I stood in the bookshop mesmerized with a copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves in my hands.
The cover said:
Lewis categorizes and describes all the natural loves
I bought the book and soaked up every word, but Lewis did not deliver.
In disappointment, I put it down on the table and looked up to the blue sky above.
I had a new purpose in life.
Find the definition of love!
Over many years, I watched hours of lectures and read books and more books by psychologists, therapists and self-help gurus on love and relationships.
I searched the Internet top-to-bottom on all things love.
I watched movies, listened to songs, read literature, and I read more again – as much as I could find published by great philosophers and thinkers.
Eventually I found the answer to love’s definition, or rather, I found fragments that needed bringing together.
That I did and published in Voyage to the Heart: The Nature of Love and my little book We all Want love (a free PDF download).
In both you will find the following definition which is a paraphrase of Prof. Irving Singer:
To love is to value where there is attachment and commitment
This is the simplest definition you will find. Moreover, it is universal and unified:
How does this definition work in everyday life?
Through your loving relationship, you bestow upon your lover immense value. This means you believe them worth more than all the riches of the world. A sentiment reflected in the movie Indecent Proposal when David comes to realize his wife’s value is not defined by money, but by the love he has of her.
Such love is bound by the element ‘immense value’ - value higher than any worldly value.
This kind of value is brought about by a sense of emotional attachment. When people say love is a feeling, this is the element of love they mean.
For romantic love, such feelings specific to that kind of love are apparent, but attachment to all other people you love is obvious too. If you are a parent, attachment runs just as deeply, and if you love a friend, the same can be said, although you tend to say your feelings are different. Nevertheless, what underlies all these feelings is attachment.
Your commitment is brought about by a sense of concern.
When you are attached to someone, and they mean so much to you, you are emotionally concerned for them. Some philosophers [Taylor et al] call this ‘robust concern’ and consider this love alone, but without the elements of value and attachment, there is not enough for a real loving relationship.
What is true regarding robust concern is you make a promise to yourself, and them, that you will be there for them wherever and whenever they need you. This promise stands true until you withdraw your commitment, for whatever reason that may be, after which the other two elements of attachment and value slowly wither until no love is left.
What is the underlying reason for love?
Plato’s answer is the simplest, and yet it is the most bothersome until it is understood.
We all seek the good in life.
In saying this, Plato means you do not want a bad life. Nobody does.
As this is the case, you pursue a good life which by its nature includes a good lover.
Plato’s definition of a good life sought seems selfish. It suggests that your lover is a means to your ends – a good life.
But everyone knows, love is not like this.
Love is in knowing your lover seeks a good life like you, and it is only through your shared life that you both achieve the good life.
In looking at love this way, love is a voyage to no destination. One where you seek to satisfy each other’s good through a loving relationship of real depth and breadth while at the same time you seek to maintain your good.
Therefore, love is a never-ending voyage of shared good.
But please do not get me wrong, as academic as this may sound, the voyage is a beautiful one.
I have been voyaging for over 30 years with my wife, and 12 years spent with our daughter so far, and believe me, with the right lover and other beloveds in your life it is a many-splendored thing.
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