The Many Ways to Love

Love is hard to define. There’s two reasons something can be hard to define; on the one hand, it could be due to the concept being very complicated, so the difficulty is inherent to the thing itself. On the other hand, it could be due to deficiencies in the language. Words are how we categorize our internal ideas allowing us to communicate them to others. Every language does so in different ways, with both positive and negative results. All this is to say the English does a shit job with the concept of Love. I believe this has caused much difficulty with how we engage with this emotion and it’s certainly caused me difficulties in communicating my feelings. Love, as we call it in English, should really be a series of related words.

There’s the unconditional love you feel towards your blood relations (exceptions abound; Syadasti). This definitely varies in strength from family to family. For the majority of us though there is at least one family member we love. From an evolutionary point of view, it’s the most obviously advantageous.

The love one feels towards their progeny is a more potent version of this. It’s distinguished by an almost unreasonable amount of forgiveness and the urge to protect the object of love. Many people love their parents but few love them more than they are loved in return.

People love their pets. Those of us who haven’t had pets may not understand this but it’s love. On the other hand, no matter what we may say, non-human animals can’t love in the same way a human does. So this type of love is by definition one sided. This doesn’t mean it’s a lesser form, it’s just distinct in this fashion. Hell, I don’t see why you would even put these on a scale to compare them; they’re words, it would be absurd.

Platonic love is that friendly love you have for the people closest to you but whom you aren’t necessarily intimate with. For many of us it’s the best balance of long lasting while still being very potent. Intimate love is more complicated and can end much more quickly. Best friends in love can stick through a lot together.

And lastly the common definition of love, Intimate Love. This bond can be the most potent of human emotions. When you’re in love with someone and you really click with them, your mental feedback loops sync up. You get taken to the most magnificent highs when together. Life feels fundamentally different. And therefore the crash from the high is the most severe. This is not a soulmate. This is not necessarily monogamous.

I’ve intentionally only discussed the types I feel are common. One that I omitted, because I don’t know if anyone else feels it, is something I call proto-love. It’s this feeling I get when I know someone well enough to see that I could definitely fall in love with them, given more time. It’s dangerous because it can easily lead to falling in love with a fictional version of the person that only exists in your head. I’ve talked about this very pitfall as it relates to Intimate Love, but in this case it can be far more pronounced. The other problem is if you’re like me, you may have trouble differentiating it from Intimate Love. It leads to some awkward conversations.

Shards of Personality

There’s this element to the Strange Loop concept of consciousness, where people you care for very deeply become permanently attached to you. If you visualize a conversation with someone, you are guessing.. . estimating how they will act. This is necessarily inaccurate, you will never contain all of their decision making abilities within your own mind. But the fidelity of their “mind” increases as you know them better. Someone you loved intensely for a long period of time will have a complex replica residing inside your brain. When the person in question is gone from your life (for whatever reason, be it physical, social, mortal, etc) this shard of personality remains.

Over the years this thought process will change as you change. Your own mind will shift who they are by repeated thoughts. This person replica will diverge from the real person. If they’re still alive, then it will diverge even faster due to the actual person changing In their own random fashion.

But in some absurd way There’s this piece of them that forever lives in you.

What the replica ultimately becomes is your concept of that person. A fictional character you’ve made up. This is why it can be so easy to hate someone who’s betrayed you, or love someone who was taken to early. You’re writing a story in your head, so of course the characters are going to have a potent emotional impact on You. They were literally made  for you. It’s weird, in a sense our brains are built to feel the strongest toward the people around us less. The ones we think about but spend less time with, they will become the most of whatever they were. The kindest, the cruelest, the funniest, the bravest.

Everyone is better when they’re a fiction. Everyone is worse when they’re a fiction. Real humans are just far too complex when they’re real.

The Wrong Decision

Sometimes you all you can do is write. Or at least that’s true for me. Maybe you have some different way to cope with these errant thoughts.

I feel more acutely that I’m missing out on the world. That I’m isolated from people. It makes me desperate and then ashamed of being desperate. I can’t let people see it or they’d leave. It’s too much emotion, it’s too strong. So I compartmentalize it. I shut it off. Then I appear neutral or bland or boring.

Sometimes it’s better to not being in control of your life. Sometimes mistakes are what need to be made.

I was asked a hypothetical question once, which I’ve never gotten out of my mind. Have you ever regretted making the right decision? As in, did you make a decision based on your own moral principles, but you wished you had gone against them. Not in a situation where you’ve now changed your opinion on what was moral, but to actually regret living up to your own standards of goodness.

When I was first asked I’d have said no, that my morality is far too important to me.

Now I’m not so sure.

What about you?

Eulogies; the Bain of the living

A friend of mine recently had an interesting birthday idea that involved friends writing eulogies for them. It got me thinking on the idea of eulogies, specifically how they help us cope with life. Looking at life from the perspective of being dead is a far better view than we often take. A Eulogy makes decent peoples lives sound worth it. They don’t have to write a bestseller, become a famous artist or a grand inventor; they just need to have lived a good life. It shows what’s really meaningful in life; to have been a positive influence on those around you.

I’d often advise against seeing ones life from the view of being dead but that’s because of a particular pitfall I’ve seen often. It’s when you get too wrapped up in the idea of making your life into a story. You are not a story. Stories are fiction, they are not real. Stories about real people are still fiction, it’s just that there’s a massive amount of editing going on (how often are George Washington’s bowel movements mentioned?)

In a circular way, this flawed view from fiction is what necessitates the value of the view from death. We learn about so many great people in history or in the current media and we idolize them. Fame is, by definition, not something we can all achieve. We often forget this, seeing the good, yet common life as a failure.

Fictionalizing your own life can lead to very negative behaviour due to this disconnect. Eulogizing a living person can show you the value of being average. It’s good so long as you understand the caveat.