Okay, I know you probably wondering; “How can a topic as controversial as love be a joke to somebody?” Yea! I know but really, after reading this post, you might end up laughing, or maybe not.
It is true that the topic, Love has inspired a lot of public opinions and contributed to the amount of deaths at too many point in time. In fact, ‘What is love?’ was the most asked question on Google for 2012 and even renowned Shakespeare asked the same question nearly four hundred years ago. I would like to continue by asking the same question and then attempting to answer it.
So; WHAT IS LOVE? Having come across many supposed definition of this elusive phenomenon, I would like to suggest one I think would appeal to our immediate society and logic in general; Love is a natural phenomenon, a neurological process like hunger, except that it is more permanent. What this definition tries to point out is the fact of love being affiliated to the brain, and not the heart as most people think. Reference: Your Biology Text Book; Functions of the heart (falling in love is not included). It has been stated by recent scientists that love has the same effect on the brain that Cocaine does, hence the feeling of ‘being high’ that most of us relate to falling love, the irony.
Another fact I would quickly like to point out is the relationship the mind has with the abstract idea of love. ‘What is the mind?’ some of us may ask. The mind is that ‘theoretical’ essence that introduces us to self consciousness. That is, it makes us aware of our existence as it deals with the idea of ‘I feel’ and ‘I think’. I would now like to point out now that it is an obvious and well known fact that the mind and the brain are connected, although I am not sure how as I do not think I have interest in this knowledge. What I do have interest in is the profound effects of this relationship between the mind and the brain on human activities in regards to love.
Nearly half a millennium ago, the Father of English Literature, Geoffery Chaucer, created an expression;”Love is Blind” to express the unconditional nature of love itself. Over the years, this expression has roughly been misinterpreted into love having the ability to take away man’s ability to think – an accepted excuse to stupidity and idiocy. The previous paragraph has shown, almost scientifically, the connection between love, the brain and the mind, relating love to natural urges like hunger. If love deals mainly with the brain and mind, does love take away our ability to think? If you answered ‘yes’ to this question, you have been reading too much of ‘Mills and Boon’. Okay, let me show you something really fascinating and educating. Since love has a really huge effect on the mind, we cannot really understand how love works if we do not understand the mind, and so in quick short sentences, I would reveal intriguing information about the mind. As children, our curiosity is at its peak. We ask anybody big enough to be called an adult questions until they are dizzy with weary, sometimes, even getting ourselves into trouble with the kind of questions we ask. This curiosity represents our agile minds trying to form beliefs and values. We subconsciously search for our roles and place in the society and by the time grow into adolescents, something nearly tragic happens to our minds. By this time, we have started to form beliefs, we have started to realize how ‘the world works’.
Independently, this is a good thing, it is the standard definition of growth but its effects on our minds are rather disastrous. Our formerly adventurous and restless minds become confined by the walls of our belief system and our thoughts, which later form our lifestyle, become imprisoned by these values we have chosen. Quick illustration; a child starts to grow, his mind wonders and it decides it wants to be an engineer. Its’ mind is imprisoned by this ‘engineeric’ dream and everything this child does would be confined to being an engineer, technically. This would make ‘thinking out of the box’ hard for this child. You get? How does this affect how we love? Having grown up, seen movies, read books, listened to speeches, experienced enormous and various real life events, we now form an idea about love, which in most cases is void of reality because they might have been formed from fictional pieces. These ideas are at the back of our minds, forming the basic standards on how we love and what we expect from love. It is this background knowledge of love we have formed from fictions and experience I call a joke. Allow me to explain something; the typical individual seeks gratification, this severe form of self awareness might be a little bit more pronounced in Nigerians.
In his book, ‘Because I am Involved’, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu calls this self awareness ‘Recognition’. The craving for societal recognition has driven many people into raging lunacy, acquiring material wealth at the expense of intellectual wealth and, more detrimental, at the expense of fellow human beings. How does this affect the topic of love? People love people as if they are possessions. What this means is we do not actually love, we possess. We love in our relationships as if our partners were our cars, our shoes or any symbol of materialism that has our attention. We feel angry when other people take them away just like we feel angry when someone else uses a car we just bought without permission. We possess people; they become our property – a none-living entity that is only meant to satisfy us inwardly by feeding our gratification, our pride. So you see, when we say ‘we love’ these days, we do not really love, instead we are reflecting our selfish and low-self-esteemed selves by depending our confidence on not just material possessions but on human beings as well. A friend of mine just got her relationship ‘untimely’ ended by her long-term boyfriend. They had been dating for years and it she was apparently hurt. I remembered she stayed almost all night, crying. One of the times I was consoling her, she asked me a question; “Ogala, what do I tell my friends?” This question she asked made me realized that this woman was not really ‘heart broken’ but her pride had rather been hurt, her ego had been bruised. She must have thought; “why should someone I depend on so much not depend on me?” she is not really thinking of the person but rather thinking of herself. Brethren, this is selfishness and while some people might attribute the word ‘selfishness’ to love’s definition, I would suggest that they should cut down on the romance fiction they indulge in. love is far from selfish. There is no love without trust, which means that if you love someone, no matter what they did, no matter what they told you, you would believe in them. If they told you they would want to move on in life without you, you would happily give them up because that is what they want and you only want their happiness. Do me a quick favour, empty your minds right now and imagine any material possession you ‘love’ so much, a car, your favourite pairs of shoes, your new gown, anything. Now imagine this possession decided it did not want you anymore. How would you feel? Is this how we should feel when human beings we claim to love and trust decide they do not want us in their lives anymore? Let me illustrate further why our idea of love today is greatly influenced by society and the things we experience.
Let us quickly go back in time, a few centuries down. In the middle centuries and before, people hardly married for love, they married out of some sort of obligations and so the men had concubines and mistresses other than their wives and this was the norm. It was Chancer who started the idea of marrying for love and although he might have been persecuted a little for this idea in his time, his idea has obviously been accepted. However, I would point out a few people who married for love during or before this time and in the process, point out a few things. King Saul’s (Isreal’s first king) daughter, Michal, married David out of love, becoming David’s first wife. David may or may not have loved her, this is however not the point. The point is, even though David might have married many more women out of whatever reason he thought he had, even though she did not have her own child, she continued to love David. She did not feel betrayed or hurt because David married other women. Why would she? It was normal in the society for a man to marry more than one woman, this did not, by any means, define love. Another case is that of King James the second of England who married a ‘commoner’ he was fond of, and even though he was fond of her and their children, he still had mistresses and nobody dared complain because it was a norm. I am not, however, saying it is right or wrong to have more than one wife or husband or cheat on your partner. All I am saying is, our idea of love is being influenced by the society just like Michal’s and King James’, but this does not change the ideal idea of love, does it? Growing up, I used to ask myself a question- Why do people fall in love? I think I was being influenced by the things around me, the movies, and the novels. Everyone was so engulfed in love, which I think is not so much of a bad thing but when it takes away our self confidence and makes us so dependent on a human being that most times, we give up life-principles for them, sometimes we even kill ourselves for people who end up being unworthy of these feats, you might attribute falling in love to weakness and vulnerability which is not supposed to be so. I realized that there has been an inborn fear, the most basic fear, the only fear we are born with- the fear of being alone.
Growing up in Nigeria where the problem of NEPA has almost been as old as the country itself, darkness had become something we grew used to. I remember, like other kids, I used to be afraid in the dark. I could not stay in the darkness ALONE. I realized later that I was never really afraid of the dark, maybe I was afraid of uncertainty a little bit but that was not the main thing. I figured I was more afraid of being alone. Is this not the fear that still plagues all of us today? Societies, churches are all built on this fear. We are united by this fear. We want to be with people, this is the only way we can proof that we exist. We form societies because we are weak when we are alone; we are strongest amidst friends and family. We are sad and often depressed when no one gives us attention. What is my point? We mostly fall in love because we do not want to be alone. I read an article couple of days back that defined love as the universe’s way of continuity. I posted this idea on my face book timeline in a different form and it caused some level of controversy. Let us talk about what the universe wants, what nature thrives to achieve and then we would realize what a big joke love is. Nature does not want to die, its destiny is immortality. Look around you, everything man does is to live forever and my dear friends, love is just to fulfill the exquisite role of reproduction- a form of immortality. If we realized this, we would fall in love differently, knowing that it is never really about us but is more of a bigger plan, a plan that we, including all natural things, would never die. We would live forever through legacies and love is a big, big legacy. Falling in love this way, I consider, to be the only way to happiness in our relationships, you know why? The idea would lead us to the ideal idea of love. Allow me explain in subsequent paragraphs; Love, as we all know, is a very wide topic.
In fact, the idea we call love today is a combination of different ideas in early times. Aristotles defined up to five or six different types of love. In a certain professor’s class at one time, the students identified about two hundred feelings related to love. All these show how vast the subject of love is and no one can claim to be an expert in it. However, knowing the categories of love itself might boost your love-life. Love consists of various components: • Intimacy which is the feeling of ‘likeness’, closeness, bonding; this is the feeling we have for friends and people we just met that we might want to get close to. • Passion which is drive that leads to romance, physical attraction and sexual consummation. • Commitment which is the realization that one loves another and the determination to maintain the love. Amount of love one thereby has in their relationship depends on the strength of the components involved while the kind of love experienced depends solely on what components are involved. When intimacy is involved without passion and commitment, it equals ‘liking’- the feeling we have for friends. When passion is only felt, infatuation is what is experienced. When commitment is felt alone, it is regarded as ‘Empty’ Love. Romantic love involves Passion and intimacy; this is where your partner is both your ‘lover’ and friend. Something I learned earlier is a concept called ‘fatous’ love. This is when passion and commitment is felt.
Compassionate Love is felt when there is intimacy and commitment alone. This is the love mostly experienced a couple of years after marriage. Some courting couples also experience it, where we feel ‘obliged’ to be in the relationship. This is where we hear women say stuff like, “I don’t know, I can’t just leave …we have been dating since I was sixteen”. Consumate love is when all three components are present. This is the ideal but we hardly, hardly ever experience all three in our relationship, this is why we cheat, apart from the reason of some men being depraved ‘ashewos’, and this is why a famous anthropologist who has been studying the idea of love for a while concluded that we, as human beings, are not created to be happy. But the good news is that happiness is a choice. I would conclude by saying that love is deep, ideally, but our idea of it has become laughable, falling in love mostly because we want escape our low self esteem or our loneliness but just like Aristotle’s idea suggests; if we cannot love our selves, how then do we expect to love other people?
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