I wrote this for a Writer's Craft class when I was 18. I forgot about it until I was sifting through my old writing folders around the time of my sister's wedding. Re-reading it, I realized that someone should have held a gun to my head when I decided to go into engineering.
This was written in the period when my work became more personal, and I stopped showing it to my mother for editing. I've reproduced it in its original form, without incorporating any of my teacher's corrections.
The most basic function of any living organism is to reproduce and thereby ensure the survival of its species. In most instances, this is purely a biological reaction resulting from pheromones, piqued emotion, and a natural physical attraction to the strongest members of a species. Humanity, however, feels that it has taken this simple function to a level beyond that understood by other species. We do not simply mate and reproduce, but "cherish" and "love" one another. This may well be the key psychological component that sets us apart from all other animals. But, particularly in recent times, the definitions and bounds of love have become convoluted. The word, "love" seems to be applied more often to animalistic physical attraction than to any true representation of the word. Love is a kiss, a touch and a romp in a bed, but not necessarily anything more. If this is all that love means in modern society, how are we of any greater mettle than any other animal? Sadly, true love is dead, and we have supplanted it with nothing more than superficial lust.
The word, "love" has come to be used so casually that it has all but lost its meaning. It must be understood that love is a very distinct state of mind and distinctly a mental state; it is not a feeling of purely physical arousal but a unison of two minds. The "love" that is most commonly described in modern society is little more than lust, and lust is a physical reaction as temporary as the body it venerates. Love and lust must not be confused. Lust is a primitive compulsion akin to a child's desire for a favourite plaything; it is a sensation which reduces the admired person to an inanimate thing that has no more consciousness than a concrete pillar. Physical attraction seems to be the prime impetus of modern "love". Love, however, is a complete unison, and although it may be concomitant with a physical attraction, it cannot be based on corporeal allure. True love is a force impelled by one's entire essence, and the core of one's essence resides in the mind. The mind does not wane with time as does the body, but instead grows stronger and develops empathy and understanding. Physical "love" may develop beyond its initial bounds, but a relationship with a foundation in the corporeal will lose one of its basic components with time, and the supposed love will crumble away as the body ineluctably deteriorates. Thus, any relationship based on physical attraction is not love. Love is a permanent bonding of minds and of souls as durable and timeless as the soul itself. If a true unity is developed between two minds, it is impossible for love to wither away. If such a bond slips, then love never truly existed. Thus, the instances of love deteriorating in society are simply examples of false love coming to its only possible conclusion. It is important to note that this disintegration may pass unnoticed at times, and two people might remain together completely unaware of their own indifference. But if they do not sense this growing rift, then the two were never truly in love since love requires empathy in order to exist. Thus, any relationship in which love evanesces was never infused with love to begin with. The words, "I don't love you any more" truly mean, "I never did love you at all."
Love is dependent on the mind because of its basis on a mutual understanding. This understanding is not needed for lust to exist, but in order to truly love, each individual involved must have a preternatural empathy with the other. Without this link, what one perceives as "love" may simply be a form of idolatry akin to that of a prurient man fawning over a model's picture. Though this form of reverence is often fallaciously labelled as "love", it is nothing of the sort. It is not possible to love a person of whose mind one has no knowledge since the individual may, in fact, be quite a different entity than is perceived, and may even be someone entirely despicable. Love requires openness, and if one mind is closed, there can be no link and thus no love. Each mind may have its own threshold, but there cannot be a thought which passes through one which is not understood or sensed by the other. This link allows one to feel the needs, desires and physical and emotional pain of the other, resulting in an empathy which is impossible to achieve through physical interaction. Very seldom do modern couples communicate to such an extent that they are so aware of each other. The aggregation of unspoken frustration, arguments over trivial issues and feelings of insecurity that pervade many relationships are all indicative of the absence of communication. But love is a sharing of feeling, a mutual sacrifice and gain. Modern society, it would seem, is less concerned with feelings than it is with physically feeling.
Love must be a bilateral emotion; anything less is simply idolatry and the reverence of what might just as well be a stone idol. The phrase, "I love you" is ubiquitous in modern society, but it is seldom indicative of a mutual emotion. This is perhaps the most egregious modern misinterpretation of love. If you "love" someone and yet they do not return that affection, there is obviously a problem either in the manner in which you have presented yourself or in the way that your affection has been received. One possibility is that you may not understand this person; for if you did, then you would behave in a manner that would secure the desired individual's affections. If this involves the assumption of a false persona, however, then any resulting interaction could not be called love. Perhaps the desired person does not understand or chooses not to understand you. In either case, your "love" is simply offered to an ideal image in your mind, a fabrication which may not exist in reality. lf this person does not love you, yet you refuse to acknowledge this disdain, his or her mind obviously has no meaning for you and the individual is simply a physical form bearing the mind you have envisioned since you are obviously oblivious to his or her true feelings. If you are snubbed for trivial reasons, then your affection is obviously misplaced and any feeling you may have is only for your perceived archetype. Idealism is not love. Love is real. Yet still innumerable dupes plod on in the belief that their obsessions with totally misunderstood or unknown people are indicative of love. The greatest fool is he who claims to know love and yet has no knowledge of the feeling at all.
Love is not necessarily instantaneous. It most certainly can grow, but one cannot properly say that one "loves" or is "in love" until a mutual bond exists and the love is a shared emotion. One may desire to love another person, but until a reciprocation is secured, all that can exist is reverence and hollow affection. In order to say, "I love you", you must know, on some level, that the love is returned. If you do not sense this, then the person you "love" is obviously concealing his or her feelings, and thus you love only what you have wanted to perceive of them. This is idolatry. Mutual regard may also not be sensed if it does not exist at all, in which case the statement "I love you" is entirely erroneous and hollow. This is hardly uncommon. If one side deceives the other, or if both purported lovers are deceitful, then the love is false, for one or both persons is loving an ideal or unreal image rather than an actual human being. Since love is a melding of minds, if a facade is loved, no love truly exists. If one side believes the other's deception, the lack of understanding is indicative of the absence of true love. Even though one’s feelings may be genuine, since a real person is not loved, all of the exerted emotion is useless because the other half’s contribution is missing. Thus, since deception nullifies love, many existing relationships are, in fact, hollow perversions of the emotion. Few relationships are without some level of deception, the very least of which might be the simple fact that one participant puts on a pleasant facade in the presence of the other. Even this little deception vitiates love.
It is said that love is not perfect and that "love does not always work." This is only true of false love. Even if the relationship is flawed by societal standards, if true love exists, then the apparent imperfection should be irrelevant. True love bridges time, space and adversity. False love is sent tumbling to destruction by its own nature: a lack of understanding and communication, dishonesty, and a general lack of empathy. True love, however, is binding. It is important to understand, though, that the love of one person does not preclude the possibility of loving many other people. This also means that, although love may exist, a romantic relationship may not come to pass. This does not evince a lack of feeling or understanding, but may simply be a matter of circumstance or the fact that someone may hold one person more dear than another. This does not prevent love, but merely negates the possibility of a physical relationship, which should be unimportant if true love exists. Whether two who are in love are actually physically together should not be relevant. If the love is true, a lack of physical presence should not cause it to attenuate. Corporeal existence is not a requirement of love. Beauty may exist in the physical form, but it is the beauty of the mind which should predominate. Perhaps this is no more than mental lust, but it is beyond the simple physical interaction that exists among many animal species. Man is an undeniably corporeal creature, and love is inevitably and naturally going to involve some sort of physical expression, but when the physical becomes the impetus of "love", love cannot truly exist. This, however, is where modern society seems to have taken this quintessentially human emotion. Love is a rare sensation which has become so confused and misinterpreted that it is all but dead. You cannot love a car. You cannot love a photograph. You can only love another human being in his or her entirety or your "love" is worth nothing at all. The criteria are not easily met, but true love is not easily achieved. Eternity is not granted to all who seek it. Love may be moribund, but it can be rescued by the sincere desire to look beyond the dry plains of lust and peer into the lush world of love beyond. It requires the will to be more than a simple animal.
Man has lost his understanding of love, and in its place, he has chosen to accept the enticing immediacy of lust. Some semblance of romantic love may remain, but its key aim is often to attain the physical interaction that comes as a "reward" for one’s efforts. It seems to be modern society's perception that love cannot exist without a physical element, which is a sociological catastrophe that encourages false love and lifetimes based on an ephemeral physical attraction. Society encourages simple, animalistic relations. There is no flaw in this since, in truth, we need only reproduce and propagate our species; but the emotion cannot be called love, or perhaps the term itself must be redefined. What we have now, what predominantly exists, is not love. It is lust. It is an indulgence in pleasure. We have achieved a state in which the words "I love you" have been rendered all but worthless and it seems impossible to express love without a physical demonstration. This in itself illustrates the weakness of love in our society and the dire state of human emotion. We must re-learn the true meaning of love or we shall simply tumble back into the soulless oblivion of animalistic lust. We all have this within our ability. Perhaps we have not done so only because many of us fear that, upon inspection, we will learn that we have never truly loved at all.
Comments from the course teacher, Mrs. P. Salgo:
Although you use "however" too much and make an occasional error in agreement, one can only say, "Brilliant". This is a deep philosophical probing which is stated in exceptional vocabulary. Perhaps you have also pointed out the superficiality of human beings. I really enjoyed your definition of real love and especially your linking of it to empathy.
You have wrestled with a complex issue which you have stated coherently and rhythmically—no small task. I will call upon Matthew Arnold's words of "Sweetness and light" to describe your essay.
Mrs. Salgo was crazy and we loved her.