Friday, 26 August 2011

Patricia Eggleton - What Is Love

This Fridays guest is Pat @Modicana on Twitter.

To quote her about me page on her blog

"I'm a sort-of retired language teacher from Cardiff, Wales, UK, now trying to make a new life in Sicily. I'm not growing vines, making olive oil or restoring a palace stone by stone!"

Language teacher does not really sum up her very well. She is a linguist, a kind, gentle, sophisticated and passionate lady. Her passion for languages make her an extraordinary educator, she brings to her teaching that passion. Did I also mention she is a fantastic, and I mean fantastic, cook!

So please welcome Pat.

What is Love?

I was flattered when Jan asked me to contribute to this blog and pleased when he said I could write about anything at all. Then I began to think about possible subject matter for my post and realised I was in trouble: I have dabbled in verse but am not a poet, I mostly write about Sicily and in my childhood I knew nothing but love. “Ah”, thought I, “maybe that’s it. I’ll write about love.” And, getting carried away, perhaps, I asked Jan if I could address the question in the original title and URL of his blog, “What is love?” I have absolutely no qualifications that enable me to solve a riddle that has eluded generations of poets and philosophers down the centuries, but here goes:

Perhaps it is easier to start with what love isn’t: it certainly isn’t “never having to say you’re sorry” because a relationship based on that would be deadly dull as well as totally unrealistic. It isn’t possession, though it is often confused with that need. If you love someone, you want to be with that person, don’t you? “Love me enough to let me go”, the one leaving often says, or wants to say. But as any mother will testify, that is the hardest thing in the world to do. And in romantic love, if we could all do that, there would be no place for jealousy, would there? Then there is jealousy’s first cousin, control: love is not about control because controlling another person is something we do for ourselves, because it makes us, and not the “loved” one, feel secure. If the object of that control felt any safer, they would not so often be tearing on the relationship’s leash.

What about lust, then? Surely desire and love go hand in hand, as it were? Gore Vidal said that one of our greatest mistakes is to look for love and lust in the same person and more recently Elizabeth Gilbert [“Eat, Pray, Love”] addressed the question in “Committed”, her study of marriage. She describes a Vietnamese tribe called the Hmong whose women thought she was crazy when she asked them how they spent free time with their husbands: firstly, these women don’t have much free time and when they do, they spend it with their women friends. Husbands are all very well but they are for procreation and - well, husbanding. In other words, the Hmong women do not expect their husbands to be their counsellors, confidantes and best buddies as well and it seems to me there is much wisdom in that. Sadly though, as Gilbert says, “It is probably too late for me to be a Hmong”.

So does this mean that it all went wrong when our societies became more sophisticated? To an extent, yes. The French troubadours have much to answer for, having invented the concept of romantic love in the first place: that is not to say that men and women did not “love” each other before but they were probably more realistic about what to expect. However, once the idea of poetic pining for the unobtainable was planted among us, we were loath to let it go: in “Sexing the Cherry”, Jeanette Winterson describes a land without love, where everyone is happy. But once the inhabitants find out about this abstract noun, what do they do? They throw their happiness to the winds along with caution and start suffering for love, just like the rest of us.

Is platonic love possible? I’d like to think so but look at the odds: I am no mathematician but even I can work out that where there are two human beings who are already attracted to each other in some ways, there is at least a 50-50 chance that one of them will develop sexual feelings for the other. I was once in love with someone of a different sexual orientation and when I told a [married] friend that it wouldn’t matter to me if he satisfied his lust elsewhere she reasoned that, had there once been a sexual flame between us that was now extinguished, there would have been hope for the relationship but otherwise there was not because sooner or later the green-eyed monster would rear his ugly head.

Whether you agree with his Christian perspective or not, C S Lewis is of some help in defining different kinds of love in “The Four Loves” and few would argue with his conclusion that “charity” or unconditional love is the greatest. But I would go further and say that the trouble with love is that, as with miracles, we do not always recognise it because it may not be the kind that we have been dreaming of. I, for example, am still awaiting my knight in shining armour at 61 but I am lucky enough to love and be loved by a wonderful animal, to have truly precious friends and to have a spiritual bond with a place. We all have love to give so look around you today and think about where you can channel yours. You may be surprised.


CherryPie said...

Love is an interesting subject to ponder, I like the way you sum it up at the end. I always think the more love you give the more you receive back.

This is one of my favourite quotes about love:

Love is, above all, the gift of oneself. ~Jean Anouilh

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

That's a lovely quote, Cherie.

Jan Frayne said...

Thank you Cherie and Weshcakes. I like this :-

I believe in the compelling power of love. I do not understand it. I believe it to be the most fragrant blossom of all this thorny existence.


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