Love is at the centre of my emotional responses. It is either the lack of love, the desire for love or the need for love. This is easy to confuse with the play of love in my life. What is love as opposed to the need for love?
I love my wife. I love to be with her. I love to talk to her, to be silent with her, to eat and drink with her, to have sex with her. I cannot easily define what is happening here and do not particularly want to. I think it satisfies a need in me. I know it satisfies a desire in me. We are like-minded people who have many similarities in our nature and in our backgrounds. We are passionate, exciting and comfortable together.
- The physicist: ‘Love is chemistry’
- The psychotherapist: ‘Love has many guises’
- The philosopher: ‘Love is a passionate commitment’
- The romantic novelist: ‘Love drives all great stories’
- The nun: ‘Love is free yet binds us’
They all make sense and yet none of them seem to answer the question. They touch on aspects but miss out on the whole.
One of the best definitions of love I have come across is from Osho. His concept of ‘Aloneness’ resonates with me.
“The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love. It may look paradoxical to you, but it is not. It is an existential truth: only those people who are capable of being alone are capable of love, of sharing, of going into the deepest core of the other person – without possessing the other, without becoming dependent on the other, without reducing the other to a thing, and without becoming addicted to the other. They allow the other absolute freedom, because they know that if the other leaves, they will be as happy as they are now. Their happiness cannot be taken by the other, because it is not given by the other.
“Then why do they want to be together? It is no longer a need, it is a luxury. Try to understand it. Real persons love each other as a luxury; it is not a need. They enjoy sharing: they have so much joy, they would like to pour it into somebody. And they know how to play their life as a solo instrument.
“The solo flute player knows how to enjoy his flute alone. And if he comes and finds a tabla player, a solo tabla player, they both will enjoy being together and creating a harmony between the flute and the tabla. They both will enjoy it: they will both pour their richnesses into each other.”
Love starts with myself, with my ability to play my own instrument. This is the problem with basing my idea of love on my childhood experiences. As a child I had a need for love, a need that was not fulfilled in the way I would have liked.
I have spent much of my life seeking this fulfilment and failing. It is not surprising it failed, it was based on a false premise—that a relationship would fill the void and solve my problems. What did it do? It multiplied my problems.
The answer was to start to love myself, to love every part of myself. It was good to start with liking myself but that was not enough. I needed to love myself in all my aspects; good, bad and ugly.
My wife was talking to me last night about taking baby steps in achieving a difficult goal. She told me the story of a woman in a wheelchair who hated her life. She became determined to change this and start to love herself. She failed at this until she realised that she had to start small.
She sat, in her wheelchair, in front of a mirror and decided to love her eyebrows. Next day she moved on to her nose, and so on. Over time she had a remarkable transformation—she started to love herself. Then she was able to move on and appreciate the love in her life.
I have learned to love myself only recently, that has helped me to change the way I love others.
Now I find I can indulge in the luxury of loving another.
- Do you love yourself?
- Do you love someone else?
- Is there any connection between them for you?