Thursday, June 21, 2012

Existentialist Love

I have several definitions of love. The one I'm going to talk about in this post is the weird, existential definition I've been developing.

Philosophical speculation has left me with the following (nope, not answer...) question: Never mind "what's the meaning of life", why don't I know it already, inherently, simply by existing? There are many religions and theories that deal with finding an "ultimate meaning", and personally I think it is indeed possible to discover such a state of existence where everything is whole and makes sense. However, there is still no (satisfying) explanation for why something is missing in the first place!

Neither logic nor emotions bring me any closer to finding an answer to such a question. Thinking about it only leads me in circles until I'm convinced that it simply does not make sense! And so, all I can do is look at the facts; here we are with this confusion, this lost feeling, this unidentifiable "missing piece" in existence. Here we are, capable of both deep joy and deep dissatisfaction. While I believe that a state of being must exist where everything makes sense and is whole, evidently there are also states of being where things don't make sense, and something is missing. Such is life as we know it.

This is where love comes in. None of us have all the answers. None of us are completely whole. However, each of us have found reasons to continue existing. We wouldn't be here otherwise. Each of those reasons are at least slightly different. At the same time, humans have enough in common with one another that many of these reasons can be communicated. Some people may be a lot closer to happiness and meaning than others, but everyone can benefit in one way or another from kindness and communication.

In one definition, love means caring about another person, wanting them to be happy, and doing or saying whatever is necessary to help them see meaning in life. Lyrics from a song by the Beach Boys (of all things) started me on this train of thought. It's the one that goes:

I may not always love you,
But as long as there are stars above you,
You needn't ever doubt it,
I'll make you so sure about it.

Really sweet, right? And a really interesting way of phrasing things. But it's the next verse that got me thinking:

If you should ever leave me,
Well life will still go on believe me,
The world could show nothing to me,
So what good would living do me?

So this song is describing the classic kind of romantic love where two people feel like they need each other so badly that if separated they're just... horribly depressed. But that line, "The world could show nothing to me", made me really sad. Myself, I've never been in a relationship with a guy, not even close. And yet, the world has shown quite a lot to me. Beauty and meaning is always there, waiting for me to recognize it. I've been heartbroken before, and the world was still there, happiness could still reach me when I looked beyond my pain.

I started thinking; if ever I wind up with a life partner and I died first, I would want them to continue to find beauty and meaning in life, even without me there. Seen from this perspective, love means communicating my own ability to be happy as best I can; it means I have one lifetime to pass on whatever I learn about happiness and meaning.

On a larger scale, it means that those who live on must remember the teachings of those who have died, so that they can in turn build on the knowledge and pass it on to the next generation. Caring about another person means wanting them to be happy, which means wanting them to have the ability to find happiness on their own, even when you are no longer there to guide them directly.

This concept is not limited to life partners; it applies to all human interaction. One lifetime is the maximum amount of time any person has to give what love and guidance to others that they can. But even passing a stranger on the street, just once, provides the opportunity to communicate meaning, in one way or another.

Love means helping each other, in whatever way possible, to see what the world has to show.

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