Wednesday, April 08, 2015

On Love !

"Romantic Love" is the favourite subject of creative writers in every medium and every culture. Indeed such love is crucial to all or part of the vast majority of plays, novels, poems and the rest. It dominates popular song and Grand Opera alike. It inspires sculptors and artists even composers of orchestral music. It is all around, and it's wonderful.

So what is "Romantic Love" ? Is it a phenomenon that cannot be defined, but you know it when you see it or better still experience it? And how do we separate it from related ideas like, physical attraction, lust and friendship? How do we know when we're "in love"? Indeed is that very idea more than an abstract and a sentimental one? 

As human beings we are separated from the rest of the animal kingdom by many things, and love is one of them. It's perhaps marginal, some creatures other than man do establish monogamous lifetime bonds but that is comparatively rare. And evolution tends to favour those with practical benefits and who look to be good breeding material. This is the antithesis of love.

In Jane Austen there is a clear distinction made between those who will make good husbands (occasionally wives) because of their wealth and status and those who have romantic potential. When the two combine that is the perfect situation. How many young men and women in our times have fallen for what they are told are "unsuitable" men or women? The courageous ones ignore the advice of others and let "Amor vincit omnia" - but how many bow to convention and deny themselves and their prospective partner happiness? And how many drift into loveless marraiges with "suitable" partners who turn out to be someone else's choice rather than their own - often in more ways than one.

The thing about "true love" is that it's unpredictable. This worries me a bit about dating agencies. They seem to bring "compatible" people together but isn't it all a bit soulless? You can love somebody who is by any conventional measure not "suitable" and with whom the data suggests you will not be compatible. Indeed these are often the strongest love matches of all. I knew one senior executive in Shell who was, you would think, your archetypical pin suited bore. His wife was extrovert, noisy, gossipy and fun. Was she the classic Director's partner? Not really. Was it a successful marriage. Absolutely!

When you look at the extraordinary love match between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor who see that love is not always easy. In that extraordinary union with its on-off character and its uber-powerful sexual element you see a wonderful real life love story played out in the bright light of the public eye. This was as far removed from some phoney Hollywood romance as you could imagine. 

I have no doubt that the words "I love you" have been used and abused since the beginning of time. But when they are said with sincerity and when they are accompanied by that tightness across the chest and that shortness of breath that signifies "Love" - that moment of sublimation of everything else (including perhaps reason !) - well that's rather special isn't it?


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