By David Jones
When I think about the question, “What is love?” I do my absolute Virgo best to overthink it.
And then I try to write everything I can ever say about the subject, so that I don’t look back at it and go, “Crud! I didn’t mention that one thing that one guy said! It was so important! My week is ruined now. I’m going to eat pizza.”
One of the things my fiancée tells me is, “David: short version.” That way I don’t fall prey to overthinking and overstating.
So, with that in mind, the short version:
Love is connection.
A definition of “connection” is a link or relationship between people. To connect, then, is to bring these people together so that the link or relationship can form.
There are a lot of types of love in the world, a lot of levels to experience, a lot of ways to express it. So there are many types of connections between people and things—many levels, many expressions.
Love as a feeling is a good place to start. A mother who looks at her child and feels some bond—connection—can call that love. People who become romantically connected are said to be in love. An emotional connection to a book, a food, a place, a song, or whatever is most often expressed as, “I love that!”
Physical love is clearly about connection. Tied up in the senses, physical love seeks to connect through smell, taste, sound, sight and perhaps especially, touch. The tingle, the burn, the jolt, the warmth of another’s touch is all about that moment of connection. And while sex can be very disengaged (disconnected), making love unites physically and emotionally.
In religion, love can be a less apparent bond. For example (since my primary religious grounding is Judeo-Christian) 1 John 4:8 makes the bold statement, “Whoever doesn’t love doesn’t know God. That’s because God is love.”
This statement stands on the belief that God loved man first by sending His son to redeem mankind. But other Scriptures make it clear that men and women loved God long before Jesus was born. What gives?
While volumes could be filled explaining it all, let’s stick with basics by re-wording the verse above: “Whoever isn’t connected doesn’t know God. That’s because God is connection.” Basically God was separated from man through sin, so God made his son available as a redeemer so that man and God could mutually love (be connected).
Romans 8:37-39 clarify that notion further, showing that absolutely nothing could show up and separate (or sever the connection of) man from God’s love. Ephesians 4:2-3 equates love with unity and bond. It’s not difficult to read these verses, substitute “connection” and its forms for “love,” and still maintain the flavor and meaning of the teachings.
Although religious love is generally framed in dogma and writings, a spiritual connection exists unrestricted by anything concrete and codified. It’s the love and the connection between people, between animals, across species, across time and space and differences, that defines a spiritual love.
In the Bible, the faithful are exhorted to love their enemies, choosing connection over division. A religious person does this due to instruction; a spiritual person does so without being told to from outside. It comes by truly realizing the love and the connection that exists between us all. It isn’t necessarily something that needs to be formed, but rather recognized as already existing.
What is love?
When Foreigner made their musical statement I Want To Know What Love Is, it stood as a mood piece for everyone who wondered if maybe they didn’t really know what love was. After all the heartache and pain, some could be reasonably certain that love (especially true love) was a myth that wasn’t worth pursuing anymore.
It’s when people don’t meet your expectations for your definition of what love is supposed to be, when you start to sour on matters of the heart.
But by seeing that it’s all just about connection, maybe the old preconceived expectations can fall away and lead us to a healthy view of love. We can decide for ourselves to embrace the truth of love and connection, no matter how others treat us.
That, my friends, is the glory of love. (Thank you, Peter Cetera)
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David Jones has a 27-year career with the United States government. He encountered mindfulness in therapy for his endangered marriage (which had led to anxiety-based depression and dissociative disorder symptoms), and writes about the experience in his blog as well as articles in various publications. He started writing articles about mindfulness for Yahoo Voices under the brand: A Mindful Guy.
Editor: Dana Gornall