What is The Purpose of Love?
The Enduring Sustainable Nature of Love
When we think of abstract concepts, love has to come to mind. Abstract concepts are ideas that people can understand but have no physical form. In most cultures, love is cherished, often used to signify something of value. The semantics of love may prove hard to narrow down, but one thing agreed upon is that it has phenomenological qualities that are notable in its expression.
Love has been explored in countless ways through poetry, stories, philosophy and psychology, amongst others, to express and attempt to develop an understanding of it. For a long time, poetry and stories were used as imagery to invoke feelings and imagination, but later philosophy sought to understand the reasoning behind love. The purported task of philosophy was to answer with rationality and discipline the significant questions about life that people ponder upon in their reflective moments. However, if you ask people what rationality is, you open a can worm of debates that can go on for days. The arguments stem from the fact that reason in philosophy involves applying logic or drawing logical inferences from new or existing information to find a fact regarded as truth. Reasoning is distinct from feeling, sensation, perception or desire. It is this principle that built upon birthed the art of science.
Science using reasoning and logic, has been trying to understand love. A phenomenon that not only entices reason but also feelings, sensations and desires. In a bid to study love, science has focused on the chemical reaction it elicits in our body and not what it is. Most studies define love as chemical reactions that illicit lust, attraction and attachment. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist, says love is a biological drive and an evolutionary survival mechanism. Its purpose is supposedly to lead people to their ideal mates and start the mating process. Her focus was on romantic love, a type of love amongst others.
Science is very good at understanding a phenomenon's behaviour, which can ideally lead to inferring what it is. However, you can never truly know the purpose and meaning of something solely from its behaviour. You need to know the cause, reason and purpose of its existence; why it expresses itself. To focus on the physical element of love when there is a meta element to it, even when studying its behaviour, creates an issue. The issue is complicated further by the fact that science does not ascertain that there are absolute truths, just approximate truths, as science does not deal with absolutes/ultimates/supremes.
If Math can prove it, it is an irrefutable truth, right? A fascinating fact is that Math has one interesting flaw; there will always be true statements that it can't prove. The flaw comes from three points: Math is not complete ( there are true statements it cannot prove), and because of this, it cannot measure its own consistency (freedom from contradictions) and lastly, it is undecidable (Math cannot create an algorithm that can decide whether a statement follows from its accepted truth). Therefore, because math does not deal with absolutes, science does not have absolutes. We will get to the relevance of this enthralling fact and its correlation to love later.
There have been redefinitions of love in modern times that have permeated the social norms of society. Reducing it to just chemical processes has overlooked a crucial aspect of love; its transcendental and transformative nature. Relationships, whether romantically inclined or not, are prone to selfish motives in their dynamics when the elements of love are lost. So how does this happen?
Love in its totality promotes a selfless nature; from selflessness, certain qualities emerge, like serving others, humbleness, generosity, trustworthiness and respect. When one starts embracing and practising the elements of love, a gradual change occurs within oneself. The change is sustainable when consistently applied through everything encountered, through the test of time. When consistently applied, its very nature transforms you by embracing a nature that fights self-seeking and greedy behaviours. The transformation element of love is to kill selfishness.
The test of love comes when we encounter pain. Pain is the feeling expressed when we are hurt, often due to the infringement of our meaning and purpose. Infringement can come from others, but it can also come from ourselves. We infringe on our own meaning when we violate our existence by committing selfish acts. All selfish actions are bound to infringe on meaning and purpose. Selfish nature is promoted not by a preoccupation with self but by a lack of satisfaction, contentment and appreciation of one's meaning and purpose.
The purpose of existence goes beyond pain: in our world, one will encounter pain at one point. We encounter accidental tragedies that sometimes make no sense and bear unintended pain. And at times, we face malevolence( evil acts intentionally inflicted by others )which inflicts pain that needs to be processed. At times malicious acts are committed by people close to us, who ideally should be showing care. The truth is we have all been hurt in one way or another and encountered pain that challenged the notion of love. Bearing the problem of pain: What is the purpose of such an existence? One can either heal and learn from the experience or carry the pain forward; it is a choice.
The fact that you feel emotional pain is the first confirmation that there is love within you. The value of having love within oneself is felt when you undergo pain, as it will help you process without developing bitterness. In such moments, if you receive/don't receive love, you understand its significance. Case in point, children who have undergone traumatic events such as domestic/sexual violence. Children have this natural resilience to overcome tragedies and even malevolent acts. They bounce back because they are born with love deeply embedded in their meaning. Love helps them process the events objectively, processing the feelings of infringement on one's meaning and purpose. Not only that, love helps them process from the perspective of the one who has infringed on their meaning and purpose, especially if they have support. The support must be guided by love; otherwise, it may prove counterproductive, promoting bitterness and prolonging the cyclic nature of pain.
Many ask, why experience love knowing you may get hurt? The simple answer is that love is an integral part of us, and we cannot escape it. It is a fear of pain that creates the assumption that the experience of love is what causes hurt. It can lead to conscious or unconscious avoidance of pain: pain is an emotion that needs to be processed, not avoided. Fear of pain has weakened many relationships and even made parents forsake their children when the children instigate pain. Great peace comes from learning to love people who have hurt you.
If you can learn to love someone who acts as an enemy, then you have learned to love someone who infringes on your meaning and purpose. If so, whom can't you love? You achieve the true purpose of existence as one understands the enduring value of love. You learn objectivity as you see how your meaning and purpose have been infringed upon and how the other person has infringed on their own meaning and purpose. You realize that it is never personal; they hurt you due to selfishness. It poses a question of whether you will fall into selfish acts or embrace love and forgive. So, is the problem for many pain or that we reject embracing love in moments of pain? If you learn to love someone whose love lacks certain qualities, someone who has shown you no love, you break the cycle of pain.
Love is a transcendent human quality that governs almost all interactions, from the basic family unit to relationships with colleagues and friends. It exists in all cultures, and though it is labelled a subjective experience, the fact that it emerges means it serves a purpose and meaning and is a fundamental metaphysical truth; to deny it, one falls into contradiction with existence.
Culturing the virtues of love for self is a simple answer that allows you to experience things not partially but fully. It is a simple answer that requires going against the grain, as we are in a world where selfishness is promoted and accepted as a norm. So, you can fight your existence or embrace it. The solution is simple yet complex; the simpleness of it is that it is ultimate and absolute. The complexity of it is that it cannot be proven by science as an absolute even when true, as science does not deal with absolutes. Therefore, you have to decide whether you believe in the absolute that is love.
Love promotes the view of others as an extension of self. This has a double effect if practised correctly. It allows you to objectively use outside relationships to assess what qualities of love you lack and need to develop. Consequently, it enables one to use internal feelings about self as a mirror to show how you treat others. Love becomes the mirror of how you view the world and yourself. Therefore, learning to love yourself is crucial, as it flows out to others. Hence the common saying, you cannot give what you don't have. To exemplify love, you must embrace genuineness, as genuineness is acceptance of love. Genuineness creates a stable base that removes social masks of interactions.
Love is a bridge that can serve as a connection between parts, transforming them into an ultimate. This transformation process will also utilize love as its guide. Implying that all things done with perfect love eventually end up being in their optimum state, regardless of time. It would explain why you hear people state that love has healed/transformed them. A complete/perfect love heals to completion. As the guiding force of existence, perfect love places everything in ultimate as it has deemed all perfect through it; it removes nothing and adds nothing to meaning and purpose.
Consequently, parts of existence can understand the purpose and meaning of self and other things as they can discover with love, experiencing the world deeply. However, a part of existence can reject discovery and choose to dictate. Since love is selfless and does not impose, two choices emerge from its nature; to accept or reject it. This is free will.
The emphasis on the qualities of love that promote a selfless nature is written in stories and poetry and seen through practice. In the Judeo-Christian texts, a man by the name of Jesus shows love and genuineness, practising it to his death. Practice is more important than the utterance of the term. One may state they have love but have rejected it in its totality. This is why cultivating the values of love deep in oneself is core. By practising the values, you grow love within, harnessing it to its raw natural form that can withstand tragedies and even malevolence.
Perfect love should govern your internal existence. The choice is whether or not to be selfish, which is often the struggle of human existence. Selfishness causes us to be self-seeking, insisting on our way, impatient, not kind, quick to anger, envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, keeping records of wrong, rejoicing with wrong and rejecting the truth. Denying the truth challenges selflessness as a mode of existence as perfect/ultimate love is part of the truth. Selfishness will not ultimately protect, trust, hope or endure; it will lead you to greed, the rejection of love. Perfect love should therefore be our core, triumphing over selfishness and guiding our existence as beings.