I do my best to be a learner, a facilitator, a friend, a father, and until some time back, a husband, a son and more.
I have experienced the high and low of emotions- lots of sadness, fear, sometimes anger, sexual feelings, happiness and more. And continue to, maybe in subtler ways and sometimes quite gross also.
I meet many young people who are contemplating marriage and grappling with relationships- which many of us “relatively grown up” folks also do! As the whole institution is getting shaken up, life is inviting us to examine this vital question:
What is love?
And on the heels of this question are many others:
What is commitment? What is freedom?
Since these questions are not easy to engage with, we often run away from them in the form of a simplistic conclusion, agreeing or disagreeing with some friend, guru, book etc.
I am learning to keep the inquiry alive till there is so much blazing clarity that I can playfully engage with different views. The more I have a need to defend or promote my view, it is certain that I am standing on weak ground.
One question that often comes up about love in my mind and heart is.. How come we divide and define and confine love? Is romantic love, parental love, love in friendship, love of God (or truth!), loving a book, a movie etc. hugely different? To what extent this is a function of the conditioning by society?
A dear friend with whom I have been existentially grappling about this question sent me a beautiful quote recently
“ Therefore, when I say that I love, it is not I who love, but in reality Love who acts through me. Love is not so much something I do as something that I am. Love is not a doing but a state of being – a relatedness, a connectedness to another mortal, an identification with her or him that simply flows within me and through me, independent of my intentions or my efforts. “ — Robert A. Johnson
I came across this piece by JK which speaks to me very deeply and I have shared it with many friends.
What is Love – J. Krishnamurti (from ‘Freedom from the Known’)
THE DEMAND TO be safe in relationship inevitably breeds sorrow and fear. This seeking for is inviting insecurity. Have you ever found security in any of your relationships? Have you? Most of us want the security of loving and being loved, but is there love when each one of us is seeking his own security, his own particular path? We are not loved because we don’t know how to love. What is love? The word is so loaded and corrupted that I hardly like to use it. Everybody talks of love — every magazine and newspaper and every missionary talks everlastingly of love. I love my country, I love my king, I love some book, I love that mountain, I love pleasure, I love my wife, I love God.
Is love an idea? If it is, it can be cultivated, nourished, cherished, pushed around, twisted in any way you like. When you say you love God what does it mean? It means that you love a projection of your own imagination, a projection of yourself clothed in certain forms of respectability according to what you think is noble and holy; so to say, ‘I love God’, is absolute nonsense. When you worship God you are worshipping yourself – and that is not love. Because we cannot solve this human thing called love we run away into abstractions.
Love may be the ultimate solution to all man’s difficulties, problems and travails, so how are we going to find out what love is? By merely defining it? The church has defined it one way, society another and there are all sorts of deviations and perversions. Adoring someone, sleeping with someone, the emotional exchange, the companionship – is that what we mean by love? That has been the norm, the pattern, and it has become so tremendously personal, sensuous, and limited that religions have declared that love is something much more than this.
In what they call human love they see there is pleasure, competition, jealousy, the desire to possess, to hold, to control and to interfere with another’s thinking, and knowing the complexity of all this they say there must be another kind of love, divine, beautiful, untouched, uncorrupted. Throughout the world, so-called holy men have maintained that to look at a woman is something totally wrong: they say you cannot come near to God if you indulge in sex, therefore they push it aside although they are eaten up with it. But by denying sexuality they put out their eyes and cut out their tongues for they deny the whole beauty of the earth.They have starved their hearts and minds; they are dehydrated human beings; they have banished beauty because beauty is associated with woman.
Can love be divided into the sacred and the profane, the human and the divine, or is there only love? Is love of the one and not of the many? If I say, ‘I love you’, does that exclude the love of the other? Is love personal or impersonal? Moral or immoral? Family or non-family? If you love mankind can you love the particular? Is love sentiment? Is love emotion? Is love pleasure and desire? All these questions indicate, don’t they, that we have ideas about love, ideas about what it should or should not be, a pattern or a code developed by the culture in which we live. So to go into the question of what love is we must first free it from the encrustation of centuries, put away all ideals and ideologies of what it should or should not be.
To divide anything into ‘what should be’ and ‘what is’ is the most deceptive way of dealing with life. Now how am I going to find out what this flame is which we call love –not how to express it to another but what it means in itself? I will first reject what the church, what society, what my parents and friends, what every person and every book has said about it because I want to find out for myself what it is. Here is an enormous problem that involves the whole of mankind, there have been a thousand ways of defining it and I myself am caught in some pattern or other according to what I, in order to understand it, first free myself from my own inclinations and prejudices? I am confused, torn by my own desires, so I say to myself, ‘First clear up your own confusion. Perhaps you may be able to discover what love is through what it is not.
My understanding is that it is not about making our human neediness wrong or bad. It is not about suppressing or denying our humanity. But indeed, in being human and through being human, discovering a ground that is unshakeable. To find a love that is not a function of circumstances, of people or emotional ups and downs. How might we see that and be that. A dear friend who also brings clarity and beauty in my life put it beautifully. When we need love we cannot see that we are love. Is it possible to watch how much we beg for love? And precisely that makes it go away! And when we are at ease, like a butterfly comes and perches itself on our shoulder. Keeping the inquiry alive is helping me to see and be that love. Willingness to fail and feel, to be vulnerable and myself, to encounter pain and all that life brings is somehow, bringing me closer to that.
A friend, Deborah Anapol who has written a few books and writes a newsletter, ‘Love Without Limits’ also wrote a beautiful article with the same title. I discovered it this morning (24 feb 2014) in a fb chat with her! Its very well written and appeared in Psychology Today and has had nearly half a million hits! Its extracted from her book, ‘The Seven Natural Laws of Love’ Do have a look: What is Love? (click this link to go to the post)
And then there is this favorite song which in some way captures in some way, the spirit of Love. Its sung by Shubha Mudgal: Hai Pyar toh musafir marzi se aaye jaaye (click link if you want to hear it) (Love is a traveler, comes and goes as it wills..) Enjoy!