Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Philosophers and artists have pondered the question of love for eons. What precisely is love? How does one define it? What does it really mean to love another person? As I sit here, I’m listening to a couple of my favorite “indy-rock” bands, and their songs that always make me cry and recall my losses throughout the years. It raises that timeless question of what love really is.
It’s not a question of if you would die for the one that you love. That’s too quick and simple. In an instant, it’s over. But would you live for the one you love? Would you sacrifice your life and live it out for them even if it meant in their absence? Would you be willing to live with the pain of their loss? Maybe that’s love.
My wife had an affair with a drug and alcohol addict who was a registered pedophile. Shortly thereafter, when I was talking about marriage counseling, she asked for a divorce, a request I granted. Was I showing my love by giving her up to be with him, or was this an act of self-protection knowing that the marriage wasn’t going to work anyway?
Maybe love is controlling your partner. Maybe love means you’re not willing to let her be with anybody else because you don’t want to be without her. In graduate school, I fell head over hills for the young student who worked in the library. When I saw her there (as I was frequently in the library), I would sit and chat with her for some period of time, sometimes hours at a time. But she had a boyfriend, and as such we both knew that our relationship couldn’t develop beyond that of friendship, but I did so enjoy the friendship we were fostering. At one point, she asked her boyfriend if he would be comfortable if she had lunch with me sometime. He absolutely refused. Did I show love for her by accepting that answer so as to protect her relationship with him? Or did he show love for her by not allowing her to have a male friend? Or was she showing love for him by being honest and asking rather than just having that lunch with me? Or was she showing love for me by asking him in the first place?
I still think of her far too often and wonder what could have been had I stayed in touch which, of course, I did not. The year ended, she graduated, and I’ve not heard from her since. I hope she’s happy. Whether or not she ended up with him or somebody else, she was a charming young woman, and I can only wish her a long and happy life.
I suppose that, chemically, level of love can be measured. Oxytocin is the species in the brain that has a correlation with feelings of love, so we could quantify love, but how many of us have the means to actually measure this? Is love perhaps trying to do things to make your partner feel loved? Or is it something somebody does that brings about such feelings of love. Is love cleaning the house, doing the dishes and cooking so your partner feels loved? Or do these actions, in performing them, elicit feelings of love for another? Did I not do enough cooking?
It’s easy to fall in love, at least for some people. I know that I’m one of them. When I’m attracted to somebody, I fall in “love” too quickly. I use the quotation marks because I do realize that there is a distinction between love and crushes, and when I fall in love so rapidly, it’s not really love. I know someone just well enough (or perhaps only have seen them and don’t know them at all) and convince myself that my feelings of attraction for them are the real thing. No, really, this time it’s the real thing. But the reality is that I like something about them, but don’t know them well enough to truly be in love. Instead, my mind is filling in all of those gaps, those questions, those things that I do not know about her with what I’m hoping is there, so this love isn’t real. It’s just an illusion.
Maybe that’s all that love is. Just an illusion. Is it possible that love isn’t even real? Can I be here, writing this blog, pining for and missing an illusion? Or is that just an easy way out of explaining why I have no partner in my life to love?