Previously published on Blogger.com on March 10, 2011. Updated and revised for WordPress on November 10, 2012.
It’s a subject that has been at the forefront of human existence for longer than we can remember, filling the pages of our history, etching its name in our poetry and songs and stories. It has been the catalyst for great romances which have become legend, it has been the driving force behind great conflicts that have stained the earth with blood, and it has proven to be one of the most complex occurrences within human nature. We use the word “love” with frequency, describing everything from our preference for certain foods to our fondness for a particular author, musician, actor, director, or artist.
Yet what is love?
It’s been categorized in many ways; discussed endlessly by poets who often idealize or romanticize love even when tragic, dissected by scientists who have struggled to determine what part of our bodies is responsible for the impulses we associate with love, and examined by all those who have experienced it and yearned for by all those who have not. It seems almost impossible to place a definition on something as transcendent and amorphous as love. There are those who perceive love to be simply an emotion, a chemical reaction in the brain to an external stimuli in the form of another person, but this cannot be since, in my own experience anyway, all emotions are momentary and pass with time yet love remains as a constant presence. Certainly, love can influence a person’s emotional state dramatically and there are those who say that love makes us blind and act foolishly. Contrarily, many people believe that love elevates our consciousness, lifting us from our own selfish egotism, and allows us to experience empathy and affection in a manner that evolves our sense of reality, thus it transcends beyond any mere emotion. In my personal experience, I have found that the latter is true.
I fell wholly and irreversibly in love when I was only fourteen (I think that this is important since adults commonly make the mistake of believing that children and adolescents are incapable of having such a profound connection with another human being and often will dismiss love in young people as being a hormonal phase or just physical attraction). For me, love was never easy or even pleasant. Every day I was torn apart as to whether I should tell the girl how I felt about her and if I did what the consequences would be. At first, when I wasn’t entirely sure if I was experiencing love or not, I couldn’t express my feelings to her because I was more concerned with being humiliated and rejected.
Later, my love for her and my growing understanding of what it entailed made me keep silent for a different reason. Rather than focus solely on my own fears and anxieties about whether or not she could return my affections, I began to see that it was how what I had to say would impact her life. The idea that I might hurt, upset, confuse her ,or complicate her personal life was unbearable. I could not, in good conscience, make the selfish decision to tell her how much I cared for her, which would alleviate me of much of the burden of not being able to express my love to the person for whom I carried it, if it meant risking the chance of causing her any emotional distress.
So, in essence, my entire perspective on the matter had been altered radically. Before, my actions or inaction was determined by how telling her would affect me, and then as I became capable of looking beyond my own narrow, singular perspective, I had come to the conclusion that I didn’t matter in the larger scheme of things, and therefore my decision to tell her or not should be based on how it would affect her. This resulted in my becoming thoroughly depressed. This was ultimately how love affected me, as I bounced from one extreme to another, from the depths of despair and depression to the highest summits of hope and compassion. One might say that all aspects of existence are made up of contrasting dualities, by conflicting extremes, by two unending imbalances with human beings caught somewhere in the middle, tormented by the constant existential flux of life. I suppose that you will either agree or disagree with that primarily as a result of your own worldview and your scientific/spiritual beliefs.
This leads me to question how much love is affected by individual perspective. Is there really ever one standard of love by which all others are compared or does love differ from one person to the next? Poets, song writers, and storytellers have often portrayed love very much in their own contexts. In romantic comedy, love does not occur just once, but often many times and the greatest conflict is not whether or not your love will be returned but by whom. In the world of romantic comedies, the protagonist is usually forced to choose between two people whom he or she is in love with. In romantic tragedy, love typically occurs only once in a person’s lifetime (if that) and it is interrupted or unrequited. Commonly, tragic love is depicted as being comprised of two lovers for whom love is mutual and they are kept apart by forces beyond their control, whereas with unrequited love the person in love does not have their love returned to them.
Clearly, one could argue that these two opposite views of love are a reflection of whether the person depicting it is an optimist or a pessimist or a realist. I’ve always jokingly said that, “While the optimist sees life as being a glass half-full, the pessimist sees life as being a glass half-empty, but the realist will see life as being a glass at half-capacity, neither full nor empty.”
To some extent, this is true, but does that mean that love is defined as much by our individual perception and experience of it? Or does it mean that only a select few of us are experiencing real love while the others are experiencing something else, neither lesser nor greater in its intensity, and mistaking it for love? I don’t think that it’s necessarily one or the other. I don’t think we can ever come up with a clear-cut, universal set of guidelines as to what love is, so we will always debate about what the nature of love is. Some things will forever elude demystification no matter how much our investigative sciences evolve. But I digress.
In my own personal philosophy, we human beings are equal with all other sentient life forms, yet we have a more advanced sense of awareness that allows for us to analyze ourselves in a way that most other life forms on the planet cannot. Because of this we experience a multitude of emotions that alter our view of immediate reality. I’ve often used the metaphor that each emotion is like a pane of tinted glass that we view everything through. With each emotion being a different colored pane of tinted glass and with our capability to experience many emotions simultaneously, we go through our lives blinded to the truth by our own collective emotional templates. For me, the only way that we will ever achieve a harmonious coexistence with our fellow human beings and with all other life forms, is to discard these emotional blinders, these panes of tinted glass, and to see the world for what it is and its inhabitants for what they truly are. This can be done through a number of ways, most notably via transcendental meditation. However, while meditation is, I think, a necessity for maintaining a certain inner equilibrium, it was love that allowed me to lift away the tinted glass and filter out unwanted feelings that prevented my personal progress. But as I mention earlier, love is complex and contradictory and it affects us all differently. Love can also cause us to experience more emotional distress and therefore distort our perspective as much as it can clarify it.
Love, as far as I’m concerned, cannot be accurately called an emotion since emotions are literally motions that we go through. They are temporary and change constantly as a result of our brain chemistry, our environment, and our experiences. Love does not do this in most cases. Love isn’t something that moves in front of us causing us to see things differently, but moves through us causing us to change and metamorphose both internally and externally. It is more of a catalyst for emotions rather than an emotion itself.
Back to my own experiences…
I’ve been in love with the same girl, now a woman of twenty-six, since I was fourteen and she was the first person with whom I connected to on either an emotional or spiritual level. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, my feelings for her were never mutual and she never cared for me as I did for her. At the time of writing this, over eleven years had passed since I fell in love and I had not been able to tell her for one reason or another, despite my overwhelming desire to do so. Since revising and revisiting this essay, I have now fallen in love twice more, though I will get to that later.
I had made numerous efforts to reach out to her, but all of them seem to be met with one of two reactionary responses from her: I am either pushed away or ignored. Before anyone reading this makes a judgment of her character, I feel that perhaps it is best that I elucidate on my observations of the nature of her personality. She is an amazingly complex person full of dreams and aspirations, but also mired by her own insecurities and fears of inadequacies. I don’t know what events lead to her tendency to deny herself joy and berate herself so viciously, but I can relate as I myself, and frankly all humanity, possess a self-destructive impulse that overrides our logic. I watched her as she gravitated towards boys and young men who mistreated her and took her for granted. Meanwhile, there were many people I knew who would have loved to be with her, yet she never seemed to choose their company, at least not on an intimate level. I watched as she struggled with her desires to conform to the behavioral and attitudinal conditions of her peers while also trying to assert her own individuality and obtain acceptance. I have not seen her in over eight years and I know little of what has happened to her since our last meeting. What I do know is that she has many platonic friends, but has yet to find fulfillment in a mutually intimate relationship that lasts.
In regards to myself, for the most part I have not bothered to seek out relationships that go beyond platonic friendship, nor have I engaged in any sexual activity in the flesh (though there have been intimate exchanges of other kinds). For a very long time I thought to do so would be moot since any relationship I could take part in would be merely superficial as it seemed highly improbable, nigh impossible, that I could ever love another person again. I could never manipulate someone or mislead them into believing that I cared for them in that way and it would be unethical and unfair to. While I’m certainly not puritanical when it comes to sex, I feel that sexual relationships are healthiest when they are founded in love and mutuality, so I remain abstinent. One could say that this is also self-destructive as I must repress my libido, and to some extent masochistic, but as it is imbued in my very nature to never compromise in my beliefs, it would be far more detrimental to me to betray my convictions for temporary physical gratification.
Fairly recently, and by that I mean within this year, I have come to know love with two other women. Because of the fact that both are at this time married, and we engaged in long-distance relationships, I cannot go into any detail about the relationships with them which might carry with it implications that would do them or their families harm. All I can say is that I experienced something with both of them, something unique and extremely intimate that enabled me to feel closer to anyone than I ever have, and that since these two relationships have come to an end I cannot help but question whether I will ever experience anything like that again. Attraction is all-too rare with me and mutual attraction rarer still. As I cannot be intimate with someone without mutual love, and as that has only occurred twice within the span of twenty-seven years, I find it improbable that I will ever know it again.
This leads to an important question: Can one find true love again or are we doomed to know love only once?
This is a question that I cannot currently answer and perhaps never will be able to. I’d like to believe that love can happen more than once and that in our vastly populated world full of potential and possibilities, that anything can happen. Yet there are no guarantees, no absolutes, and no promises of security or happiness.
There are people who feel that if love isn’t ideal, if it doesn’t work out mutually, then it isn’t really love. I don’t agree with this, as I find it to be more of a comforting thought used to insulate people from their reality where happy endings don’t exist. Nothing is ever perfect or ideal and scientific and spiritual thinking has shown that nothing ever truly ends. All things simply change from one form to another, constantly evolving and mutating in nature.
In literature and the arts, there is a long-held tradition of jilted lovers and unrequited love that has been romanticized. Some have even gone so far to say that any true romance must be tragic and that separation is what guarantees that pure love is eternal. After all, when you are unsatisfied in your current circumstances, you spend endless hours fantasizing about a better life, planning ways to reconnect to the people you care about, dreaming of an ideal that you can never grasp… but that should never stop us from reaching for it. Perhaps in our isolation, in our loneliness, that is where we are truly all together and united, though we are concealed behind our own tinted glass, unable to see how close we are to each other.
For me, true love is unconditional and undying. It cannot be explained in rational terms, but at the same time it is not irrational. Unconditional love is comprised of extremes, of contradictions, and of equal parts joy and pain. No matter what, I will always feel it. It will always be a part of who I am and it cannot be changed or erased. Even when I am dead, it will still be there, expressed in my poems and songs. It has informed who I am and how I see things, whether it is ever returned or not, regardless of if it elevates me to the summits of heaven or plunges me into the abyss of hell. I can only hope that my love may one day manifest itself as a way of offering comfort, protection, health, prosperity, and hope to the incredible people that I love, who without ever even meaning to planted it within my psyche just by being themselves.
Below are three poems which I wrote for the three women I love. For those of you wondering whom I had written these for, I will not be disclosing the identities of any of these three extraordinary women here.
The first poem was back when I was a heartbroken, moody, and pretentious teenager. Essentially, the poem is about the dualistic nature of love and how it can be both the height of ecstasy and the depth of despair. Suffice it to say that she was (and is) an extraordinary individual who embodied the contradictory statements below to perfection.
Without You (Rapture and Anguish)
Without you in it, this world is just rusted pain and stale emotion
You are both the light and the darkness in my mind
You are both the cold of my grief and the warmth of my love
You ripped the chains from my heart so mercilessly
You are my everything
Rapture and anguish you’ve given to me
Without you in it, this world is just cheap flesh and empty dreams
You are the deviant angel, the amplified scream of ages
You are the disenchanted devil sweeping fire over me
You unfroze my eyes with wisdom and freed me of the incendiary
You make me nothing
Rapture and anguish you’ve given to me
Dragged through the trenches with black blisters and bruises
Fallen through heartaches and scorched by your whispers, I die
All that was crisp and clean has turned to wretched filth before my eyes
Everything I cherished is now nothing and no one knows my pain
All before me are shallow graves with promising faces
Nowhere is there shelter for the injured, bleeding, crying
Without you in it, this world is just the dark thorn of reality in my mind
You are both the sweetest hope and all-conquering doubt
You are both above and below me, rejecting and beckoning me
You fingered glass splinters out of my poisoned soul
You cure my hatred
Rapture and anguish you’ve given to me
Without you in it, this world is just dirty blankets and blinding lights
You are both all that is sacred and all that is unholy
You are both the mother and the daughter, creating and then destroying
You stole away my numbing sorrows only to give them back again
You brought to me my salvation
Rapture and anguish you’ve given to me
Take it away
Take it all away
The second poem was written in June of this year. As it clearly shows, my second love and my great love, proved to be more sensual. It was a more complete attraction that spanned all aspects of the human condition and made me feel more alive and happy than I ever thought I could be. In many ways, I see this relationship as the ultimate relationship and this individual as being the woman I’m “meant to be with”.
The Garden of Earthly Delights
When the passion of the moment’s upon us
And the treasure of the instant is here
The winds of desire howl
As we wait to merge like Earth and Sky
All enveloping, all consuming
The yearning, the anticipation
To be lost in your touch
Our breasts rising and falling
With each breath like thunder
As the rain begins to fall, cleansing us
The storm intensifies and the world is shaken
In the darkness, your eyes are illuminated by some inner glow
Your tender blossoming lips
So sweet with nectar
Dripping before me
Offering me a taste of heaven
How my hands do tremble
And my tongue is craving
To have a divine sample
Of the honey of your flesh
Like the early dew of the morning
You’re so sweet, succulent, and fresh
So, let me inhale your intoxicating fragrance
The pure scent of your voluptuous body’s breath
Then when your flower’s opened
To me and I am waiting and ready
For you, to take you, to have you
Bringing you closer that I may ravish you
And then willingly give into
The majesty of your body and soul
To take from you
Such great satisfaction
Lifting up your petals, sliding myself in
Exploring that which is sacred
So delicate, so strong, so precious
Within the comforting confines of your flesh
Save yourself for me, just wait, if you can
‘Til the time is ready for me to stride right in
And bless you with a gift of grace and power
‘Til you rise above me like a dark-haired angel
Who wears the stars in her eyes
During these hours, these days and nights
While we roam through the mysteries, so sensual
In this garden of Earthly delights
I will make love to you
And hold you close while you shake
With the seizures of pleasure that overtake you
While I give all I have to give to you, my forever love
The third poem was written about the third woman I love, with whom I shared a complex and often tumultuous relationship, in which we were bonded more by our psychological flaws and incompatibilities than by our strengths or similarities. This last relationship ended with her pulling away from me, and with me finally deciding that it could no longer go on as we had once hoped, and that the damage which was done was irreparable.
You’ve got electric eyes
And such a strange smirk upon your face
I cannot look away
There is something intriguing about you
I sense something unseen
A part of yourself never expressed before
This dark secret you keep
It calls out to me, drawing me like a moth to a flame
I want in
Access to your memories
A piece of your mind
You’re a precious tragedy
You’re so delicate and cold
Brittle and frigid like an icicle
So very fragile in my hands
If only my love could thaw your heart
Because you deserve more
Than this restless desire and dissatisfaction
And you’ll keep looking for more
Yet I could have been everything you need
Let me in
To your cool emotions
I can warm them for you
Because you’re so precious to me
Bathed in your chilly light
I see your exquisite features
Cleansed by the look in your eyes
They cast a light through the ice
I gaze past my own reflection into you
You’re here in my arms, yet still so distant
Won’t you move in closer to me
Beyond this numbing barrier of grief
This is completely disastrous
I cannot help it, but this is how I feel
We’re sinking together separately
Out of reach and lost to each other
In the cold and in the dark together
Unable to feel or heal or reconnect
I wish you
Had let me save you from yourself
Now we are both drowning, pulled in by our sins
Into the abyss go these once precious feelings