February 1, 2021 - Romantics say love is a yearning for someone, an insatiable longing to care. Intellectuals explain it as a function of the brain, the master of all emotions.   And while poets and songwriters wax lyrical about this “most wondrous feeling of all,” love story movies take  at least two hours to show that love is truly “a  many splendored thing.”

So what is this most wondrous feeling of all?  Although almost every man and woman may have experienced a kind of love in their lifetime, there is no single universal definition of love that can be applied to everyone, anytime, anywhere.  Love is difficult to define because there are just too many kinds of love depending on who is loving whom or what and why, where, when and how. Or maybe as someone summed it up: Love is too good for words.  

English poetess Elizabeth Barrett Browning expresses how to love best in “How do I love Thee” but it does not really define love.

I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Love’s Philosophy” argues that “All the world is in intimate contact – water, wind, mountains, moonbeams, even flowers.” Still, his examples do not define love.

Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine?

Romantic story teller and poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his “Love” refers to his love as:

“And she was there, my hope, my joy,
My own dear Genevieve!”

Poet and writer of tales of the macabre Edgar Allan Poe sees true love in “Annabelle Lee” as:

And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

Scottish poet Robert Burns beautifully describes love and its intensity in “A Red, Red Rose” but still comes short of a universal definition of love.

O my Luve is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.

So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

The bard William Shakespeare comes closest to defining love in his sonnet “Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds” where he writes:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Songwriters are even more enthusiastic in singing about love. They detail the miraculous feeling of euphoria, the depths of loneliness, the ups and downs of joy and heartache and the heavenly bliss when love is returned.

The Beatles John Lennon in “Love” – Love is wanting to be loved, needing to be loved…

French composer Francis Lai in “Love Story” – She fills my heart with very special things, with angel songs and wild imaginings, she fills my soul…

Singer Johnny Mathis in “The Twelfth of Never” – I love you till the poets run out of rhyme

Elvis Presley in “Love me Tender” – You have made my life complete… all my dreams fulfill…

Despite what scientists, academics, romantics, poets and songwriters say, love is neither a function of the brain nor the heart.  True love is not the result of a mental process or the cardiac flippity-flop of a racing heart.  There are no step-by-step instructions to find love.

 Love, though most privately meaningful of sentiments,   comes from an external source, sort of like a blessing or grace.  Some may even call it luck or karma, fate – like meeting the right heartthrob at the right time when both of you are in the mood for love and ready to commit to a lifelong partnership no matter what.

 In reality, love simply happens to you. Especially if you have an acute susceptibility to amoritis and a vulnerability to pain because of a willingness to feel and get involved.

Under such circumstances, people just fall in love.  And like any fall, it happens unexpectedly, suddenly and involuntarily – like tripping over a rock and stumbling to the ground. The phrase “fall in love” aptly describes this act of loving and there’s no better word to describe it than a fall – dropping suddenly, rapidly, beyond one’s control.  

As most lovers have discovered through time, falling in love is a constant source of pleasure and pain. The feeling is so deeply euphoric and powerful that it is indescribable, incredible, unexplainable, unbelievable and therefore undefinable. And that’s why there’s no universal definition for it. One simply must experience it to know what it is.  So to all who are still waiting for the love of their life to happen, take heart and enjoy this Valentine’s Day. And may true love happen to you soon. ERL


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