What’s Love Got To Do With It?


A while ago, I posted a piece on forgiveness. Today, the day of my birth sixty-five years ago, I will attempt to write something of love.

What is this emotion, this feeling, this thing we call love? Is it something we can define, touch, or taste? How do we enjoy it? Or is it something that enjoys us? Love plays with us, transports us, binds us, grips us, releases and torments us. But why? It can be so strong as to be visceral, not simply a fleeting emotion, as it sometimes may appear, but rather something experienced deep in the gut. Is it grounded in some need, some indistinct desire to become whole, to fill in a missing piece of ourselves? A visceral recognition of that primal need for genuine engagement with the Other?

If we love someone, is our capacity for love thereby used-up, exhausted, diminished? Or is it something expansive, always giving us the capacity to love more. Of course, most any mother already knows the answer to this question. Our capacity for love keeps expanding, she would argue, to envelope all her children and then some… and more.

What does Jeff Buckley mean when he sings, “I’d give all of my love for a kiss upon her shoulder”? What is it about this condition of the heart that calls forth such yearning, such devotion, such torment? I feel I am better at asking the questions than providing answers. But I diverge.

Does love simply emerge one day, like a sore throat or the flu? Or is it something that always dwells, often silently, deeply within the soul of humankind; something to be ignited by the presence of a beloved. Or, perhaps it requires no object whatsoever? Is it rather a force of nature that may be aroused by the most tender of circumstances. But once aroused, it is something to be reckoned with; and in some cases cannot be stopped. Except by death.

The poet says that love is what “inter-animates” two souls. But, what if one of those souls turns out to belong to nature; or an apparently inanimate object. What can we say here? But, in any event, where one becomes intertwined with the other (human or otherwise), there is a basic recognition of life in its most untrammeled and raw modality.

Or perhaps love is what allows us to escape the boundaries that define the ‘self’ against the ‘other’ and his/her apparent ‘otherness’, allowing us to enter into communion with that which (or whom) we love. It allows us to overcome that sense of separation, of separateness, of being the Other, ourselves? Perhaps love is where the outline and the inline fade, the one into the other, so that at-one-ment becomes a possibility, nay, a reality? Love, like a drug, transports us out of ourselves while all the while grounding us. Itself a conventional term, love allows us to overcome convention, the convention of objectification, literally losing ourselves in the otherness of the other, merging with the other… in short, to become one with the other, a dissolution of the boundaries that objectify. Love can be gentle or profound. But, in either case, it should not be dismissed as merely conventional. For it is not.

But let us now discuss the challenge of love between two partners, and that which in the history of civilized culture is most predominant, the monogamous love between a man and a woman. It is typically believed and reinforced by convention that this love is fundamental, exclusive and sacrosanct. Or, at least while you may have some residual or non-cupiditous love for more than one person, it is ‘natural’ to provide your love and lovemaking to one partner exclusively. That is what a real marriage and having children requires, so it seems. There may be some very compelling arguments for such exclusivity in this regard, but even these assumptions have been challenged by alternative cultural traditions globally throughout the millennia (Sex At Dawn). But, let us not minimize the frailty or benefits of first loves, of marriage and child rearing under these more exclusive arrangements. But, in a world of post-post divorce and post-post child rearing, what restrictions still pertain to the love of your partner, and to one another?

Is love not something expansive, as we above agreed? Does it not continuously grow when required to accommodate the inclusion of another loved one, be itself sibling, child, friend, or lover. OK. I get it, so we have reached the edge of polyamory.

As one woman, Kristal Baugher, has written of the challenge:

What I find most challenging is that the concepts of polyamory feel right but I have been socially constructed to think and react in the monogamous default. Perhaps the first step is to unlearn everything I’ve been taught regarding how relationships are supposed to function and relearn/re-write the script as I go along. (Elephant Journal)

Obviously there is a raw physical coefficient that comes with romantic love, an intimacy that cannot not minimized, and certainly not ignored. There is also the real question today of safety. Of being responsible. But that as well, is not the fundamental problem with having more than one lover. The real issue is emotional capacity, the ability for those involved to feel genuinely secure, even when the polyamorous one is dealing with two loves who are themselves monogamous.

I have argued elsewhere that touch is essential to human communication. Perhaps that is correct, and we only need the intimate touch of another. But, perhaps not. I do not have an answer. It’s just a question. With much love, Sandy

10 Responses to What’s Love Got To Do With It?

  1. kulturcritic says:

    No one has commented on this post. Why?

  2. Perhaps the greatest challenge of the word ‘love’ lies in the never ending versions of THE love story.
    Monogamous love, if not rooted in ownership or fear, brings with it freedom and passion. The dichotomy is with the emotion love, comes the niggling fear of loss, it’s presence ever stronger when you care deeply for someone, it differs from the ever present disease of jealously and self preservation. Whether is a beautiful vase, a rare piece of art or a memory, we wish to preserve , treasure and protect these things.
    But could you trust that ‘great love’ between souls binds two together so deeply that their separation would be unbearably painful for both parties. Love doesn’t need a binding contract, nor verbose language of reassurance. It is in their togetherness that two feel alive, it is in their conversations that they feel significant and understood and their lovemaking extends this bond, which is timeless.
    By not seeing each other, we miss each other.
    It is in life’s mysteries that we find pleasure. Our quest should be to keep our mysteries alive by following our own bliss and our own hearts and in that way we can cultivate and keep alive the adventure of love.
    Settling more into the essence of who WE are, and being THAT is what makes the perfume of love linger…and remain irresistible to both parties … when we awaken to each other each day,, not as husband, wife or partner but rather like life, full of mystery and adventure, a path to be ventured down afresh each day. Throw away the map books, don’t consult google, explore and investigate and be willing to never own love, because when you do, even if you loose the person, the love will remain with you, embedded in your soul to carry you to the ends of world, with or without the form of the other being present.
    We may not stay in physical form relationships, for the end of time, because winds of change blow over our lives, and we feel our life boats moving on toward a new direction. Sometimes our partners jump ship afraid of the new journey, sometimes they may feel the call of their own faraway place. But the truth is love does last forever, whether we are as one or not. That’s its power, its like a tattoo on your heart … and their is place for more that one tattoo there.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Dear Penny, Welcome, and many thanks for sharing your feelings and your thoughts. Your words strike a particularly vulnerable chord in all of us. Ownership and the fear of loss are both huge obstacles to the embodiment of unchained love. You are so clear and direct when you say: “love will remain with you, embedded in your soul… like a tattoo on your heart…” Incredible image you have given us. Such openness, such clarity. Thank you, Sandy

    • Ol' Scratch says:

      But the truth is love does last forever, whether we are as one or not. That’s its power, its like a tattoo on your heart … and their is place for more that one tattoo there.

      That’s a pretty damn smart observation/sentiment there Penny. It’s so sad that traditional puritanical western mores these days dictate otherwise. Not surprisingly, they are almost universally ignored, at least privately, as soon as the situation dictates.

  3. the Heretick says:

    God love you Sandy, I’m sure you must have said something to offend someone. A very charming piece, but only for a select few still capable of human feelings, actual human feelings. i have been horrified by what i red on the web, supposedly progressive people referring to the human body as a meat sack, really truly.

    We live in the age of the hook up app, the quest for power and domination has taught 90% of the population that people are to be used and abused. The prophet for our age was Andy Warhol with his declaration that he wished to be a machine. Now we have the quest for the perfect sex-bot, the perfect love doll, and vibrators in whatever color of the rainbow you prefer.

    Seriously, God love you, but i feel it will take suffering of truly tragic proportions to shock the human species back to any sort of appreciation of the natural organic feelings we used to experience.

    • Ol' Scratch says:

      Nice to hear from you again HT! I think human beings themselves are as “organically feeling” as they ever were, it’s just that the all-encompassing MSM paints them a picture that isn’t/they aren’t. That’s certainly a looming problem over time, as new generations are born and immersed in such a corrosive culture from day one, and they in turn grow up and propagate it into even more virulent forms for the following generations, but I’m not quite sure we’re at the point of no return, in that line of reasoning at least, just yet. In the end, a revolt against the perversion of the most basic of our human emotions might just be the thing that saves us from the rapidly approaching tidal wave of global capitalist destruction, although I, like you, am not at all optimistic on that account either. In the end, though, if humanity is to be saved from almost certain calamity in the coming years on an ever-growing number of fronts, its only hope lies with the youth already brought into this world and their love for one another, and not what old codgers like you and I think of their chances.

      • the Heretick says:

        You sly old devil, can’t fool me, we’re past the point of no return. Although there are plenty of people who think they have feelings? Nothing of the sort. Narcissistic self love? Bushels and bushels, trainloads. Actual empathy? Americans as a whole are so out of touch with themselves they wouldn’t have a clue. One must have a soul, then be aware of said soul. Shadow meet darkness.

        I expect every summer to be the proverbial long hot one, hasn’t hit yet, but hang onto your boots.

        • Ol' Scratch says:

          Granted, from a purely American/western culture point of view we’re in “the end times,” but there’s still a small glimmer of hope for the rest of the world. That said, western culture is in its metastatic phase now, so the poison is rapidly spreading to everywhere else as we speak. One thing’s for sure, western culture and its twin, global capitalism, need to be eradicated post haste.

  4. Ol' Scratch says:

    Happy Birthday old boy! The western version of “love” is mostly just adolescent infatuation. The first time you hear the cringe-worthy term “soul mate” bandied about, you know the person using it has checked out mentally and is operating purely on sexual hormones and endorphins. The real thing takes much longer to develop, is much more rational and grounded, and is much deeper and profound. Needless to say, most never experience that these days in the era of instant gratification. The whole concept is largely over-hyped and a product of the societal delusion expectation that we all pair off and procreate like good little droids, thus making us all that more dependent on the global capitalist machine to keep us alive, and consequently, timid and compliant. Actually, that’s just about the last thing any of us need right now.

  5. Ol' Scratch says:

    Hey, it just so happens that I happened to be reading this last night. It seems to be quite germane to the current post. Great book, by the way:


    “I wonder if Larry was ever really in love with you,” I said presently. She sat up. Her expression lost its amenity. Her eyes were angry. “What are you talking about? Of course he was in love with me. D’you think a girl doesn’t know when a man’s in love with her?”

    “Oh, I dare say he was in love with you after a fashion. He didn’t know any girl so intimately as he knew you. You’d played around together since you were children. He expected himself to be in love with you. He had the normal sexual instinct. It seemed such a natural thing that you should marry. There wouldn’t have been any particular difference in your relations except that you lived under the same roof and went to bed together.”

    Isabel, to some extent mollified, waited for me to go on and, knowing that women are always glad to listen when you discourse upon love, I went on. “Moralists try to persuade us that the sexual instinct hasn’t got so very much to do with love. They’re apt to speak of it as if it were an epiphenomenon.” “What in God’s name is that?” “Well, there are psychologists who think that consciousness accompanies brain processes and is determined by them, but doesn’t itself exert any influence on them. Something like the reflection of a tree in water; it couldn’t exist without the tree, but it doesn’t in any way affect the tree. I think it’s all stuff and nonsense to say that there can be love without passion; when people say love can endure after passion is dead they’re talking of something else, affection, kindliness, community of taste and interest, and habit. Especially habit. Two people can go on having sexual intercourse from habit in just the same way as they grow hungry at the hour they’re accustomed to have their meals. Of course there can be desire without love. Desire isn’t passion. Desire is the natural consequence of the sexual instinct and it isn’t of any more importance than any other function of the human animal. That’s why women are foolish to make a song and dance if their husbands have an occasional flutter when the time and the place are propitious.”

    “Does that apply only to men?” I smiled. “If you insist I’ll admit that what is sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose. The only thing to be said against it is that with a man a passing connection of that sort has no emotional significance, while with a woman it has.” “It depends on the woman.” I wasn’t going to let myself be interrupted. “Unless love is passion, it’s not love, but something else; and passion thrives not on satisfaction, but on impediment. What d’you suppose Keats meant when he told the lover on his Grecian urn not to grieve? ‘Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair!’ Why? Because she was unattainable, and however madly the lover pursued she still eluded him. For they were both imprisoned in the marble of what I suspect was an indifferent work of art. Your love for Larry and his for you were as simple and natural as the love of Paolo and Francesca or Romeo and Juliet. Fortunately for you it didn’t come to a bad end. You made a rich marriage and Larry roamed the world to find out what song the Sirens sang. Passion didn’t enter into it.” “How d’you know?”

    “Passion doesn’t count the cost. Pascal said that the heart has its reasons that reason takes no account of. If he meant what I think, he meant that when passion seizes the heart it invents reasons that seem not only plausible but conclusive to prove that the world is well lost for love. It convinces you that honor is well sacrificed and that shame is a cheap price to pay. Passion is destructive. It destroyed Antony and Cleopatra, Tristan and Isolde, Parnell and Kitty O’Shea. And if it doesn’t destroy it dies. It may be then that one is faced with the desolation of knowing that one has wasted the years of one’s life, that one’s brought disgrace upon oneself, endured the frightful pang of jealousy, swallowed every bitter mortification, that one’s expended all one’s tenderness, poured out all the riches of one’s soul on a poor drab, a fool, a peg on which one hung one’s dreams, who wasn’t worth a stick of chewing gum.”

    Maugham, W. Somerset. The Razor’s Edge (Vintage International) (pp. 134-135). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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