It’s one of those topics everyone feels entitled to discuss, because we all feel we know about love in some way, a societal obsession with love which penetrates each aspect of our lives. Yet to talk about it without trivialising the subject is an onerous task. We may think we know love, dissect it around bars and dinner tables, but how can we single down a definition of this feeling?
‘It is impossible to describe passion,’ said Enzo Ferrari, of sports car fame, ‘you can only live with it.’ What is love if not the apotheosis of this passion?
Thousands of poems, songs, paintings and books have been dedicated to the subject of love, yet seldom do we find something that can accurately describe our own experiences. It appears everyone may feel love in varying degrees differently. We cannot break down what love means into a pleasing chunk to agree on. Many believe that you never know what love is until you have lived it. That love is a feeling one experiences in a moment of life, often too short and fleeting. I disagree. In my opinion, we are surrounded by love from the moment we are born, and we unconsciously love forever.
I’m not talking about the love you have for a partner, but the visceral feelings with which we are born toward our closest family members, or the ones that we develop through the years for those who become our friends for life. Why else would we fall in and out of love with girlfriends, boyfriends, wives and husbands but the love for our parents, siblings and best mates is much less likely to fluctuate? There is a type of loyalty there, fierce and unwavering.
Romantic love is a temporary state. It can be temporary for decades, but it’s not something that we are born with. At a certain age we start to crave it, although some find that it is possible to live a happy and fulfilling life without it. Love is the goal of life for some, as enticing as destiny. On the other hand, what would a life be without a family, or without friends? The love we bear for them is not transitory, and we could not explain when we began to feel it. It remains nameless, indescribable but still, it remains. To break up with a close family member or long-time friend is nearly impossible. When it does happen, it is rare and excruciatingly painful. As if we emotionally lose a limb.
Around Valentine’s Day, society exercises an incredible amount of pressure on those who are not in love with someone, or who are not in a relationship. To date is to partake in this holiday of love – to be single is to be an outcast, in the subtlest sense. So strong is this pressure that people often entangle themselves in relationships for the mere sake of saying they are dating someone, without having an actual interest in the other person. I know a feel people who are in this situation, and it is quite sad. They trick themselves into thinking they are in love, when – most likely – they are in love with the idea of being in love. Intimacy is desired, but to have intimacy there must be a true connection. An understanding that to work towards intimacy there can’t be pressure or presumption – it happens naturally, slowly and then all at once.
This is a side effect of a society which places more value on our external appearances rather than what we are, or feel, at the core. We may date those who seem to be the full package of everything we want, but there are some things that can’t be fake. Desire. Passion. Intimacy. And security. Love is not a quick swipe on a dating app when we are bored in a lecture. It is built through time and with patience, a quality often looked down upon in a world where to be busy is to be cool. If we lack the patience to listen to ourselves, to understand who we are and what we really want, how can we know another person enough to love them?
By Tommaso Giacomini and Lou Ramsay