What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me

OPINIONS_whatislove

Maybe you’re born with it, or maybe you fake it till you make it

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Previously published in The Other Press. Feb 4, 2014

I’ll admit it: I’m still not sure what this whole love thing is all about. I understand others’ interpretations—you know, the Shakespearean sonnets, the Nicholas Sparks novels, and that scene from Up—but what is love, and why am I so skeptical?

I have been told that I have the same range of emotions as a well-functioning blender (nobody actually said that) and that my excitement level can often reach the point of mild elation. I’m not the kind of guy who categorizes feelings or even acknowledges them. I mean, I feel hungry, tired, and cold—but can I feel love? Is it like a chill that runs down my spine when I hear about a traffic accident? Is it like the anticipation of pain as I prepare my lips for a hot drink? Or is it just something I haven’t experienced yet?

Like every other child growing up, I was taught to love my parents unconditionally. I guess I love my mom and dad, even though 90 per cent of the time they are the worst company. They gave me life and in return I offer my love. But love can’t be currency, it’s not something you exchange with people for goods and services and life. Can anyone put a value on love? I sure hope not. Even the thought of myself doing something for love disgusts me. I hope love doesn’t collar me up and pull me along on a leash like a lovesick puppy. Then again, how do I give something that I don’t even know I have? Or receive something so abstract? Where does this love thing come from?

I thought I had it before. Yes, I too have lied about my love for someone. In fact, I’ve done it multiple times under different circumstances. And I can’t promise that I won’t do it again. The thing was, I knew I was lying the whole time, but how did they know? I think people can see the lovelessness in others when they lie about something like that. It’s the same way people can see that I can’t grow a beard or that I’ve been up all night. As much as love can feel like an internal thing, it seeps up onto the surface, like a woman’s glow when she’s pregnant, or an ailing man’s cancer.

Love can be something that just happens, but I also believe that love is something we earn, like trust or respect. But how does one earn trust, respect, and love?

You can’t force it—that much I know. To agonize over love is to overwater a flower, drowning the plant in your own insecurity. No, love is more like a weed: it can grow in the most trying locations, flourish with little assistance, and spread with great conviction. I remember the old saying “if you love something, set it free,” I guess that’s like blowing dandelion seeds and watching them catch in the wind and parachute down. “If it returns, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it wasn’t.” That thought scares me, because commitment is terrifying. Love by that definition sounds so permanent, yet daunting. It leaves me feeling hopeless. If that’s the case, do I even want love at all?

Of course I do. The same way I want a warm blanket, a feeling of security, and a sense of wonder. As humans, there are no greater risks than admitting that you truly love someone; to take that emotional leap of faith and to really open the seams into our souls and let another see all the turning gears that are powering us—or at least me since, after all, I am robotic. Perhaps I require some reverse engineering, or maybe my love is still up for beta testing. I’ll wait. I’m not worried.

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