Love does not exist. Yet I want love. Am I being self-contradictory? I don’t think so. After all, there are lots of things we want as humans which do not exist. The perfect job, everyone to like us, to exhibit fearlessness (but also to know the satisfaction of overcoming fear), complete happiness; these are all kingdoms of air which we can’t stop striving towards.
I stated that love does not exist. My argument for this is quite simple and, I think, irresistible. If something is something then that’s what it is. If something is many things then equally it is nothing and that’s logic. Love, falling into the latter category, is simultaneously alpha and omega, real and imaginary, everything and yet nothing at all.
What congruency is there when someone loves their Grandma but also their dog? Does it make sense for someone to loves their kids and Mexican food, their partner and their local football team, god and the beach? Perhaps this angle is not fair to those who do think love exists. It could be reasonably countered that these are rather extreme examples owing more to the limited linguistics of English than to the variableness of love. The Greeks, for example, have five words for love; eros, philia, agape, storge and thelema. This does not, however, acquit love of its phantom status.
Even if we were to exclude all but romantic love, the vagrancies continue. It is common, is it not, to the point of being standard, for young teenagers to claim to be in love at some point. These claims, however, are seldom taken very seriously outside the gossip of the lunchtime commentariat. This phenomena is explained away as puppy love, youthful exuberance, or, perhaps more commonly, stupid kids who don’t know what they are talking about. One way or another, societal dictums do not recognise the love professed by 13 year olds. This is underpinned by the law which will not, with few exceptions, allow persons under the age of 18 to engage in the ultimate symbolic expression of monogamous love, marriage. If we were to follow the legal axiom then love requires maturity or at least the age of the participants to be such as maturity is presumed. This is a dangerous presumption, I might add, as I have seen 13 year olds engage in philosophical debate and 30 year olds engage in farting contests.
Maturity is deemed, through legal and societal inference, to be one necessary ingredient for love. This theory, however, could negate another accepted ingredient, passion. It could be argued that the passion evidenced in young teenage love is very much the superior to that of a couple married for 30 years. The symptoms of love are much more readily seen in the young. Is young love more authentic than old or is it the case that the young more closely resemble Holywood’s representations of love?
The type of love depicted in books, movies and television is fast and intense. After all, in the case of a movie, it only has a few hours to develop. Love is depicted not as an enduring leitmotif but as a lighting bolt of action. Love is generally depicted in two ways. It could be through some enormous sacrifice. Risking one’s life is the most popular in this category. Jumping into the ocean to save a drowning loved one, diving in front of some villain’s bullet or smashing through a stained glass window to stop the Sheriff of Nottingham from marrying your bird, a la Kevin Costner in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, are all prime examples. Alternatively, popular culture depicts love as some grandiose public display. Grabbing a microphone and singing a love song in front of the whole school, standing up to a controlling parent or, the classic, running into a wedding just as the preacher asks if anyone has a reason why they should not be married and publicly declaring true love, all fit this particular bill.
If, however, this is what love is then it is almost solely the domain of the young. The portrayal of love through the Holywood prism, is impulsive, irrational and emotive. These are usually the attributes of the young, especially those who are deemed unsuitable for marriage, the under 18s. Generally speaking, only the young have the caprice to make idiots of themselves in public and the recklessness to put their lives in danger all in the name of love. Perhaps someone might object stating that Holywood’s representation is simply fantasy and entertainment. Real love, they may claim, can be seen in the couple married for 30 years.
The couple married for 30 years has certainly made a strong commitment. They have honoured, thus far, their vows to stay faithfully with one another and could be considered the epitome of love. Bland, though it may be compared to Holywood or even the 13 year olds, this kind of endurance love is supposedly the penultimate. What is it, however, which defines this love. Does the husband spend everyday composing love poems, buying oversized stuffed animals holding hearts and stealing flowers from his neighbour’s garden? Does he come home every night to find the bed covered in rose petals, the room lit by candles and his wife putting on a Barry White CD? The real qualification for this love seems to be the simple passage of time. If you manage to put up with someone for long enough then you achieve love. Irrespective of whether culture and tradition, money and security, kids or even fear is the real reason for staying together, if a couple last long enough, it is deemed to be love. Lust is a sprint whilst love is a marathon. Incidentally, both activities leave you buggered.
What then can be said about love? It supposedly requires maturity yet the popularised evidences of love seem to require a certain lack thereof. Love is meant to be seen in a moment of passion, an incredible gesture. On the other hand, love is also the accumulated total of many mundane years spent in the company of another person. Perhaps the love of young people really is just lust. If so, however, why isn’t the love of old people simply called perseverance or mutual dependence?
This leads to another point in the argument that love does not exist. Is it possible to love someone and have that mean something which another word cannot describe? For instance, if you care very deeply for a person you have made an emotional investment in them. If you think about them often and greatly enjoy their company then you are in a positive relationship. If you stay with that person for an extended period of time you have shown commitment and determination. If you commit a selfless act for them you have given a sacrifice. What need is there for the term love in these scenarios? What void still remains? Why must a relationship be legitimised by this inconsistent title?
The conclusion of the matter is this. Love is the domain of fantasy, the noose of popular culture and the shackles of our shared humanity. It is an abstraction for actors, a myth for the masses, a mirage for the mad and an illusion for idealists. Yet I want it still.