Essay On Love
by: Alan W. Goodson
"...this idea that love overtakes you is nonsense. This is but a polite manifestation of sex. To love another you have to undertake some fragment of their destiny."
Quentin Crisp (b. 1908), British author"We love in another's soul whatever of ourselves we can deposit in it; the greater the deposit, the greater the love."
Irving Layton (b. 1912), Canadian poet
Love is that fragile flower
of most uncommon beauty. One which can never be found by purpose alone while
wandering through life's gardens. But one whose color and fragrance is most
pure and meaningful when discovered by accident while tending to the more
mundane duties of the common man. A diamond found lying quietly amongst
the broken glass of childhood's shattered windows.
To love another is the supreme sacrifice of self. For we must give freely and completely of ourselves to another, without reservation or condition. To give less serves only to hinder the growth of our evolution from self sustaining isolation to a greater joining of universal awareness. As children we love by instinct but it is a selfish love. One which results out of necessity, born of helpless reliance on others for survival. It is an innocent love, free of complicated psychosocial encumbrances or expectations. But it is a hungry love which takes much more than it gives in the beginning.
Initially a baby will smile out of some inner pleasure that is imperceptible to others. But very soon, it learns from our reactions to that smile that it possesses a power to influence its surroundings. By repetition and association the child discovers he can gain pleasurable sensations from external sources by the simple act of a smile. The first seed of love is planted when we acknowledge the child's smile with our own outward expression of pleasure.
"Even a minor event in the life of a child is an event of that child's world and thus a world event."
Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962), French philosopher
From that first moment of conscious realization the child understands that to be a recipient of these enticing pleasures he must give of himself. However, growing in close proximity to this freshly planted seed lies another, less tender sprout. A subtle, yet powerful comprehension of the inherent capacity for manipulation. Without being fully aware of it, the child can sense that his own selfish needs can be fulfilled wholly with only a tiny investment on his part. It is almost too easy. And the easiest lessons of life, though not without merit, demand so little of us that we are sometimes blind to the simple fact that we remain responsible for our actions towards other human beings.
"Deity would not tolerate the presumption that all can be manipulated; an object lesson of the limits of human presumption is necessary."
Henry Kissinger (b. 1923), U.S. politician
So the child grows. As his
needs and desires gain in both intensity and sophistication, he is dependent
on his sparse inventory of experience to propel him safely through the deep
and hazardous waters of interpersonal relationships. The lessons get harder
and the price gets much higher to pay. A smile is no longer enough. A cute
gesture is only that and nothing more. Love and acceptance by others is
no less a necessity now than ever, but it is not so easily obtained. The
obligatory and anticipated rewards for adorable behavior given us by our
parents are not so readily found in those who have no genetic predisposition
to love us. Familial love is but a pale precursor of the romantic love we
seek in later years. But still we hunger for that warm contentment of shared
compassion and longing for physical contact which can only be encountered
when we are held tightly in the heart and soul of an object of our desires.
We set forth on our journey to love's gratification with only those sadly ineffectual tools we developed as children. Their purpose, long served, has outlived its usefulness. We search for nirvana unclothed and without protection from the harshness of the world in which it may or may not exist at all. By trial and many errors, we ruefully discern that the truest and most satisfying of emotional forces, that which we call love, often appears to be no more than a taunting mirage. An apparition of beauty which lies just beyond our seemingly limited reach. We strive and toil endlessly, enchanted by love's simple promise of a more complete and meaningful existence. A communal reality of two souls enjoined by identical and mutually fulfilling sentiment. Ahhh, such is the essence of wakeful dreams and conscious imaginings.
"But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."
W. B. Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet
"And love, in silent splendor, holds forth no clues. It is not bound by mortal conscience, therefore it does not offer apologies for its failures."
Alan W. Goodson (b. 1958), American realist
Love defies generalizations.
Poets, philosophers, theologians, and countless others have ascribed their
own theories and interpretations but often they still fall short of the
goal of capturing the true nature of this unfathomable entity. The strength
of love lies in its diversity. It possesses the unique ability to evolve,
change, and permutate over the course of our lives. Just as we grow outwardly
we must also grow inwardly. Our thoughts, realizations, and perceptions
are given credence by our individual experiences on the separate paths we
follow in our quest for love. And as love is an integral part of our inner
selves, so it must grow and mature as well. It possesses the ability to
adapt to its internal as well as its external environment. It not only changes
as we change but it also ebbs and flows outwardly dependent on the receptivity
of those to whom it is directed.
During certain periods of our lives love may seem to fade or even disappear entirely from our emotional palette. But once conceived it never truly ceases to exist. Love is the ultimate survivor. It has a will to live as strong as the will of its human container. If necessary, it may hibernate, withdraw like a turtle into its shell. When it is rebuffed or rejected by the harshness and cold complacency which can be so common in others, it folds in on itself until which time it again feels safe to venture out into a more nurturing environment. But it does not die.
We say we fall in love but it is a misnomer. We do not fall anywhere. We simply open our hearts and allow the love inside to project its energy towards the heart of another. If it is well received and properly tended, it creates a spiritual bond between the two hearts. However, love is an individualized emotion. It is a part of who we are and just as no two people share the exact same emotional make-up, neither can they share totally identical expressions of their love for one another. The beauty of a strong and viable relationship is seen when two souls meet and the colors of their love complement each other.
We are in love when we can find that fragile state of being where our individual love demands no more than the other person can give and when we can provide the necessary energies to allow them to be fulfilled as well. Love cares nothing for equality but it insists on balance. That balance is possible only when both people are satisfied that their own expectations and needs in a relationship are being adequately provided for.
"Love is often nothing but a favorable exchange between two people who get the most of what they can expect."
Erich Fromm (1900-80), U.S. psychologist
"Unhappiness is best defined as the difference between our talents and our expectations."
Edward De Bono (b. 1933), British writer
The first step towards a failed
love affair is taken when we begin to feel we are giving more of ourselves
than is being rejuvenated by the influx of love from our partner. That however,
is not the fault of love but a sign that, in our own perception, we are
not being compensated for our efforts. The next, and often fatal, step is
when we decide to fall back on that old learned behavior of using the expression
of our love as a manipulative tool to gain that which we most strongly desire.
Love seeks only love, but egotistical aspects of our self image may interfere
with our ability to recognize the quality and quantity of love being given
It is our duty to our mate and our responsibility to ourselves to make clear the window to our souls. Love thrives on communication and tolerance. That which we desire and that which we can accept as a reasonable equivalent must be verbalized or otherwise made unmistakably apparent to our lover. Understanding and compromise are the banquets on which love feasts. And conversely, assumption and an unyielding insistence on prerequisites for our love are the sabers which will inevitably sever the emotional bond that love provides.
We are merely passengers on our ship of destiny and love is the compass that guides our journey through life. Whether it is love for another human being, a cherished goal, or a desire to find completeness and meaning to our lives bears little consequence on the necessity for following the course that love charts. Love cannot live comfortably in a vacuum. It must be allowed free reign and be given the opportunity to explore beyond the confining walls of self-protection which we construct as barriers to the ravages of life. It is the flagship of our soul and the purveyor of our most cherished dreams of a purposeful existence. Love we hide or hold back from others out of fear is love wasted. It is of no value to us when held inside but can increase in value a hundredfold when shared with another like minded individual or when directed towards a greater aspiration beyond our own selfish needs.
"Love, the strongest and deepest element in all life, the harbinger of hope, of joy, of ecstasy; love, the defier of all laws, of all conventions; love, the freest, the most powerful molder of human destiny..."
Emma Goldman (1869-1940), U.S. anarchist
It has been often said, when
attempting to offer explanation towards an otherwise unlikely pairing, that
love is blind. In this context it is insinuated that love is lacking in
one of the physical senses and is unable to discern the otherwise obvious
imperfections which may be evident to those who proclaim to have a clearer
view of reality. While this may bear some truth as to the tendency for love
to ignore certain unseemly attributes which may be present in another, it
does little to give credit to the truer vision of love itself. Love possesses
no physical senses whatsoever. More so, it is an extension of the physical
senses we are burdened with as human beings. Our distinct but individual
views of reality are based on the input we receive from those physical senses.
And those senses are often influenced by factors which lie beyond the reach
of the senses themselves. A motion picture fools us into believing that
we are seeing a seamless replay of events when in actuality we are seeing
nothing more than a rapid series of frozen moments in time captured by the
eye of the camera.
When we gaze at a beautiful red rose we see only the narrow spectrum of color which is reflected back at us but the entire spectrum of all the other colors are absorbed by and contained within that same rose. Invisible but still present. Ask a man, blind from birth, to describe a rainbow or a deaf person to sing along to a song on the radio. It is of course impossible for them to do so. However, ask those same people to speak to you of their perceptions of love and you may be amazed at how closely they coincide with your own. We, as human beings, can never fully comprehend the reality perceived by another individual. Therefore we must be careful in our judgments and in the conclusions we draw based on our own perceptions of reality.
Love's reality, like beauty, is held solely in the eyes of the beholder. And love's vision, if we must transpose a physical sense upon a non-physical entity, is crystal clear. It seeks that which coincides appropriately with its own desires. It is not foolproof, nor is it always accurate in striking close to the heart of its target. Nevertheless, it is an essential component of our soul's repertoire and must be given the autonomy it requires to seek out that which holds promise to provide the needed sustenance for its own growth.
"What is the most rigorous law of our being? Growth. No smallest atom of our moral, mental, or physical structure can stand still a year. It grows-it must grow; nothing can prevent it."
Mark Twain (1835-1910), U.S. author
"The self ... might be regarded as a sort of citadel of the mind, fortified without and containing selected treasures within, while love is an undivided share in the rest of the universe. In a healthy mind each contributes to the growth of the other: what we love intensely or for a long time we are likely to bring within the citadel, and to assert as part of ourself. On the other hand, it is only on the basis of a substantial self that a person is capable of progressive sympathy or love."
Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929), U.S. sociologist
Love never grows up, it only grows outward. It is the Peter Pan of emotional energies. While this may sound contradictory to the earlier statements, it is in fact, completely harmonious. Our own emotional needs and requirements may change and grow but love simply adapts to the new environment. Love learns from our experiences but its essential characteristics remain unchanged. Love retains its childlike innocence and hopeful faith throughout our lives. It is the driving force of our dreams and our soul's unending search for contentment and serenity within the framework of our singular reality.
"Life has always taken place in a tumult without apparent cohesion, but it only finds its grandeur and its reality in ecstasy and in ecstatic love."
Georges Bataille (1897-1962), French novelist
There is no force or presence
on earth so sublime as that which is derived from the uninhibited expression
of love for another human being. When that love is returned in kind, when
two souls join hands in the complete and undeniable bond of mutual compassion
and reverence, then and only then can we humans ever expect to sample the
fruits of nirvana. No truer ideals can exist for mankind beyond this seemingly
unattainable connection of love unbound. But it is within our nature to
achieve the impossible and it is not beyond the limits of love's desire
to seek the solace of total immersion within the heart of those we believe
to be capable of such ecstatic heights of emotion.
We are more often left wanting, unfulfilled and incomplete, in our usual interactions with the vast majority of those we meet in our lives. But that takes nothing away from love's dream of compassionate surrender to the possibilities for the future. And therein lies the instinct for love's survival, and perhaps our own. It presents itself as a determination to force us through the frailties and foibles of mortal existence. Obligating us to maintain an uncompromising optimism towards the realization of spiritual completeness that may lie dormant but aware in the souls of others we encounter along the way.
And if perchance, like emotional radar, our love detects that long sought coherence in the countenance of another heart's desire, our will becomes nothing more than a candle in the wind of destiny's storm. Love, enraptured by the covenant of its own reality, bursts forth with renewed direction and purpose. Senses overwhelmed, our mortal lives become nothing more than a superficial shell of awareness as love has its way with our heart. To deny the event is folly. To question the source is pointless. To attempt to contain the emotion is senseless. It is we who are blind, love sees clearly and must follow its course to the end. For there can be no greater achievement in our lives than to allow the essence of our heart to find meaning and purpose in the heart of another.
"...And only in the end we'll see,
just what our lives were meant to be,
When all our childhood fantasies
Are lost within the mysteries
Alan W. Goodson (b. 1958), American realist
©Alan W. Goodson 01/21/96