Amor vincit omnia
What is love? Like wind, love can be felt but can’t be defined. It is a feeling which has no form. It is power and at the same time pang. It is longing and belonging. Love is abstract. Love is Christ’s self-lessness and at the same time Narcissus’s self-indulgence.
If your hear skips a beat at someone’s thought, that is love. If you feel pain for others, that is love. If you care for your parents and children, that is love. If you see beauty in the blushing shut of day, that is love.
Love is romance, love is friendship, love is brotherhood. Love is indelible.
Love is a mystery. We do not love the weakness of others, but we love the weak and the infirm. A mere meeting of eyes or the mind unites two souls.
Shakespeare in his sonnet says:
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 wandering 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.
Love is as old as the human race. It existed between Adam and Eve. It was what Greeks call ‘eros’, a romantic attachment of one sex for the other. And since then, every one worth his/her heart has fallen prey to Cupid’s arrow at some point of time.
When someone whispers ‘I love you’ in your ears or when eyes meet eyes, the tumult that it generates is more powerful than the sea in spate. It is a unique feeling of bliss and agony. If your lover or beloved is with you, it seems you have conquered the world. If he/she is away from you, the time becomes a burden. Lysander in Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” aptly sums up, “the course of true love never did run smooth.” (1.1.134).
Lysander pines for Hermia:
I mean, that my heart unto yours [is] knit, So that but one heart we can/ make if it; Two bosoms interchained with an oath, So then two bosoms and/single troth. Then by your side no bed-room me deny; For lying so,/ Hermia, I do not lie” – (A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 2.2.47-52).
Romantic love defies logic. He/she may not be beautiful in others’ eyes, but beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. He/she may not have the best of qualities, but love-interest becomes the most ideal person. That is why love is said to be blind.
When Romantic love transcends physical barrier and turns metaphysical, it becomes Platonic. The feeling here is much different from what one gets in Romantic attachment. It is a kind of intellectual bonding between two friends. The feelings of jealousy and pining so common in Romantic love are missing here. In Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet”, the protagonist’s bond with his best friend Horatio is the finest example of platonic love.
Plato put philosophy in love. The beauty of the moon or the twilight of sunset too evokes feelings in us. This is Platonic love. As William Wordsworth in “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” said:
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
Spenser’s “Hymn in Honor of Beauty,” Shelley’s “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty,” and Wordsworth’s “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” express Platonic Love.
Attachment and affection are but the manifestations of love. These are best manifested in familial love or what Greeks called ‘storge.’ Familial love is self-less. Parents care for their offspring unconditionally. We love our parents for what they are and what they have done for us. A motherly caress soothes the worst of pains. A child looks up to his/her father as a pillar of support, a tower of strength and an ideal person to emulate. When a father places a goodnight kiss on the forehead of his daughter who has fallen asleep in his arms, this is the purest form of familial love.
Starting with parents, a person’s love spreads out to society and to animals.
The love between Guinevere and King Arthur is familial love as contrasted against the passionate love between Guinevere and Sir Lancelot. Hamlet’s love for his mother Gertrude as opposed to romantic love for Ophelia, daughter of Polonius, is an example of familial love.
Thus we see that love is an inherent nature of all creatures. Its dimensions and forms may vary, but the emotion and feelings remain the same. A pet poodle wagging its tail, a cat rubbing its back against its keeper’s legs are all expressions of love. Two star-crossed lovers cuddled up on a beach on a sunny day, a person helping an old and infirm neighbor cross the road, a son or daughter taking care of his/her parents, a father/mother helping a young one with his/her walking are all manifestations of love.
We human beings have the mental superiority over other creatures so we express more vividly our feelings by penning love poems for the beloved or the lover, by putting on canvas the beauty of nature, by celebrating Mother’s and Father’s days.
To conclude we can agree with Virgil’s dictum, “Amor vincit omnia” (Love conquers all).
- Philosophy of love. http://www.iep.utm.edu/l/love.htm
- Shakespeare, William. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
- Shakespeare, William. Sonnet 116.