There is so much talk of love in our society that we must, by now, know just what it is and the way it counts. It is most times to many, a dizzying rapture lasting a few months focused on someone’s beauty, intelligence, and strength and we avoid talking about the sort of love that would give meaning to any of this.
Modernism defines love as the exhilarating feeling we get in the presence of someone of unusual accomplishments and talents, exceptional intelligence, or beauty for most of the part. Someone who will reciprocate our interest, whom our bodies want to touch, caress, and one day, share our lives with.
This definition sounds too conceivable and cloyingly soaked in romanticism, and yet, is much powerfully backed and endorsed by our culture. We are, many times enthralled by this peculiar viewpoint that any other version of love seems impractical and unrealistic. However, there is this one “rare and unpracticed” version that focuses much more on the appreciation of strength as on a tolerance of and kindness to what’s weak and misshapen.
According to this version, we show love when:
- We are on our way home and we come across a routine drunk and instead of turning away in disgust, we make that momentous internal step of considering them as a version of ourselves. Someone beset by the same passions and distempers, affected by the same yearnings, maddened by similar losses, and so deserve our own share of compassion and tolerance.
- We see a weak and incapable beggar, sitting beside the drain in the market square, one left to the hands of misfortune and unluckiness in life. We do not dismiss them immediately as stupid or unfortunate but instead we come to the realisation that perhaps, they are not poor but ill-lucked, not beggars but losers who also deserve our affection and kindness.
- We see a small child throwing themselves to the floor in the aisle of a supermarket, shouting they want this and that. We do not focus solely on the inconvenience created by steering our trollies around or how maddening and piercing their screams are but also display how much we understand their frustration and tell them their pain is in general, ours too.
It is no particular feat to love someone who is in their best behaviour, someone who looks amazing or one who walks with grace and grandeur. What really cries for and require our attention is what is crooked, damaged, and self-disgusted. It is about directing sympathy in the most unexpected direction to what is messed up, lost and in pieces.
In this definition, love is the effort required to imagine one self more accurately into the life of someone who has not made it easy in any way to like, endure, and tolerate them.
In western tradition, Jesus of Nazareth is a significant demonstrator of this world-changing version of love. He made it glamorous to love others differently from the Jews and Romans, to love a prostitute, prisoner, and sinner, to show love to a wretch, a catastrophe and an enemy. Unfortunately, his deeds are now, more or less, supernatural obligations rather than basic human traits.
This is the sort of love that pauses and stop wars, suspends recriminations, calms furies, and gives civilisation continuance. True love requires not giving precisely what is due but instead, what they need in order to survive.