So, what love is?

On March 7, 2016 he mailed me something called “The long-awaited piece.”

Here is the piece that I promised you. Hope you enjoy it. More importantly, you have something to meditate on.

Sincerely yours,

J

LOVE

“Though I command languages both human and angelic – if I speak without love, I am no more than a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. And though I have the power of prophecy, to penetrate all mysteries and knowledge, and though I have all the faith necessary to move mountains – if I am without love, I am nothing. — 1 Corinthians 13:1-2

Some say love is an emotion, an outburst of one of constitutive faculties which is inherently human. This emotion typically triggers varied feelings, inundates one’s life with mixtures of wide-ranging changes: broad smile, relaxed gesture, glowing complexion, heartbroken face, wry smile, sad tears, nausea or other observable moods.

Well, love is an emotion. “Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited,” writes St. Paul. Love involves human’s whole being. Emotion counts too, accordingly. Without emotion, love turns into a mechanism of doing necessary good without a warm and joyous soul. “Though I should give away to the poor all that I possess, and even give up my body to be burned – if I am without love, it will do me no good whatever,” he continues. Doing work of charity, even sacrificing one’s self to whatever cause that advocates humanity will ‘do no good whatever’ without the presence of this subtle theme: love.

Yet, is love sufficiently explained by emotion? Now, I am thinking of many couples around the world who have been bound together for so long, shared the same bed for more than half of their lifetime and still determine to do so for the rest of their life. If only emotion involved, how could this hold them together, steadfastly, amid pains, struggles and failures? Love certainly brings joy and fulfillment. But, sailing through that rough and stormy water, no one, definitely, will ever only imagine of joy and fulfillment. People, with frailties and imperfections, need more than simply emotion in order to carry forward and finish the voyage.

Emotion, with its capriciousness, is not reliable enough in administering problems, in its multifarious forms and manifestations, of everyday life. Emotion is highly susceptible to the aegis of change. Meanwhile, love requires constants. “It [love] is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes. Love never comes to an end,” explains St. Paul. I couldn’t agree more with him! Yes, love never comes to an end amid changes happen in the dynamic of relationship. It is a constant that doesn’t waver in whatever turbulent reaction happen in the marriage, for example.

On the contrary, emotion could be short-lived. Your anger could dissipate within minutes after hearing consoling words or comforting appeasement from anybody who is thoughtful enough to have concern about your grief. Or, accordingly, your joy over meeting someone could soon evaporate after you got the glimpse of that person’s true character. Emotion, basically, is subject to the principle of pleasure and pain: pleasure means incentive, while pain equates disincentive.

Love, on the contrary, bears incentives and disincentives. It is always ready “to endure whatever comes”. Its operative doesn’t rely on the anticipated outcomes. It might be comparable to water: it flows without hesitation, without having to know where it ends or without meditating the possibility of travelling through rough rocks or inhospitable terrains.

So, what love is? It turns out that giving clear-cut definition of love is tantamount to eclipsing its multifaceted dimensions. St. Paul himself does not give a specific definition of love. Instead, he at best delineates what love is capable of doing, what it avoids and what it bears in the end. I believe that love is at the same time obvious and elusive. It needs no explanation because it defies any conclusive explanation.

Our practical difficulty of defining love comes from the fact that love, first and foremost, is action. “As it is, these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love,” concludes St. Paul. Commenting on this last remark, William Barclay makes this note. “He [St. Paul] stresses its absolute supremacy. Great as faith and hope are, love is still greater. Faith without love is cold, and hope without love is grim. Love is the fire which kindles faith and it is the light which turns hope into certainty.”

Love is the greatest because it gives meaning to faith and hope by actions it aspires to do in order to show the meaning of the former two. Without love, faith could turn into soulless doctrines, and inspire persecutions and hostilities. History has proved it: in the name of faith, violence has been used to proselytize and terrorize adherents of other faiths. In the absence of love, hope would turn into empty expectation and even drives people into madness. Just think of ideologies that historically promised the end of sufferings and the coming of prosperity for all. They eventually failed, not because they were irrational or incoherent, but because they were too certain of their mechanisms: in order to get instant access to their goal, they were inclined to simplify the complexities of human realities, suppress truths for the sake of uniformity and make no allowances for any wrongdoings.

So, what love is? You may not be able to eloquently speak of it, or come to final words about it. However, you are definitely capable of living it by your actions. So, when now you are still seeking for the so-called love, just realize that that love is not beyond your reach. It’s always near. It might be compared to the air that sustains your life: its absolute nearness leaves you unaware of its presence. It lies not in the foreign land, unbeknownst to you. On the contrary, it flows in abundance in the form of actions, yours and others, that continue to make this world a better place for all.

-AMG-

Then, for me, now and forever, Love is You. Just that simple.

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