by Revd Natasha Brady
February sweeps in so quickly, it seems, on the back of January. The shops have just finished their sales … and little red and pink love hearts start fluttering their way across shop windows signalling that the time for love and romance is upon us. Valentine’s day is close at hand. That day when folk of all ages go gooey and send soppy cards, buy cute looking teddies and spend hours looking for the right words to express how they feel on the internet …
But what is love? I was reading an article recently, in a newspaper, and they had taken the time to ask a panel of experts to share with us what they thought love is … So a Physicist said, “love is chemistry”, the Psychotherapist : “love has many guises”, the Philosopher : “love is passionate commitment”, the romantic novelist : “love drives all great stories”, and a Nun : “love is free yet binds us.”
I mused and digested these thoughts … trying to understand them.
Scientifically speaking when we form attachments, chemical bonds form in our brain, causing long term changes to how we think about a person, so yes I get that. It’s the biggest difference between a crush and something more long term. Potentially lifelong, we hope, if it causes such huge changes… hence the immense pain and heartache when that love ends. I presume the bonds in our brain are severed, that’s got to hurt! Or at the very least start pulling apart over time, to release us from the love that we chemically feel.
The guises of love that the psychotherapist identified broadened the meaning of what it is to love. It’s more than just the love between two people, who are ‘in love’. ‘Love’ only has four letters. It’s such a small word, yet it encompasses such a huge breadth of relationship types. There are so many ways to love … friendship, family, neighbourly, self. And we feel these types of love all at the same time, across a huge array of people. But that isn’t what love is …it’s who we love.
The Philosophist talks about passionately committing time and energy to love. It needs nurturing, feeding, otherwise it won’t grow. The consequence of lack of nurture is that love dies. I get that completely, but that is not what love is … it is what love needs.
When love exists it can be a powerful force that motivates and causes actions to be taken, so it is the perfect emotion to use in story writing. It moves things along and gives the writer a vehicle for driving the plot along many twisting and winding roads. But is love just a powerful force that shapes real life stories? There are so many other emotions that have that same potential and create about a good story. If love is limited to being just a plot devise in our lives then that would make it a one dimensional, flat existence really. I’m not convinced by that thought.
Then we get a Christian perspective from a Nun … ‘love is free yet binds us’. I look and I stare at her words. They are hard to take in. What does she mean? For me I see something that I can’t see quite so easily in the other viewpoints. I see love as a complete and separate thing that exists beyond us. It is free, so it has no-one and nothing that it has to part of to exist. It just is. Yet this thing we call love, which doesn’t seem to need us is vital and necessary for us to be brought close to one another. It binds, so it ties us closely to each other. It gives us the capacity to be in relationships with one another through itself. There doesn’t seem to be any benefit to this thing called love for doing it. Yet it does it anyway, for us. We gain so much from this love thing. Friendships, kindness, compassion, companionship, passion. It asks for nothing in return. I think I’ve worked out what love is … It’s Jesus.