A simple answer to the question, "What is love?"

I recently watched a Netflix documentary in which a journalist asks spiritual leaders from diverse backgrounds "the deeper questions". The answers were diverse, but each originated from a specific religious narrative. Even when a religious leader was trying to be bigger than their own religion by excluding specific doctrine, it still seemed that the most truthful answers were missed. It was as if these leaders couldn't see the obvious because their minds were so bogged down by religious narratives created from centuries of assumptions, fictions, and error tangents.

While the documentary was disappointing, it inspired me to answer a few of the questions myself. Here is a definition of the word "love" in answer to the question, "What is love?" for consideration:

It's a word. Like many words, it can mean different things to many people, different things to many situations, and different things to even just one person. The word, even in its deepest use refers to a cacophony of emotions, social responsibilities, and other psychological factors. This thing that the word "love" represents, is less concrete than what is communicated by words like "table" or "anger".

Combine instinctual attraction with respect, obligation, personal history, morals, lust, with knowing oneself, pheromones, selfishness, self-definition, opinions of relationships-- and a type of definition for the word evolves for each person. What the word describes exists in many different combinations and amounts based on education, experience, propensity, and the type of person, object, or behavior one "loves".

Because there are so many reasons and combinations of reasons to feel strongly positive about something or someone, it's easier just to use the word "love" than to analyze these reasons and figure out what's going on. It's a shortcut of sorts. The "magic" we feel surrounding love doesn't come from what it is, but from the fact that it isn't anything we can (or are willing to because of the difficulty) concretely identify. We submit to not knowing, and let it remain bigger than us.

Love is nothing, and there isn't anything wrong with this! Just because the emperor doesn't have any clothes doesn't mean we can't appreciate his natural form or that he isn't a functional leader we can respect. The things we are referring to when we use the word "love" as a shortcut, are what is important. Further, being "in love" and giving in to things we might not be able to completely understand is part of enjoying life. Just as our brains filter out stimuli to allow us to focus and keep from being overwhelmed, our language (sometimes) functions the same. When you whisper "I love you" to a significant other, it is a sweet nothing of sorts, but a sweet nothing that taps into our human attraction to the unknown, the spirit, and the empty.

More on this next post...