What is Real "Love"?
A No-Bull, Semi-Comprehensive Guide to Sorting True Love from the Phony, the Real from the Unreal.
that love is wonderful and necessary,
yet no one can agree on what it is."
- Diane Ackerman
article by LiveReal Agent Mary
There's "true love" or "real love" - call it whatever you want, it's "the good stuff."
And then there's phony, false, or fake love. It tries and pretends to be the real thing. But it isn't.
How do you tell the difference?
And then what do you do about it?
That is our question, and quest, here.
Sure, maybe this sounds a little cornball. "Quest for true love." Pfft. Meh. Ba!
But, cornball or not...that doesn't change the fact that pretty much everybody's secretly (or publically) obsessed with it, one way or another.
A lot of folks might settle for whatever comes along. Or hope to get "lucky" in it. Or assume that, somehow, we already know all there is to know about it, and that there's nothing more that we could possibly learn about it.
But not you.
And not us.
We want the real thing, right?
After all, it's making the world go around, right? It's what we're all searching for, right?
After all, plenty of folks sing about it, write poems about it, talk about it, say it, imagine they're do it, try feel it, maybe even live it...
- but to ask the basic question...
- what is it?
Sounds like a job for your loveable, huggable, ever-so-snuggly LiveReal Agents.
We began our mission with simple data-gathering: Phase One is to gather the best answers from the brightest minds and hearts throughout all of humanity, throughout all history. Gather them in one place here.
Here we go.
"There is only one kind of love,
but there are
- Francois de La Rochefoucauld
What is "LOVE"?
(multiple choice format)
A) Something extremely rare, precious, and infinitely mysterious, which nearly every individual (and every self-help author) claims to be an expert on.
B) Something that we can never define with words, yet are completely obsessed with.
C) What we all we all search for continually . . . and experience, rarely.
E) A need, desire, sensation, craving, emotion, or appetite (such as security, loneliness, possessiveness, dependency, horniness, etc) dressed in a warm, heavy coat of wishful thinking and pretense.
F) Something we all talk about, think about, hear songs about, dream about, watch movies about, read about, sing about - about which we really know almost nothing.
G) Something we all taste in rare, brief moments of intimacy - which some say is a brief glimpse of actual spiritual enlightenment...but normally takes place in between long periods of pain, boredom, and loneliness...
H) Something we base our lives around, but that most of us don't really want to waste any time actually thinking about. (see also: "Something way too important to talk about.")
I) Something that is so important that it needs not only to be talked about, but studied, researched, understood, practiced, and lived.
J) Something you promise to remain in, for better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, etc, etc . . . or until you abandon it when things get boring or become inconvenient.
K) Chivalric: A perpetually unfulfilled longing for the idealized other from afar that is never consummated.
L) Non-Chivalric: sexual attraction, normally covered with a thick layer of pretense (see also: something men claim to feel towards someone they want to have sex with).
M) Corinthians: "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous, or conceited, or proud; love is not ill-mannered, or selfish, or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs: love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up: its faith, hope and patience never fail. Love is eternal."
N) Plato's Aristophanes: Humans were originally whole and complete, both male and female, until they were divided into separate types, males and females, and were condemned to wander the world in search of their other half. Love is that force that is motivating them to search for that other half.
O) Childhood unconscious theory: it is the unconscious compulsion to resolve unfulfilled childhood needs.
P) Louis MacNeice: "Time was away and somewhere else, There were two glasses and two chairs . . . And two people with one pulse."
Q) Martin Buber: "I-Thou," where each partner fully experiences the other as merging of consciousness, where absolutely nothing is held back.
R) Addiction Theory: It is something one is addicted to, in the same way one gets addicted to alcohol, drugs, food, bad television, and other things, where one person uses the other person to escape from certain feelings, or really, themselves.
T) Something you "fall into" . . . often shortly before trying desperately to climb out of.
U) Andreas Cappellanus: ". . . a certain inborn suffering derived from the sight of and excessive meditation upon the beauty of the opposite sex, which causes each one to wish above all things the embraces of the other and by common desire to carry out all of love's precepts in the other's embrace."
V) Something that is "unconditional."
W) Something that is very conditional - for example, on a person's age, height, social status, physical attractiveness, perceived financial status, perceived power, sexual skills, income potential, sense of humor, pheromones, taste in clothes, conversational abilities, cologne, cleanliness of underwear, etc.
X) Economic: a give-and-take, where something (affection, caresses, sex, compliments, money) is given in return for something else.
Y) Chemical: a certain temporary biochemical combination of pheromones and hormones.
Z) Projection theory: it is the unconscious activity of taking one's innermost highest qualities and ideals and superimposing them, or projecting them, upon another person, and then "falling" in "love" with that projection.
AA) D.H. Lawrence: "Love means the pre-cognitive flow . . . it is the honest state before the apple."
BB) Evolutionary Psychology and Somerset Maugham: Love is Nature's way of fooling us into having children.
CC) Feminism: a cultural invention created by men for the subjugation of women, or a misleading substitute for status, wealth, education, or power that women have been deceived into accepting.
DD) Leo Buscaglia: A learned, emotional reaction or phenomenon; A need; A duty; something you live or grow in; the self; something that is spontaneous; something that cannot be defined by a word; life's greatest challenge; a goal devoutly to be strived for.
EE) Something we feel unconditionally, as long as we've had our coffee in the morning, towards those individuals we had previously selected to be our favorites.
FF) Something a guy tells a girl he feels in order to get her to have sex with him.
GG) Something you are born knowing "how" to do, but soon forget.
HH) Ambrose Bierce: "A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder."
JJ) A state of allowing people and things to be exactly as they are.
KK) Something that, sooner or later, becomes jealousy, indifference, hate, or boredom.
LL) C.S. Lewis: what is behind affection, friendship, erotic love, and the love of God.
MM) Something you get from another person.
NN) Something you give to another person.
OO) Something that is neither given nor possessed.
PP) The closest thing most of us mortals normally feel to being complete.
QQ) Rilke: "I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other."
SS) Thornton Wilder: "...and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.".
TT) Germaine Greer: "Love, love, love - all the wretched cant of it, masking egotism, lust, masochism, fantasy under a mythology of sentimental postures, a welter of self-induced miseries and joys, blinding and masking the essential personalities in the frozen gestures of courtship, in the kissing and the dating and the desire, the compliments and the quarrels which vivify its barrenness."
UU) Pat Benatar: "Love is a battlefield."
VV) Max Headroom: "The walks over soft grass...the smiles over candlelight, the arguments over just about everything else."
WW) A spiritual condition, which we generally become intensely fascinated with right around the age when puberty hits.
XX) A noble-sounding word we use both to describe a process of mutual flattery and ego-boosting ("You are the greatest man in the history of the universe!" "You are the most beautiful women in the history of the universe!") and to rationalize weakness, laziness, manipulation, irresponsibility, stupidity, self-indulgence, or cruelty.
YY) The opposite of "hate."
ZZ) The same thing as "hate," only experienced from the opposite perspective.
AAA) Something that is completely beyond ordinary "hate" and "love".
BBB) The opposite of "indifference."
CCC) Philip Larkin: "What will survive of us is love."
DDD) John Ciardi: "Love is the word used to label the sexual excitement of the young, the habituation of the middle-aged, and the mutual dependence of the old."
FFF) Peter Ustinov: "Love is an act of endless forgiveness."
GGG) A type of currency, like money, except in a more subtle form - of feeling, energy, emotion, or sensation.
HHH) Francois, duc de La Rochefoucauld: "Women often think they are in love when they are not: the business of an intrigue, the emotional flutter of gallantry, natural delight in being loved, and the difficulty of saying no, all these conspire to persuade them that they are being passionate when they are merely being flirtatious."
III) David Deida: "Love is what light feels like."
JJJ) Meet Joe Black: "Trust, responsibility, taking the weight for your choices and feelings and spending the rest of your life living up to them; and above all, not hurting the object of your love . . . multiplied by infinity and taken to the depth of forever and you will still have barely a glimpse of what I am talking about."
KKK) The complete absence of the feeling-sense of separation and distinction.
LLL) It is just "IT."
MMM) It is definitely not "IT". (Or at least, it's not what we ordinarily think of it as being.)
NNN) Something we are born knowing about, but forget.
OOO) Something we are born knowing nothing about, but can learn.
PPP) Two separate things merging into one.
QQQ) Bhagavan Das: "Love, the desire to unite with something else, implies the consciousness of the possibility of such union, and that its full significance is this: an instinctive, ingrained, inherent perception by each individual self . . . of its essential underlying unity, oneness . . . with all other selves; unity in the being of the All-Self, the Universal, Abstract, Inner Self . . . and the consequently inevitable endeavor of these individual selves, these fragments of the one Self, to break through the walls separating each from each - the walls that have disrupted the original 'One Self' into the 'many selves' - and thus merge into each other and re-form the single whole."
RRR) Osho: "What is love anyway? Generally, what is know as love is really attachment. It is a way to forget oneself. It is a means of escaping oneself through someone else. This kind of love acts as an intoxicant. It does not free someone from misery, it merely stupefies him, makes it bearable. This kind of love I call the relationship form It is not really love at all. It is an illusion of love that grown out of one's own wretchedness."
SSS) Woody Allen: "Love creates tension; sex relieves it."
TTT) Something really important, yet rare, that we get only a glimpse of during moments of intense intimacy.
UUU) It's not a big enough word to describe how we feel.
VVV) "...it always drives me nuts when I hear a guy going on about something a girl does that's supposed to be so sexy...like how she flips her hair, how she stands with one foot to the side, it could be anything. Because that's nothing! That's nothing! That's just like, something she does, and she probably only does it because she saw it in a movie or something! It's not real, it's not their real stuff...it's all the outside stuff, and that's fine in the beginning - I mean, you need the outside stuff, like the reasons to be in love...but I think you can get past that, and where all the little tricks don't mean anything...It takes years and years together. I can't describe it exactly, but it's like there's nothing she can do, all her usual ways of hooking you in have no effect...and yet you're still in love. It's like "the act" is over, and you get to the part that she's been hiding, and it's like she's been hiding it because she thinks that that's the part that's going to blow it, or make you leave, or get bored or whatever...but you get to that part, and you're still there. And you're even more in love." - Dylan Kidd, from the film Roger Dodger
WWW) The key ingredient to happiness in this life.
XXX) Iris Murdoch: "Love is the extremely difficult realization that someone other than oneself is real."
YYY) Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov: "On the basis of protecting their independence, many people refuse to participate in the collective life. Well, these people do not realize to what extent they are actually limiting themselves. They move within the small circle of their feelings, their desires, and their lusts. What poverty, what misery! This is not freedom. This limited state is normal for a child, but not for an adult. Adults must show that they are able to think of others: their family first, of course, but also their neighbors, friends, colleagues, and fellow citizens . . . And even then, this is limited. The circle must become wider and wider, to include the country, the race, the whole of humanity . . . and still further, to encompass immensity, infinity, the universe . . . Rare are those who have reached beyond these limitations, whose desires, thoughts, and interests converge on the collective, universal aspect of life. It is in this direction that we must strive."
ZZZ) Simone Weil: "It is not for man to seek, or even to believe in, God. He only has to refuse his ultimate love to everything that is not God. This refusal does not presuppose any belief. It is enough to recognize what is obvious to any mind: that all the goods of this world, past, present, and future, real or imaginary, are finite and limited and radically incapable of satisfying the desire that perpetually burns within us for an infinite and perfect good."
A4) Haridas Chaudhuri: "All particular objects of love much be understood, in ultimate analysis, as various modes of manifestation of the absolute, which is the pole-star of all emotional yearning. In the final analysis, it is the absolute which is loved in all finite things."
B4) It's something like "seeing." A single eye alone can perceive two directions of length, or vertically, and width, or horizontally. But when there are two eyes, and they work together to focus on a single object - an entirely new dimension - depth - opens up. So maybe, this is one way that two separate little pieces of the universe can get a glimpse of a whole other dimension...
C4) Sister Consolata: "Forget everything, love Me continually, even if thy heart is as cold as stone. Everything depends on the incessant act of love."
D4) Samael Aun Weor: "Love is felt in the depth of the heart; it is a delectable experience; it is a consuming fire; it is divine wine, a delight to those who drink it. A simple perfumed handkerchief, a letter, a flower give rise in the depth of the soul to a great inner uneasiness, exotic ecstasy and ineffable voluptuousness. No one has been able to define love; it has to be lived; it has to be felt. Only great lovers really know what is that which is called love."
E4) Mark Matousek: "Think about love," he said. "We use that word to mean everything it isn't, but what is love truly? It is action in alignment with nature, nature attuned to the force pulsing through your veins and the veins of the planet. People who are in that dimension of love are in God. They are illumined. Think of it as a form of genius. Everyone has a touch of it, but some have concentrated and harnessed it to the point where it bears fruit and spreads something wonderful in the world."
F4) e. e. cummings: "somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond any experience, your eyes have their silence: in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, or which i cannot touch because they are too near . . . "
G4) Frithjof Schuon: "Love is in the depths of man as water is in the depths of the earth, and man suffers from not being able to enjoy this infinity that he carries within himself and for which he is made . . . One must dig the soil of the soul, through layers of aridity and bitterness, to find love and to live in it . . . The profundity of love is inaccessible to man in his state of hardness, but it reveals itself outwardly in the language of art and also that of nature. In sacred art and virgin nature, the soul can taste by analogical anticipation something of the love which sleeps within it and of which it has only the nostalgia and not the experience..."
H4) Ethan Walker III: "Love is the eternal luminescence that radiates from the center of all beings and all existence. Love is the unifying presence of the One that still reverberates in this hall of mirrors we call "the many." Individuals sparks, souls, beings, and universes without end appear to hurtle away from each other as though shot from the cannon of creation. Yet love remains the bond - the elastic stretching tether of infinity that ever belies the illusion of separation. Once discovered, love invites us backstage where "the many" is revealed to be a glorious sleight of hand."
I4) All of the above.
J4) None of the above.
K4) Some of the above. ___________________
L4) Other ____________________________.
What Is Your Answer? ________
When you finish your quiz, please pass your papers to the front.
This is a quiz that,
you are, in a way, kind of already taking;
You will probably be graded, but may not be;
we're not sure when, how, or if you'll ever find out what your grade;
and we might know who will or won't be grading your papers,
but then again, we may be wrong.)
". . . and yet, to say the truth,
reason and love
keep little company together nowadays."
- William Shakespeare
OK, that's Phase 1. What is Phase 2? And beyond?
OK, Phase 1 was gathering as much of what the best and brightest minds and hearts throughout history have had to say on the topic.
Phase 2 consists of sorting it out.
Phase 3 will consist of really figuring out what to do about it.
We haven't gotten to those phases yet. We want to. There's just too much. We hope to soon.
That said, we have figured out this much:
It might seem that everything that needs to be said about "love" has already been said. Poets and screenwriters have told stories about it, psychologists have done research on it, philosophers have argued about it, preachers have preached about it, academics have tried to study it,
singers have sung about it...
...but are we any closer to really understanding it?
In one sense, the "answer" to all of the major problems in the world - violence, war, racism, oppression, environmental destruction, and so on - is known, and it's exactly the same for all of them: "Love each other."
Fine. But that insight plus about twenty dollars will get you a cup of coffee these days. From what we can tell about this insane asylum we all seem to be living in, no sentimental, trite, cheesy, hokey, emotional and melodramatic swell of sentimentality and good intentions is really going to accomplish, change, or affect much of anything at all.
So what will?
Well, one way we've been thinking about this problem is this:
A few years ago, lightning wasn't understood the way it is today. Most of what folks really knew was that...well, for some strange reason, huge bolts of "something" would blast down from the sky, randomly, for no apparent reason, and pretty much incinerate whatever it hit.
Kind of like the way "love" is often seen nowadays:
it's very powerful, it's completely random and unpredictable, it's mysterious,
and when it "strikes" - more often than not - it does a lot of damage.
We eventually understood lightening. We harnessed it. And today, we have electricity.
To speculate: what if what worked on one level could work on another?
We, your loveable and cuddly LiveReal Agents, will keep working on it. In the meantime, check out some of the other angles we've been working below.
"The heart has its reasons
which reason knows nothing of."
- Blaise Pascal