“I love you” she/he/they said. What did she/he/they mean?
People often break love down into four main types: friendship love, familial love, romantic love, and spiritual or Godly love. But surely there’s a common element within those loves — if they all truly deserve the label of “love”.
Friendship love implies affection, attachment, enjoyment of the loved one’s company, loyalty, and a devotion to the loved one’s well-being. Familial love follows the same basic formula, but the bonds are often deeper and less conditioned upon how well the loved one treats the lover or how much the two have in common (outside of the love).
Romantic love is trickier. I say I love you, but within that I mean that I want to tackle you and romp with you naked and madcap upon my bed. I say I love you, but I want to have your body and the part of your mind/heart attached to sexual pleasure and affection all to myself. I say I love you, but in the same breath I whisper that I need you, that I cannot go on without you. I say I love you and want to make you happy and satisfy all your needs, but I’m assuming you will do the same for me. I say I love you and no one else, but love isn’t supposed to be so selfish, so clubbish, so isolating.
Romantic love implies affection, attachment, enjoyment of the loved one’s company, loyalty, a devotion to the loved one’s well-being, but also something like a cut that one refuses to let scab over — a cut where the loved one is the balm and no other balm will do.
Of course, all lovers (romantic or not) makes themselves vulnerable: lovers always put themselves in a position to delight in the loved one’s delights, but also to be hurt whenever the loved one is hurt. This is the price paid for opening oneself up to another.
But romantic lovers also put themselves in a position to be hurt if the other finds a different life with a different lover — even if that new life and love is actually better for the loved one. Granted: this is not unique to romantic lovers: it can happen in friendships or even in families. What’s tricky about romantic love is the desperation and fickleness of the sexual urges: Today I say I love you and you alone, but if tomorrow I stop desiring your body, then within a week or three I start saying I just want to be friends, and I begin to dream of a replacement to give myself body/mind/heart/soul to. Maybe I still love you, but what had made our love romance was our need to share sexual fire, and isn’t sexual fire largely dependent upon sexual attraction?
But why should I stop desiring you? What is it about you I desire most? Isn’t it the laughter in your heart? Romantic love is tricky: it is founded upon physical attraction, but via the loving of body/heart/mind upon body/heart/mind, the lovers float outside of their mundane selves — this is like a drug trip but also like a spiritual journey; and that’s just the trickiness of romantic love: the way it mixes the sacred and profane so completely and with so much exploding energy.
Godly love is like the others except that Godly love alone grasps who the lover and the loved one truly are, and what is truly best for everyone. Godly love is the love that God has for everyone.
We only truly love to the degree we are grounded in Pure Love, aka Godly Love, aka the Wise Light that shines in and through all things. To the degree we do not know who we are, we don’t relate meaningfully to anyone else. To the degree we do not know who the lover is, we love empty fantasies. To the degree we do not know what is best for ourselves and others, our love is again directed at emotional stories instead of the supposed loved one. There is no real love without real wisdom.
Sometimes people argue that there’s no such thing as God, or Pure Love, or the Wise Light — that those are just human concepts based on extrapolating human ideas and longings. This type of reasoning is self-defeating because people cannot help but assume they are making meaningful choices in their lives, and that implies an inherent faith in an Absolute Reality. [For more on this see note at the end of article.]
Godly Love / Pure Love / spiritual love is the prerequisite for any real love. To the degree you lack spiritual love, you lack the whole-being insight necessary to actually love anyone.
So what is Pure Love? Is Pure Love identical with God? Do we Love Purely to the degree we are in tune with God? What is God?
Human knowledge about the Absolute Reality is necessarily limited. We are finite; It isn’t. But even imperfect and ultimately indescribable whole-being insight into what is really going on and what really matters would be very useful.
So how do we gain whole-being insight into Pure Love? How do we orientate our feeling/thinking/acting towards Pure Love so that we flow more and more coherently off of Pure Love into lives that are more and more effectively and joyfully kind?
Traditionally, wisdom seekers pray, meditate, practice loving kindness, study inspired texts, and join a faith community where they work with others to better meet their individual and shared spiritual goals. That approach has worked for many people for many years. But obviously, not all dogmas are created equal, and even within a religious group, some practitioners clearly gain more insight into the essential Truth than others; and there are also many examples of people not particularly affiliated with any religion — perhaps even inclined to disbelieve in God and any metaphysical Reality — who still manage a fundamentally sound grasp of the underlying Reality, the proof being that they live aware honest joyful effective kind.
What grows wisdom? How to organize one’s thoughts and feelings better and better around the Light shining through all things — the Light / Love that alone Knows that and in what sense it is True to say “we’re all in this together”? What makes for a more successful spiritual quest?
Pure Love is not our ideas and feelings about Pure Love. How do we meaningfully relate our ideas and feelings to Pure Love without confusing those ideas and feelings with Pure Love / God / That Which Cannot Be Doubted? Claiming we have no way to gain insight into Pure Love leads to nihilism, but so does pretending our own notions and longings are the Truth / Pure Love / That Which Cannot Be Doubted. How to get the balance right? I guess we need to keep coming back to the starting point: “In what sense is it True that we are all in this together? How can I live more aware honest competent joyful kind?” We could keep spiritual journals, recording each day how well we treated ourselves and others, and how aware/clear/honest we felt/thought our way through the day. We could add to this something like prayer, meditation, quiet, reflection, and friends who share our interest in finding a way to be both decent and happy — a way towards more and more kind joy.
All good ideas. But this article is supposed to answer the question, “What is love”? Well? What is it?
|Love the verb| is active all-uplifting empathy, and empathy requires wisdom. Loving someone (including yourself) is recognizing, delighting in and suffering with, supporting and lifting up the whole of that someone — meaning most fundamentally their essential self. But perceiving peoples’ essential selves requires wisdom.
A person’s ability to truly love is dependent upon their wisdom — upon their *whole-being insight* into |Pure Love the noun| ( = the Light shining through all things that alone Knows what is really going on). But that Pure Love is actually both a noun and a verb, since It is Itself: an infinite expanse of joyful all-uplifting kind-delight.
To the degree a human’s love is true, that human is Pure Love — they’ve surrendered their feeling/thinking/acting to that noun/verb and are overtaken by an infinite expanse of joyful all-uplifting kind-delight. It also follows that to the degree one loves anyone, they love everyone (because the Pure Love does).
[*Whole-being insight: ideas, feelings, and etc. relating meaningfully (though of course imperfectly) to the Light shining through all things (including every conscious moment).]
Love is also a decision. I decide to accept your whole-being with my whole-being. But human ideas and feelings are not strong enough to commit like that. The decision is made by Pure Love, which always makes the decision to only love (to only be Itself).
So what is love? The action of accepting/embracing/uplifting? An infinite ever expanding acceptance/embrace/uplift? The decision to accept/embrace/uplift? It is all of those things at once and the more our minds/hearts are turned towards the Love shining through all things, the more that Love captures our minds/hearts and makes what it decides/does/is what we decide/do/are.
What should we do? How should we proceed. Essays about love and Pure Love are one thing; living love via an ever-deepening relationship with Pure Love is another.
Optional Note on Doubting the Existence of the “Truth”:
Sometimes people argue that there’s no such thing as God, or Pure Love, or the Wise Light — that those are just human concepts based on extrapolating human ideas and longings. This type of reasoning is self-defeating. While concepts like “God” and “Pure Love” and the “Wise Light” and “True Goodness” must by their nature ultimately point beyond what human ideas and feelings can understand, if such concepts are not pointing in the direction of something like a “Truth”, or if our minds cannot relate meaningfully to such concepts, then we are hopelessly adrift. It isn’t just that life would be ultimately meaningless: our own thoughts and actions are not even meaningful to us individual human beings to the degree we lack meaningful insight into Reality. This is because a human’s thought/action assumes Reality: we cannot help but assume some choices are actually preferable to other choices (which implies something is actually really truly going on [aka: Reality]). We can pretend we don’t believe anything truly matters, but all that does is confuse our thought: at the top it is telling itself nothing matters or it has no idea whether or not anything matters, but at the core it is still operating under the assumption that something is really going on and some directions are actually better than others and it must figure out how to best maneuver itself so that it moves towards the actually-better.
For more on the philosophy within this piece, see the Something Deeperism Institute. And/Or consider purchasing A Readable Reader (start here) or First Essays (if you like the essays in A Readable Reader [which also includes stories and poems]). Superhero Novella works with many of the same themes, but it’s a novella: metaphysical pulp fiction. (also available at !Buy the Books!)
Author: Charles von Bohem
[See “John of Charles” in either A Readable Reader (start here) or First Loves (if you like the stories about manufacture Pure Love in A Readable Reader) for more Charles von Bohem
Editors: Bartleby Willard & Amble Whistletown
Copyright: AM Watson