Popular sayings and cliches abound, songs are written as odes to and diatribes against, lives are made and destroyed in its embrace and the forms it takes are at the center of a great deal of social debate and religious theological musings. The nature of love and its practice guides, shapes, cajoles and inspires a host of behavior and yet none of it brings us any closer to an understanding of just what it is. Like referring to sleep as that thing we do when we’re not awake, noting the behavior inspired by identification with love certainly gives us much to discuss, but determining any commonality is a bit more difficult. I’ve often over the years, usually from the ideologically conservative corner, heard that love is a term over-used and marketed to the point of absurdity. There may indeed be some truth to this, a word can come to include so many disparate things that it becomes essentially meaningless except as a personal identifier for particular behavior.
What makes the situation even more compellingly frustrating is there exists no commonly understood definition of emotion either and while certainly love may not be consonant fully as an emotion, it definitely is bound within it to some degree. With this in mind I came across a discussion of emotion by Daniel Siegel as it relates to attachment in his book The Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology. When considered from an elevated perspective, there is a point of consilience amongst the various descriptive uses to which emotion is put, that being linkage of differentiated parts. Whether it be the linking of child to caregiver in psychology or person to tribe in sociology or neural engram to engram in neurophysiology, emotion is the process of linking these disparate and differentiated aspects of systems into a coherent whole. How this then is applied to love as a particular instantiation of emotional energy is where I want to draw focus to.
When we love we are not simply noting the casting outward of a feeling but acknowledging a recognition of union amongst differentiation. What love is, is a counter to disillusionment, the opposite of dissociation, the cure to ennui and it knows only expansion. When we see union as the fundamental ground of our being-ness, this love then provides a space for all the behavior that stems from it, life-giving and respectful, tolerant of differences even as we cherish that which helps life expand and progress. Differences become variations of unity rather than pieces to be held up as showing separation. When loving another then it is within this unity, within this holistic universe and it is provided by the conscious recognition of an interconnected existence. We celebrate in all their nuances the person in front of us just as we celebrate those around us and she or he who stares back in a mirror.
I have loved many people, just as I am quite certain those reading this have loved many as well. I love my family, I love my friends and lover, those who are no longer in my life and those who are merely tangentially connected to it. I love the song I Won’t Give Up by Jason Mraz and how when the subject of the song is shifted from a singular person in front of you to humanity as a whole there is only an expansion of meaning rather than confusion, a quickening desire to not give up even as the skies get rough, to make a difference and not to break or burn, learning to bend and acknowledge who each of us is and what each of us isn’t and who I am even in the midst of it all. All of this, all of these manifestations of love are encapsulated within a singular term and yet at no time is there a creation of a flatland of feeling, a singularity to how such a feeling of love is to be felt. There is instead an allowance for gradations to the warp and weft of the land.
Love is joyful exuberance within the process of this celebration, bound with the threads of our interconnected nested reality. We hold that space for ourselves and others and by doing so find that love brings peace, understanding and an expansion of life.
© David Teachout