What is the meaning of love?

Last night’s Casterbridge Speakers philosophy discussion explored the meaning of ‘Love’. Did you know that ‘Love’ is both a noun as well as a verb? The difference between these two uses was central to the discussion. In the sentence “my heart is full of love” – love is a noun, whilst in the sentence “I love you” – love is a verb. The problems associated with love appeared to be with the second of these two uses; acts such as domestic violence, where feelings of love and hate are confused and volatile.

We talked about the differences between conditional and unconditional love. The role of the ego was recognised as central in this. In conditional love the ego self plays a starring role, and love is treated as a commodity, such as I’ll bring you flowers but I expect something in return (consciously or unconsciously we put a price on love). Unconditional love is expansive and the ego self is absent, such as the deep love a parent tends to have for their young child, there is no price tag. We tend not to be able to describe unconditional love, it has a deeper spiritual feeling to it, more a sense of something powerful guiding us.

We briefly considered the Orson Welles quote: “We’re born alone: we live alone: we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” We wondered at the state of his mental health and felt his loneliness. There wasn’t a lot of agreement in favour of his rather bleak statement.

This led on to a discussion about whether as human beings we have a natural longing for the unconditional love we experienced as babies. We mistakenly learn in childhood that love is conditional and our egos develop to enable us to cope with that illusion. We think we don’t deserve love unless we earn it; falling into the trap of believing that we’ll feel better when we gather more and more objects around us.

Ultimately, we felt that the English language failed to adequately convey the depth and breadth of meaning of the word love – one word, four letters – a world of difference.  

Not a bad use of an hour on a Wednesday evening!

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