A few years ago in high school, I got into a class discussion about the idea of love.
My teacher said “Someone define love?”
“Doesn’t anyone want to have a try? There is no punishment if you get it wrong because there is no simple and exactly correct answer,” She said.
Still no response.
“Tell you what. I’ll define it, and you guys raise your hands if you agree. Okay?”
“Okay. Love is that feeling you get when you meet the right person.” Oy. Everyone’s hands went up including me.
Love partakes in our every day lives. Our behaviors, decisions, and actions reflect our idea of love. Kissing our spouse, dropping our kids to school, and posting a note on the fridge saying “Sweetheart, I’ll be home late” illustrate some of the ways to show our love to others. Love surrounds us through songs with lyrics that tell us of different kinds of love and through ads and billboards that display pictures capturing moments of love.
What is love? We have always been encountering this question since our childhood days. There will be no satisfactory answer in this question for its meaning is relative. It depends merely on the person, of what he thinks about love. According to Margaret Mary Hughes, different people and religions offered so many definitions of love with respect to various angles. Still, Hughes came up with her own definition. She defined love as an intense intimacy between two people experiencing total independence from each other (Hughes 25).
Based on a dictionary definition, a strong, emotional attraction towards another person, resulting from admiration and a feeling superior to kindness and devotion (Farlex [please insert the page number here]) identifies love. On the other hand, St. Thomas Aquinas defined love in his Dante Alighieri’s Divine as the principle behind the actions toward the love object (Allen 243). In today’s society, people want to receive love from others as well as showing own love to important ones. Although everyone wants love, values of love can have huge variations among different people, regarding their age, gender, culture, and society.
Out of the above five features that may have an effect on love, society is a big component that affects people’s values. In India, for instance, under the rules of the caste system, one should only marry someone from the same class because of the strict prohibition for it (Paz 146-147). For most of the people, social norms have a huge impact on their values and people internalized those values for different versions of definition. Given different time periods, people hold different values. For example, people in the Colonial Period may not accept marriage between two families that have huge variation in social economic status. In other words, the rich should not marry the poor. Also, most of the African Americans had lower social status as they worked as slaves. Society would not allow the landlords, mainly Caucasians, to marry the blacks. When compared to current society, contemporary values are not as conservative, and a lot of poor people married to the rich ones. Furthermore, we do not see a lot of restrictions on marriage between ethnic groups.
Culture also contributes differently to the variations of love. Some cultures claim to be more conservative, and others can be very open-minded. Variation between cultures, when speaking of the opinion on gay couples, names an example. Generally considered conservative on this matter compared to Americans are the Asians. Even though everyone says that there isn’t anything wrong with gay/lesbians, in Asia, gays/lesbians could never act like the “normal” couple. Imagine that a gay couple, in an Asian setting, holds their hands in public. They would feel so much tension as everyone would just look at the couple with colored glasses. Gay couples would not receive as much tension as they would if they do that in America. This difference in culture may have an impact such that people in Asia would stick to the more “traditional” way of love as the Americans are more open in variations.
On a personal note, I believe that love knows no end. It evolves like how human society progresses. For example, formal courtships rarely manifest in today’s teenagers. Most of the traditional ways and steps of asking a girl out no longer exists with boys of today’s generation. The emergence of different forms of technology also contributed the changes in the way a person expresses love. Through the internet and text messaging, people send love quotes, electronic love letters and cards to their loved ones. In this regard, we can infer that love adapts to the dynamic changes in our modern society.
Social factors which complicate experiences on love can still be the same elements discussed in the “second element of love”. These factors still prevent some not to experience love. For instance, the Caste system is still present in India. Moreover, we remain subjected to the culture, norms and traditions of the society we involve in, and we tend to align our actions, behaviors, and decisions on love according to what they dictate.
Though some societies have overcome racism, it continues to be a contingent factor that may prevent love. People should accept that inequality still lingers in every society. In choosing the person to love and marry, many people still value social status or rank.
Falling in love with the person of the same sex stays accepted though some still consider it a taboo. Through the emergence of sectors representing and fighting for the rights of gay and lesbian people, society has become more open-minded on their views regarding the third sex. Some countries even legalize same sex marriage.
The Nazis were long defeated by the Americans after the World War II and we have heard of intercultural marriages. Love breaks down barriers set by cultures and race. Political intervention in love does not apply in many of today’s societies. Although Chinese tradition requires the Chinese to marry only those who have dominant Chinese blood, many Chinese no longer adhere to this tradition.
On the other hand, love takes place in different forms. People experience different kinds of love, depending on the object of affection. It could be love a father feels for her daughter or otherwise. It could be an affection felt by a person for his pet. As mentioned, love can be shown in various ways.
Richard White described four different kinds of love based on the four most basic love expressions. These include romantic love, friendship love, parental love, and love for humanity. These different kinds of love anchored to the degree and extent of commitment one have toward something (140).
Friendship love permanently exists to support our moral and self growth (White 140). The love that we feel towards friends fosters camaraderie and enriches ones individuality. It encourages moral growth because the values they cherish most likely reflects the values that can be seen as important. There lies truth behind the statement, “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” Friends reflect someone’s attitude and personality. Someone’s personality can be improved by taking a look at the attributes his or her friends have and analyze if something can be further enhanced.
Love for humanity allows us to have that feeling of belongingness and an affirmation of connection with all other human beings (White 140). Love for humanity does not only suggest love for people. It involves a harmonious relationship with all members of the society. It evokes a sense of belonging. It does not allow a person to feel ostracized in the community he came to have involvement with.
Romantic love offers the most intense possibilities of fulfillment in different aspects – emotional, spiritual, and physical (White 140). Romantic love transcends barriers and does not merely concentrate on the affection one has towards another person.
Parental love focuses on caring and nurturing life. It allows us to participate in the generous attributes of life (White 140). One does not have to be a parent in order to experience parental love. It could be manifested in caring for a baby that comes from other persons.
Oftentimes, these different kinds of love overlap with one another because they interrelate in spite of complexity. Romantic love could also imply caring for another person. People still defines it and determines the degree of love that a person can acquire, including animals or objects.
The undying human need essential for every society characterizes love. With all its underlying factors, classification, and obstacles, we would not be able to escape this psychological emotion of accepting and giving what we have. Love will keep on evolving along with the human society.
The prevalence of war and hate just affirms what Greeks long before believed – that love and hate coexist to create balance in the society. Love unifies the whole world for it makes everything one.
[Please include here the bibliographical entries for the articles that you used throughout the paper]