and Life and the little I know of it..
“We can live without sex, but we cannot live without love, and God is love.”
From The Irresistible Revolution
What is love?
Love is a subject I apparently know little to nothing about, just ask one of my closest friends.
‘What do you know a bout love eh? nada..’
Although I provoked the response, the accusation put forward does little to mobilise my personal defence. Rather than agree, object or reject this, all I can manage is to ponder the subject. Everyone likes to pretend they know what love is. There are many readings on love, love is god, love is a life-partner, love is raw beauty, love is transcendent, love is unconditional and there are now those that seek to revolutionise by attempting to ‘Occupy love‘. In the social jungle, it remains a subject we talk to great lengths about. Love as an illusion, a blog piece my friend Jasmine offers a feminist critique of what still remains to be a subject dominated by its masculine characterisation in our society. When does one become a professional to speak about love? Can we comparatively judge and compare the experience one has with love? Can we also clarify how one may go about this when the word struggles to attain a fixed agreed on definition? Or do we measure and therefore attribute value and meaning to the time one spends acting out, thinking or talking about love?
Many questions yet little in the way of definitive answers, theories and explanations. It’s no wonder that one can easily find themselves experiencing those inevitable and unavoidable headaches. Love, as such, becomes thrown into the abstract basket of uneasily navigated subjects, located deep inside the anthropological and philosophical labyrinth of the unknown. Love, as an abstract term has become socially synonymous, by no means of cognitive processing, with physical sexual behaviour. The abstract is complicated for humans; it is frustrating to deal with. It is time consuming and unpleasant. And so it must be made physically recognisable and yet another erroneous compromise. As all this does at best is perpetuate the dominant social characterisation of love: a desperate attempt to create something in a physical limited nature from a very abstract unfixed noun. Lacking objectivity, we search out individualist paths to fill the word, or surrender our struggle by accepting its social collectively defined form, delaying it for a rainy day. I can only offer my limited gaze insofar as to understand and critique my own feelings towards the subject matter. Luckily for me, the term neither is accountable to nada nor deserved any form of justice.
From a very young age I remember a discussion I had with my mother. As the centre of my world at that time in my life, I was attentive to her every word. One day, she was explaining to me that, there would come a time where I would leave the cherished family nest and make a life for myself out there. Out there in that unknown, which back then in my young undeveloped mind all the more distant. I was curious however and asked the question, why? What followed was the recitation of the all too common and popular rendition of love’s narrative. I had just been given my first explanation to the concept of human love. After all, my love introduction could have come from one of those scruffy junkies at Ringwood Station. One can only imagine those narrative possibilities. The story was the hegemonic and ideological one many may have also been told. The promise that one day we will find someone for whom we will love, it will be real, in that way we will just ‘know’, as it will occur at the right time, and it will result in lifelong marriage (note the verb tense: will). My innocent reaction followed, ‘Mum, I never want to get married; I want to stay with you here forever.’ The idea from a young age that there was a laid out path for love was like being trapped in your destiny, the book written, and the conclusion fixed. My second mentor on the subject would be my Grade 5 teacher, Mr Guinane. He was one of the quirkier teachers one could have, the type that knew how to make teaching bearable for himself by making us copy the lyrics from 70’s and 80’s songs in the form of handwriting classes. His input on the subject was one characterised by what I can only imagine as coming from a painful experience. ‘Boys, the best thing you can do is stay away from women, they’ll lie to you, then leave you for broke!’ being the crux of his advice.
Love is many things; in our westernised society above all it is socio-economic capital. Appropriated as a merchandising tool, it feeds our imagination, our desires and as such descends our hands into our pockets. This rapid, rampant and blatant commodification, frames love to be of a certain nature, to take on a certain character, a certain sensation or feeling that we all appear to want so badly. So much that we all buy it, and as such keeping those wheels of capitalism spinning madly. Looking no further than the modern day manifestations in our mediums of communication, love has a visible language discourse we have now all come to be familiar with. It’s this discourse that surfaces in advertising, themed in sitcoms, soap operas and serials. The word is coated all the more with a physical layer, that there is a means to this end, love, a means in which one must spend their way towards. Endless slogans, product appropriations, and physical characterisations of love, all commonly appear as synonyms for the physically appealing. At the end of the day however, one strips away this layer and we feel deceived by the process. The promise lacking fulfilment we ask where the ends are. Or better still, are we closer to them? All this consumption for nothing and we are all left depressed and agitated. The capitalist manipulation and exploitation has given love five senses for a fast buck. For me it is game over, yet most will press the restart button.
Now I come to my own interpretations and experiences of love. I have always been sceptical of this so-called need for the other person, the life partner. Is it by nature that we are born incomplete? Biological Philosophy would not support that claim. When I think of this, all I can say that I wasn’t born with was a vagina, and after finding out about those in early adolescence, I was pretty happy things turned out that way. Growing up, the first person that gave me the window of which I could view the love process came in the form of my only sister. She was doomed to the fate of a turbulent adolescence, surrounded by 4 brothers hardly helping. She first left home at the age of 14, and from around the same time, her life consisted of an ebb and flow of various boyfriends. Each varying in personality from one to the next, towards each she appeared to show lots of affection and seriousness. Indeed many times I believed she may have found or be experiencing, love. With each break-up, the impact would trigger serious mental health breakdowns, provoking manic behaviour, from suicide attempts to physical body deterioration. The complications of love became to be embodied in the tribulations of my sister on one hand, and somehow trying to reassure myself that the version of love’s narrative my mother had taught me was still a possibility. From here, love became a concept that would slowly alienate itself from me, growing further and distant as the years of adolescence passed by.
Sex and love as we know are too separate terms that occasionally come together. Sex is purely physical, and so is experienced and explored for most long before love may appear on the scene. Sex was another thing that as an adolescent eluded me. And whilst my friends at high school each lost their virginity as the months passed by, I abstained, and forced myself into self-imposed social isolation. It’s at this point that my inaction and abstinence of girlfriends and sexual activity would arouse suspicion of my sexual orientation. How could I explain that I didn’t want this, or that right now this did not interest me? I couldn’t even contemplate it fully myself, let alone to others. Social suicide would have been putting forward the honest truth would be to admit that I hadn’t arrived there yet. But back then, social pressures are all the more complex and difficult to deal with. The subject of my sexuality horribly forced on me, abstinence on the issue could not be reasoned. And so, a side from being alienated from the idea of a sex and love, I became alienated from my own sexuality. As a direct result from not participating in the normal, the adventures of adolescent sexuality, I fell into a trap, and consequently became alienated from my own liberal voluntary exploration. With the organic process of sex, love and sexuality corrupted by outside forces beyond my control, it seemed easier to forget and block it out, if not for the time being. Love now dispelled from the mind, the vacuum came to be filled with part time work, learning French, and preparing a student exchange year, itself an opportunity to escape the box I was finding myself in.
The order in which love is experienced usually precludes long periods of sexual attraction, flirtation and action, but love it seems comes later along down the line. And then we start to become acquainted with the individual mental complication of whether or not one is experiencing love. But the narrative I was told was the reverse, and so is this what I am actually looking for? Is this no longer realistic? Why can’t love come first and the boxes fill themselves out afterwards. It’s the only way I saw it, I would wait for the right feelings, with the right person. It would not be the mainstream one, and that was perfectly fine. Where so many choose a sexual orientation, then target the sexually attractive, then seek out sexual behaviour, then see if they can stand each others company longer than a week, only hanging out to see whether the love drug kicks in. It’s a formula with a high rate of failure, lots of trial and error, but one that many fall back on. In this way, the social love formula becomes perpetuated by so many.
And then there are demands society places on the individual. As social beings, the subject is omnipresent. Something must be done about it, and that’s left up to us. Which brings me back to the beginning and the crux of this short mental brainstorm of what I conceive love to be. I feel like it is first a feeling, a feeling that bestows a power to transform the individual in which they start to see the world in a uniquely positive and different manner, an internal change, permanent or temporal, but indeed important. This feeling causes changes for the better and far from completing us will enhance or broaden the perspectives we have on reality. Do I believe in one right person, at the right time to end in a long marriage? Well I can’t say. Nor can I object to the idea, after all it is rather comforting. However, life is not supposed to be comfortable, and pretending it is distances oneself from the real. In fact it’s the discomfort and struggle that has largely defined my identity, and for many no doubt, and internally this struggle is embodied in none other than the relationship I have with love.
My first offering on the subject is small, and at best insignificant. When people question me, I want them to question me as a process. We are the subjects of our own narrative. For subjects such as ourselves, love spreads itself along a horizontal plane, and whoever can make vertical sense of it for the moment is only out there in that world of the celestial and supernatural. I will ‘Occupy Love’ for a time to come, as it exists. By embracing that which exists, we enrich the lived human experience. A first year course I took at university entitled ‘Understanding Asia’ concluded with the fact that we cannot define ‘Asia’. And so therefore it would be pointless to draw out any conclusions.
Much the same I feel, goes for the subject of love.