What is Love Anyway?

I love you whether or not you love me
I love you even if you think that I don’t
Sometimes I find you doubt my love for you, but I don’t mind
Why should I mind, why should I mind

What is Love anyway, does anybody love anybody anyway
What is Love anyway, does anybody love anybody anyway

Can anybody love anyone so much that they will never fear
Never worry never be sad
The answer is they cannot love this much nobody can
This is why I don’t mind you doubting

And maybe love is letting people be just what they want to be
The door always must be left unlocked
To love when circumstance may lead someone away from you
And not to spend the time just doubting

Howard Jones

I woke up with this song in my head. Since it’s an old song, I could only remember the two line, one line repeated actually, refrain, until I looked up the lyrics.

As luck would have it, however, I came across a BuzzFeed article that fed into the ear worm eating at my brain…”What is looooooooove, anyway?” According to Chloe Angyal in “The Paradoxical Rise of the Viral Marriage Proposal,” despite the present decline in marches to the altar, those who do seek marriage want it to be known–everywhere–because true love is exceptional, something that should be spread like a virus. Okay, that’s my cynically bent twist on Angyal’s showcase, which is the growing phenomenon of viral internet marriage proposals and weddings as love on public display, a paradox, she muses, that marks “contemporary romance culture.”

Aside from some fun viewing of the Danish proposal gone wrong, gone viral, and a choreographed wedding walk down the aisle (and all over the church), her premise is that romantic comedies have framed our vision and appropriate measure of the ultimate public love expression–marriage. Thus, the advent of the viral video proposal and wedding madness.

If romantic comedies tell us that the truest and most special love is performed in grand, public ways, then the advent of social media has increased the pressure on all of us to stage those performances in our own lives. Now we can all prove that our love is special and true by putting on our own romantic comedy happy ending — and now more people than ever before will be able to watch it.

Her more intriguing claims are not teased out enough, however, leaving the reader hanging, though with some good food for thought.

And, of course, for people whose love is still threatening to the status quo, treated as second-class or hidden away and kept secret, there’s enormous political and personal power in the kind of visibility that a spectacular public display provides.

Really? How does public display garner respect and not increased public aversion or even hate in minds predisposed to the threat of all that is other than themselves, their values, their world view?

After observing that the public marriage proposal smells like a trap–the woman is compelled to say yes or stab her beloved with public humiliation in addition to plain old rejection–Angyal concludes:

But marriage is evolving in a way that is historically normal, even if it feels unprecedented at our close range. This is just one of several paradoxes at the heart of how we perform and consume love today: As marriage becomes less popular, the performance of it becomes more insistent. Another paradox: Despite the intimate nature of romantic love, straight, cis couples seem more intent than ever on displaying it in public.

Not sure what she means by marriage’s evolution as “historically normal” especially since she implies by this penultimate parting thought that marriage is performing its “swan song.” Seems more like the devolution of marriage.

Love is exceptional, or at least we think “our love” is exceptional, are her final words. Perhaps that is the reason for the decline of marriage, which, historically has been all about public display. Before meticulous institutionalized record keeping, the best way to keep track of who was having kids with whom and where was by the public marriage ceremony, aside from the symbolic nature of an open declaration of love as testimony to its truth, to its manifest being. But the belief that couplehood love is unique or special is a sure set up for the big let down when it turns out to be the ordinary kind of love that morphs into fermented love over time or rubs out completely in daily friction.

I’m exceptionally fond of a definition of love I found on today’s Brainpickings.org offering by Tom Stoppard in his play The Real Thing:

It’s to do with knowing and being known. I remember how it stopped seeming odd that in biblical Greek, knowing was used for making love. Whosit knew so-and-so. Carnal knowledge. It’s what lovers trust each other with. Knowledge of each other, not of the flesh but through the flesh, knowledge of self, the real him, the real her, in extremis, the mask slipped from the face. Every other version of oneself is on offer to the public. We share our vivacity, grief, sulks, anger, joy… we hand it out to anybody who happens to be standing around, to friends and family with a momentary sense of indecency perhaps, to strangers without hesitation. Our lovers share us with the passing trade. But in pairs we insist that we give ourselves to each other. What selves? What’s left? What else is there that hasn’t been dealt out like a deck of cards? Carnal knowledge. Personal, final, uncompromised. Knowing, being known. I revere that. Having that is being rich, you can be generous about what’s shared — she walks, she talks, she laughs, she lends a sympathetic ear, she kicks off her shoes and dances on the tables, she’s everybody’s and it don’t mean a thing, let them eat cake; knowledge is something else, the undealt card, and while it’s held it makes you free-and-easy and nice to know, and when it’s gone everything is pain. Every single thing. Every object that meets the eye, a pencil, a tangerine, a travel poster. As if the physical world has been wired up to pass a current back to the part of your brain where imagination glows like a filament in a lobe no bigger than a torch bulb. Pain.

Love is knowledge. I like that in so many ways, its broad application to the unlimited: to people, learning, everything, really, and even to the unknowable. The bible’s love as patient and kind resonates rightly with me too. And I don’t know why it does exactly except for my experience as one individual has proved it so–for me. What IS love anyway?

12 Replies to “What is Love Anyway?”

  1. “Really? How does public display garner respect and not increased public aversion or even hate in minds predisposed to the threat of all that is other than themselves, their values, their world view?”

    Simple. Because this isn’t the audience for these displays. The audience they are intended for are predisposed to welcome them and don’t consider them threatening.

  2. Gosh, I love a love story… But you are right, what IS love, anyway? We yearn for it, desire it, covet it… and yet we run from it, refuse it, and fear it. Sounds like the ultimate drug.

  3. Interesting. I guess all I would add, whether relevant or not, is that I don’t feel turned on or turned off by others’ love, however they may define it, or display it, but that I now know, that love can be very fleeting. The feeling that I have defined as love, is now, I know, not necessarily forever. I can now watch a stranger’s wedding video and not feel anything other than amusement or maybe fleeting interest. I no longer tear up, or care whether it will last for them. Vows are just words, and choreographed wedding dances are just entertainment.

    1. CrazyKat, love is fleeting, yes, and with respect to romance and marriage can be the source of dizzying joy or the deadliest pain as Stoppard describes. Love teaches us about ourselves and others, which is sometimes the painful truth.
      From someone older than most of those proposal and wedding video subjects, and presumably wiser, I can smile, jaded as I am, thinking of all the hardship ahead. Love relationships test one’s mettle and capacity to maintain self love and knowledge. At least, that is my experience.

      1. Agreed. Well said. It’s a journey, for all that it is worth. You never know when the journey will end, but it is indeed filled with joy and pain. I always enjoy reading your posts!

  4. Love Is The Drug https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0n3OepDn5GU
    Song by Roxy Music

    It ain’t no big thing to wait for the bell to ring
    It ain’t no big thing the toll of the bell

    Aggravated spare for days
    I troll down town, the red light place
    Jump up bubble up, what’s in store
    Love is the drug and I need to score

    Showing out, showing out hit and run
    Boy meets girl where the beat goes on
    Stitched up tight can’t shake free
    Love is the drug got a hook on me

    Oh, catch that buzz
    Love is the drug I’m thinking of
    Oh, can’t you see
    Love is the drug for me
    Oh, oh

    Late that night I parked my car
    Staked my place in the singles bar
    Face to face, toe to toe
    Heart to heart as we hit the floor

    Lumbered up limbo down
    The locked embrace, stumble round
    I say go, she says yes
    Dim the lights you can guess the rest

    Oh, catch that buzz
    Love is the drug I’m thinking of
    Oh, can’t you see
    Love is the drug, got hookin’ me

    Oh, catch that buzz
    Love is the drug I’m thinking of
    Oh, can’t you see
    Love is the drug for me

    Oh, oh, oh, oh
    Oh, oh, oh, oh
    Oh, oh, oh, oh
    Love is, love is, love is the drug

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