The Nature of Love


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These two little chaps (gifts from friends) seem, to me, to embody something crucial about love. There is a clear connection between them. They share the same space, originated from the same country (though that is not essential) and are both smiling out towards the world, whilst being an obvious, if unconventional, pair.

She might well be an adherent of the Derring-Do philosophy of life – and it certainly looks as if she is brave, adventurous, more Buccaneer than Lounging Beauty. Does he need saving? Are the swimming aids indicative of fear or a joking and endearing personality? Does she save him? Or does his capacity for laughter and self-ridicule ameliorate something a little earnest in her character?

We shall never know! They are, after all, fridge magnets and not real people – though it amused me to give them personalities and a relationship!

I flagged them up because their individual poses seemed, to me, to encapsulate one of the great truths of love – one expressed so beautifully by William Shakespeare in Sonnet 116. Read the first six lines below:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken…

So true, isn’t it? Love is ‘an ever-fixed mark…’ No one ever said it was going to be easy. But it is the greatest gift we can offer one another in this flawed world.

I have emphasised the word ‘gift’ because I not believe you can barter for love, or demand it as payment for favours done for another. It is both the strongest, and the most fragile, of present we have in our hearts. True love survives life’s vicissitudes. True love survives death. False love is blown away by the weakest breeze.

Liking fluctuates. It sways with the winds of mood. It is, by its very nature, inconstant, more akin to weather system than the deep heart of our world. But love, which boils like emotional magma at the centre of who we are, cannot be touched by storms.

Unfortunately, love has become coarsened and cheapened. It has become synonymous with sexual desire, with strong liking, with a need to manipulate others into doing one’s bidding.

‘I love you’ has become Valentine’s cards, and code for a quick moment of passion with someone else’s spouse – or justification for an act of great cruelty and rejection: ‘It is because I love you that I am ending our relationship/telling you that you are a failure…’

Now I am sure that my two little fridge magnets, in the world of breathing and action I have briefly created for them, go through many moments when they dislike one another intensely; when they fall out, bicker, irritate the hell out of the other. But those flickering weather fronts of emotion do not have anything to do with unconditional love, with that part of our human capacity for priceless giving which does not ‘bend with the remover to remove’; which would sooner kill than ‘alter when it alteration finds…’

If someone says to you, ‘I find it hard to love you when you behave in this way…’ they never loved you in the first place – because real love operates at a completely different level and forgives each breach of good manners, good taste and infringements against agreed societal mores.

The severing of the bond of love is one of the most painful wounds we have to face in our life times. Sometimes it has to be done, in the same way that it is occasionally necessary, in the medical sense, for a patient to have to agree to the amputation of a limb or other body part in order to save life.

But, in both cases, the phantom pains are very real afterwards – and the body, whether physical or spiritual, is never quite the same.

If an individual’s love ‘looks on tempests’ and is shaken, it was only ever the luke-warm state of liking, rather than the fiery heat of love.

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I love relatively few people in this world – though I feel liking for many, and the generalised fellow-feeling fondness for our Global Village. But the depth of my heart is charged by only a handful (in the total population sense) – and I know that I am genuinely loved by only a small handful too.

I cannot speak for those of you reading this; I can only state my own thoughts: I would far rather experience true love only occasionally than skim the surface of the Pond of Superficiality, dipping in and out and calling my feelings love only when the other pleases me. I would far rather be loved by a small handful of true friends than put my foot upon the ice of generalised friendship and find cracks appearing, find myself falling through into the numbing death of the water below.

I do not give my heart lightly. Nor is it a gift designed to break, be thrown away, within days. If I truly love, it will be a life-long gift. At times, I may loathe you, ignore you, and you me; we may fall out and fight, disagree and make up; we may not see one another for months, even years, at a time. But that kindled love will never go out. Not in this life time anyway.

Metaphorically, we sit on the same fridge and can reach out and touch one another if we wish – but we also have our own interests and talents and adventures in this life, and can part temporarily, knowing that the connection will remain powerful and enduring.

Perhaps I am an idealist, a dreamer, spinning unreality with my words. But I would rather that than be a cynic, a user of others, one who lures with specious words of shallow ‘love’ into a web of deceit.

I would far rather have the playful and touching daftness, the colourful and bright spirit, the innocence of my two small fridge magnets!

 

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