What is Love?

Elizabeth Pearl Corey, Editor

What is love? People often wonder why humans love and what the intense emotion’s purpose is. Many scientists surmise that it’s a natural instinct in order to survive and allow the species to survive. Yet, we can feel love for those who nature would ask us to be competitive with. We can feel love without needing to. It can drive us crazy, and in fact,  love has been at the core of some conflicts throughout history. What is the nature of love?

Do you ever lie awake at night wondering if he’ll ever call you, even if you think he doesn’t know you exist? Do you ever happen to just stop what you’re doing suddenly because her smile has, without reason, popped into your mind without warning? Does that special person make you feel like you could hold the world, but also make you want to improve yourself and become an even better person? Love is an abstract, capricious concept, and although it is experienced, hopefully, by everyone, the meaning of love and different types of love, and the thing that it is in general, are hard to comprehend. This isn’t because of a lack of experiencing the emotion, but rather the fact that it’s such a vast and abstract idea. The Greeks believed in different types of love: eros (sexual love), philia (friendly love), agape (love for all; unconditional love), ludus (playful/casual love), pragma (true, long-lasting love), and philautia (self-love). The fact that one of the earliest civilizations has spent so much time and focus on love goes to show how it has always been an unfathomable force in humanity’s mind and the lives of people.

Love is often seen as a survival mechanism, but can often deter one’s survival instincts.  People have been known to die for love (their children or lovers), and people have made radical decisions that ended up awry for the sake of love. It is for love that Gatsby put on airs and threw wild, tasteless parties that he had no interest in. In fact, he rather disliked parties, completely. And for love Romeo and Juliet died, Olivia (from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night) grew out of her mourning, and Othello’s Desdemona was slain. But love is important. It’s a connection between people, a bond that’s brought people together. Whether it is the love a mother feels for her child that keeps her baby going, a love between friends that chases loneliness away, welcoming understanding, or a love that inspires people to change the world for the better, it is important. It “makes the world go round,” and a world without it would not be a world of pure joy.  

Love is something that people wish could be objective, but no matter how many times humans study the concept, it remains elusive and subjective. Since antiquity, mankind has been trying to decipher love, analyze it, describe it, and categorize it. It continues to make and break relationships and society, ever a force to be reckoned with. Through classics like Twelfth Night, audiences are given the opportunity to view unconventional insights into love, or see the reality of human emotion portrayed in relatable or exaggerated manners. One of the reasons Shakespeare continues to be a legend is because of his innate understanding of human nature, psychology,  and emotions. He tackled the concept of love in an entertaining and arguably educational way (one can learn more about others and themselves through studying character interactions and plots). No matter how love presents itself, it will forever be a topic of art and humanity.


* photo via Google Images under the Creative Commons license