I’m going to depart from tradition today and talk instead about love. Before you write this off as a sentimental post-Valentine’s Ode to Joy, I’ll take a moment to assure you that that’s not what I have planned. Instead, I’d like you to cast your minds back to the post I metaphorically penned on Thursday, in which I described the lecture I’d had that day and our discussions about love being either an emotion or a state of being. I’ve thought about it on and off since then and would like to share my thoughts. What follows will merely be my thoughts and musings rather than in-depth Philosophical study.
So. Is love an emotion or a state of being? In my lecture we were asked to listen to a previously unknown piece and assign an emotion to it, by way of evaluating whether or not music has inherent meaning. In response, I said that the music made me think of love, and this prompted the good natured debate about whether love is an emotion or a state of being (my lecturer was in the latter camp). I was adamant that is an emotion but, upon reflection, I am inclined to say that it is both.
Perhaps the distinction lies in the word ’emotion’. When I think of an emotion, I think of it as being a strong feeling. Have a look at the definitions below:
Emotion. (n): A strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.
Feeling. (n): An emotional state or reaction.
Well, that clears things up! An emotion is a strong feeling and a feeling is an emotional state. Excellent!
When I think of the word ‘love’, I think of it in emotional terms, such as:
– I love you.
– I love chocolate.
– I love freesias.
– I have so much love to give.
Perhaps our use of ‘love’ is therefore too liberal. Obviously you don’t love chocolate in the same way as you love a person or even a pet. If you were unable to have chocolate ever again (and you loved it) then you might feel pretty darn sad. But if you could never again see your favourite person in the world (whom you loved) then that sadness would be on a whole new spectrum. It’s incomparable. So perhaps part of the issue is the frequency with which we use the term. To love something or someone is entirely different from a very strong liking.
But, I can’t remove the emotion from that. Love is a feeling. A strong one. It sits in our core and radiates like a fire, flutters like a butterfly. It causes other feelings by proxy, such as happiness and excitement, or that achy feeling you get when you miss someone more than you thought possible. If we then think of it as a state of being then we might say, ‘I am in love’ or ‘I love X’. I think that the ‘in’ could make all the difference here. By using ‘in’ we give it a temporal edge and suggest a time and a place. If you are in love, then that occupies a timeline of when you started being in love and, perhaps, when you’ll stop. There’s a before and maybe an after and you’re situated along that spectrum, which causes love to evolve into a state of being.
But surely to be in love and to be in that ‘state’, is to feel all of the above emotions? To be in love is to feel love. You it doesn’t make sense to be in love without the presence of the emotion. So if love is a state of being then surely it must also be an emotion? Perhaps, then, they are two sides of the same coin and not polar opposites, as we might first think.
Of course, love doesn’t have to be romantic. There’s an excellent quote in the film of The English Patient that I shall direct your attention to:
Katharine: I wanted to meet the man who could write such a long paper with so few adjectives.
Almásy: Well, a thing is still a thing no matter what you place in front of it. Big car, slow car, chauffeur-driven car.
Clifton: A broken car?
Almásy: Still a car.
Clifton: Not much use though.
Katharine: Love, romantic love, platonic love, filial love, quite different things surely?Clifton: Uxoriousness, that’s my favorite kind of love – excessive love of one’s wife!
Almásy: Now there, you have me.
Can love be a state of being if it is platonic? I feel enormous love and affection for my parents, my brother, my two oldest friends… Can love still be considered a state of being if it is of the non-romantic kind?
As with all of these things there are innumerable ways of thinking. These are my thoughts and they have prompted much pondering and self-enquiry and have undoubtedly raised more questions! I would be interested to hear your thoughts in return… Feel free to leave a comment below and join in with the discussion.