What is love?
Life's greatest mysterious might not be that mysterious at all
The Mrs and I went out for dinner last night to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We’re nearing a quarter century together. More days on this rock with her by my side than days alone going back to birth. In fact, we crossed that threshold several years ago. We were college sweethearts and even through all the trials and tribulations, a society that increasingly worships the self and demeans old pillars that have helped mankind stand for millennia, we’ve made it together and we’ve remained strong. It’s wild to look back now and see how far we’ve come; how many different pages and chapters this beautiful and continuous book has entailed.
We were looking at our wedding album and contrasted the picture of us holding hands between the two palm trees we said our vows under in the beautiful Florida Keys, and a picture many years later of the same but with our daughter and son holding hands. This sense of completeness washed over me as I realized those are part of the same story. The very reason we said those vows was those two beautiful children mimicking the same over a decade later. And one day my wife and I won’t be around, and those two kids will be adults standing under those same two trees, sharing in the same energy and love and continuity, but seeing it all from a different lens. That’s what “love” is. Love is the energy that stands under those trees. It takes different forms and spans across time itself, but it’s the same thing in both pictures.
Love is not lust. Our society has really gone off-track in this regard. That’s why our divorce rate is damn near approaching 50%, of course. You mean everything was exciting and thrilling and ego-padding when you had that fling with the mistress? Yeah, no shit! That was lust. Remember when you first got with your wife? Love is what sits on the couch together decades later after a long day at work. If relationships were solely about The Honeymoon Period, everyone would be in a great one. That’s gift-wrapping and a distraction from the core inside. Sure, lust is a beautiful thing too. It’s part of the biological machine for a reason. And my wife and I have been fortunate to find that rare flame where they reside together. But we all feel lust. Fewer and fewer these days are finding what it means to love. And while society does nothing but promote the former, as time goes on, the ratio of importance between the two pales in comparison.
Like child-raising advice from the childless, this is a concept that those who have never ‘found’ true love can never really understand. Like many young childless feminists who relentlessly bash the institutions of marriage and child-rearing, many single or spurned folks love to rip the idea of monogamy, bash the sanctities involved with marriage, and now even rabidly promote various flavors of hedonism. Of course they do. They’ve never drank from the cup I describe. And you notice I put “found” in quotes. That’s because you don’t actually “find” love. You cross paths with the person upon which you might be fortunate enough to work together to construct love, but this isn’t an energy you stumble across on the sidewalk. You bump into sparks; they don’t become a life-long fire without a shit ton of work and commitment. And the spark is not love, that’s lust again. The spark is a sign that a foundation for love may exist in that direction.
For love is labor. Love is dedication. Love is subordinating some of your own interests and desires to those of another. In my opinion, love is one of those beautiful human magics that is a component of our reproductive process. It is a sixth-sense that helps us see where the proper foundations are for us to root down and build our own. For that is the mission of us on this rock: preparing the next generation. Love is the binder that makes it all work and makes it strong for those who will carry that banner on.
Love is not the exciting first dates. Love is making it through the tough times.
Love is not the cool picture from the exciting vacation. Love is the ability to enjoy each other’s company on a Friday night on the couch.
Love is finding ways to make things you enjoy doing into things you do together.
Love is when you wear a new set of lenses and see life a different way. When what you want to do became what we should do. When the unknowns of existence started to gel together and the objectives and purposes of life became more clear. Love is the secret sauce that constructs the foundation. The end-game goal or trophy of love is what you pay forward.
And this is why all the trivial, material, exterior-based shit our society has elevated onto such a high pedestal is so deleterious for our society. Because these human institutions are core functions of who we are, what we do, what we become. It’s no coincidence that as our society has championed the plastic we’ve seen fracturing and fraying at the population level. These things go directly together. I was riding in a bus once in Costa Rica in the middle of nowhere watching the countryside pass out my window. We came by a stretch of shanty homes with no power and no running water. Sitting between each home was a generational family; kids ran around, grandparents were hard at work, rocking chairs swung, fires burned, and clotheslines were full. Here was I was from the world of material excess, passing by people who had nothing from that lens. And yet you know what screamed out at me from those lots? Happiness and that magic life-energy. You could sense love on every lot. You could almost see it. The kids were laughing and playing; the grandparents had smiles on their faces as they cooked and hung laundry; the moms and dads radiated contentment. For while these people had nothing we place such value on in the states, their life’s fire was burning brightly! Meanwhile back home, many of the most miserable people I know “have it all” on the cover of this book we’ve deemed so important.
That contrast stuck with me for life, left a true mental impression. There is a very important story inside that comparison. One our culture is really losing touch with. And it presents profoundly within the notion “love”. What love really is, as opposed to this artificial veneer we seem so fixated on making it. You’re going to be swept away one day by your White Knight, right? No, you’re not. Unless you’re ready to build a castle together wearing the same armor.