All living beings need love to survive as much as they need water. Without water and love, life withers away sooner or later. Lack of consumption of water or dehydration can prove to be fatal. Humans and all other animals need plenty of love and water to survive and thrive, as do plants and trees. However, ‘love’, as we understand, is an emotive feeling, invisible and impalpable, transmitted by one and sometimes received by the other. On the other hand, love, in a more tangible and visible form, can express itself as an empathetic care by one for the other.
The term ‘love’ is one of most misconstrued words and, perhaps, a grossly misused term. It can mean several things, different to different people, both intended and unintended, depending upon the time and the situation. It is mercurial and whimsical, and can transcends rhyme and reason, changing its size, form and direction anytime, without warning. It can turn into despiteful hate and anger, sometimes with extreme vengeance, if or when the material expectations from the other side are not met. Unfulfilled expectations can quickly wear out love.
Humans are seen to possess and show love to both animate beings, which include other humans, animals and plants, as well as to inanimate things like wealth, precious metals, gadgets and facilities. In a more romantic context, however, especially during adolescence or even matured adulthood, one may hedonistically construe one’s infatuation, fascination or lust for people of opposite (or same) gender as one’s love for them. On the other end of the spectrum, albeit altruistically, empathy, compassion and care may be seen to represent some tangible expressions and forms of love.
In the human world, many different forms of love can be noticed – one may love Nature or one may love food; one may love children and one may love parents, siblings and friends. One may even have a repressed or expressed ‘crush’ on complete strangers, like celebrities, which may also be misinterpreted as ‘love’ by some. Like water, which can hide in nature in various forms as vapor, fog, mist, steam, dew, rainwater, drain water, lake and river water, sea and ocean, snow and glacier, love can change forms and effects. Sometimes, unfortunately, it can completely dry up and disappear. Similar to a shadow under the sun, it can be unreliable, appearing magically and then disappearing suddenly. In most aspects of life, sadly, it becomes conditional to reciprocity.
In the real world, absolute or unconditional or pure love is not very common. However, shades of ‘absolute’ or ‘unconditional’ love may be seen between parents and children, or between siblings, but not always in an increasingly materialistic world of ours.
Material conditions must be met by one or both sides to sustain it. Illustrations of ‘absolute’ or ‘pure’ love, without any strings attached, appear either in mythological stories or in fairy tales. In real world, however, it is more ‘relative’ and ‘transactional’, subject to an unwritten or unsaid contract. Human self-preservation makes it so. Ask yourself what can you do, or to what extent can you go, for the person you claim to love? You may also pose the same question to your claimed ‘lover’. Can you both walk through hell for each other? If yes, you are lucky.
Love, in a more romantic form, can be fatally dangerous for those who don’t possess a good understanding of the world or the basic human nature or tend to live in a more utopian world or foolishly take life for granted. It is not uncommon to hear passing statements, such as ‘I don’t love you today as much as I loved you yesterday’, or ‘my love is not what you think it is’, or ‘I don’t love you now because you don’t love me anymore‘.
Love can be likened to water, essential for survival. Water is used in most cooking. Like water, it has different effects in its various forms. It soothes and nourishes when it is clean and mild; it can also burn when it is steamy or boiling hot or frozen and iced. It can sicken one to death when it is polluted and dirty. It can disappear in thin air when one runs into a difficult, hot and dry weather. When consumed in a warm form, it feels different than when consumed in a cold form. Mineral warm tastes different to the desalinated water. Saline water is not fit for human consumption.
Given its tendency to change forms, with contrasting effects, or disappear altogether, ‘love’ renders its palpability and, therefore, reliability, rather difficult. Therefore, notwithstanding its importance as an essential ingredient to life, it is more prudent or pragmatic to ensure respect and trust are sincerely upheld and nurtured in all weather conditions — hot or cold. dry or humid, in a rainforest or in a hot desert – to nourish a relationship, any relationship. Unlike a mercurial romantic ‘love’, trust and respect don’t change forms or quantum with time; either we have them, or we don’t. When we say we have less trust or respect for someone, we actually mean ‘no’ trust or respect for that person.
Trust and respect, first and foremost, that is what it is all about. Mutual respect and trust are the two legs of a relationship, any relationship. Love alone cannot, and must not, be relied upon or considered enough to sustain a relationship because humans are inherently vain, selfish, opinionated and whimsical. After all, how much of us do we really give unconditionally to the other person? Don’t we expect ‘returns on our investment’?
Pursuit of perfection in an imperfect world of humans can be frustrating and rife with many a heartbreak. The need for fragile and vulnerable humans is to be real in an imperfect world of imperfect humans or else disappointments galore and come to greet us at every corner. Many a heartbreak, amongst both younger and the older people, happens due to our generally misguided and misplaced notions about the term ‘love’. Our prudence gets ostensibly blinded and consumed by an invisible entity. We drop ourselves at the mercy of other humans who may not necessarily reciprocate our kind of love or behold us as we wish to be seen or treated by them. Of our own device, we become an expendable commodity that can be used and binned after our use-by date.
Fantasies and fairy tales are nice but remain mostly bound to the realm of an imaginary, perfect world. Instead, let us show care and empathy for those we treasure. Let us focus on being more considerate, compassionate and respectful to those whom we think we love and also those whom we don’t think we know much about.
© Bill K Koul [29 January 2023, Perth, Western Australia]
Copyright © Bill K Koul