Saturday, January 29, 2011

What is Love?

I was talking to a friend on Facebook last night, and we had a rather interesting philosophical discussion on the nature of love ... and whether or not it's necessary. Or possible.

As a result, I've been thinking about it all day, and I'm still not sure I've reached any sort of conclusion.

I believed in love when I was younger. I started reading when I was very young, and I think the elementary school me first saw love blossom and grow between Taran and Eilonwy in Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, including The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain) I mean, we're talking about this boy and girl who meet as children and fall in love, although it's never spoken directly between the two until the last book in the series, The High King (The Chronicles of Prydain), yet readers can all see it coming.

As I grew older, I lived vicarious tales of doomed love. The Thorn Birds, where a young priest and a girl he meets as a child are forbidden by his vocation from having a true relationship (well, for the most part). Romeo and Juliet. Even Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower, Book 4), where readers learn that Roland Deschain essentially betrayed his one true love in his relentless quest for the Dark Tower.

But I'm talking about real life.

Robert and I were pondering whether or not love, a combination of emotional and physical intimacy, is truly possible in 2011, where the divorce rate is off the charts, a lot of people cheat, and most people are incredibly cynical about love. I have over ten years on Robert and was trying to play the wise friend offering advice, but what I realized is that I am cynical and almost jaded on the topic of love.

I have emotional intimacy with many, many people. My children, my parents, my siblings, my friends, many of my co-workers, a number of my students, and so on. It is strictly platonic, but it is totally legitimate. There is a sense of love, of caring, of being willing to go to bat (or take a bullet) for these people.

But am I anybody's number one? No. Does it bother me? Sometimes. Is there anything I can do about it? Evidently not.

The people who know me best emotionally are all male, which cannot possibly be a coincidence. I have had a physical relationship with only one of them (see next paragraph), and it could only be called a physical relationship in the broadest sense of the word (in other words, it only got physical when we were very drunk). One of them, my friend Chris from New York City, I have never met in person.

Which brings in the physical part. I don't kiss and tell, but I did a lot of thinking last night about the whole package, and I think that a lot of things changed for me on a fateful night in 1998. I think it ruined my belief in physical love and emotional love coexisting.

Perhaps someday I will find someone that can change my views on that, but I never realized until late last night, when I was trying to sleep, that using the physical is never going to erase what happened. It might even impede any possibility of happiness that might exist in my future.

So love? I don't know. Like I said, I have a great deal of emotional love. I have physical "love" when and if I want it, but they do not go hand in hand at this point in my life.

If I am ever able to find myself in a situation where that is possible, I think I can believe in love.

Until then ... the jury's going to be out.

Do you believe in love?