practice of mutual growth, never as a result of a compulsion. This voluntarism character can be described as stating the love to be about “giving” rather than “receiving”. Just to warn in advance, it is not “giving up” or sacrificing, but rather accepting this provisioning as the expression of potency, enrichment of strength, wealth or power, or whatever we call this state of having the abundance, which fills us with joy and aliveness. What can we give as a product of love?
Whoever is capable of giving is rich.
The act of giving, as a voluntary expression and provisioning, can refer to providing our joy, liveliness, knowledge, understanding, experience, or manifestations of what makes our live meaningful to us. By providing all of this, we enrich the existence potential of the person we love. Main separating factor of love from other social bonds is that we do not expect anything in return. Love is a force that produces power, and that’s the only thing we may receive, which itself is not ensured either.
“Perhaps it is true that we do not really exist until there is someone there to see us existing, we cannot properly speak until there is someone who can understand what we are saying in essence, we are not wholly alive until we are loved.”Alain de Botton
Erich Fromm suggests in his book, The Art Of Loving, that the very core characters of love implies basic elements: care, responsibility, respect and knowledge. Caring is what “giving” can be described as. When we love, caring about the object that we assert this power onto becomes the core of our purpose. The care can be realised if there is a voluntary responsibility towards it. This responsibility creates the consistent act of “giving in”. When we care, it is very possible that we expect some reward as a return for our “sacrifice” as a trade off in the actions of the person we address our feelings to. What makes love be unique is the respect for the integrity of that person. By intending a pure “give in” power, we do not expect to receive any return. Last but not least, love should generate some knowledge. It should contribute to the learning and growth of the receiving part. By loving, we as well automatically gain knowledge as well, which is another outcome that does not require any intentional act from the counterpart. By loving, by giving ourselves in, we do find ourselves, discover our potential.
A reason why separation in contemporary societies appear a lot is that the relationships that create an illusion of love actually has the characteristic of a common practice of creating a bond with an expectation of moving in the same direction, adopting the same values, or “giving up” reciprocally. The shift from the experience of love to expectation nurtured relationships tend to lose its momentum after a while. The accumulation of disappointments due to these deviating expectations result in disappointments and eventually in separation.
We, humans, have a lot of expectations and hopes for the future. When we spend effort today for a reward we expect to receive in the future, outcome has a bigger impact on us due to the compound mass of the force we assign to it. Most of the times we fail to clarify the uncertainties under our control. One main failure point is communication. As love is possible only if two persons communicate their core existence to the other person, the disappointing separation happens because we fail to communicate the same core existence with each other. As we live through and evolve, our vision, purposes and expectations about the life changes and we accept it default that the other person should feel and understand the changes we go through and what our intentions are. When they do not recognize it, we feel disappointed and angry at them. We usually do not communicate this anger as well, thus it accumulates as we move on with the illusion that things will turn out to be better. The outcome is, as most of us can recognize, a preventable separation.
Love is not a feeling we can exploit towards a single person. It’s an active power to the life and its components itself. It’s a feeling in our brain and the only directing force of it is us ourselves. Practicing it on a single object does frame it with the constraints of that specific bond. However, if we love the life, the nature, the people, and ourselves, we can practice the activity of love for the sake of love.