On a day like this (Valentine's Day), we ponder love. We take it for granted, we miss it, we seek it, we express it, we embrace it. But, what is love?
Why can love be so elusive? Perhaps because love is fungible.
In the oil and gas industry, this would be a reference to oil. Sure, they pump it out of the ground and put it in tanks to be distributed, but if well #1 and well #2 want to get their oil back, they won't get the same exact contents, as it's now part of a larger thing that cannot be separated.
Love is not gas, liquid, or solid. It can't be weighed, measured, and evaluated against other love as a measure of its quality, durability, efficacy, or longevity.
Now, isn't that kind of scary but also kind of sexy?
This means love is like snowflakes - completely unique in each setting.
Some things parade as love, such as obsession and possession. These ego-driven emotions aren't about true caring, but about control. If you live to worry about whether a loved one is faithful or want to possess every thought in their head, you likely aren't feeling love. Love is selfless and it doesn't hold feelings hostage.
To some, love is hormonal. It's all about the alchemy. An expression of love is sexuality, but it is not the sole purpose of love. For if one were unable to partake of that chemistry, true love would remain intact knowing that a part of its expression is not in the game. Mistaking attraction and love is a very common thing, especially in the hormones of youth. But love encompasses all the aspects of relationships. You may love the act of having sex with someone, but that doesn't necessarily equate to loving that person outside of that act.
Filling a role
If most of the feelings of love for another are concerns, protection, nourishing, being an admin, reminder, and more about your job in the relationship than in the other person's actual inherent worth, then you might be in more of a parenting love role. For example, the roles a couple plays in raising kids, running a home, managing finances, planning trips, making repairs can become so excessive that they are a couple doing, but not a couple being. An almost asexual androngynous thing happens when a couple works at their roles mechanically and automatically.
Obligation is unconditional
Of course, we can't choose our family, but sometimes we end up with great trials presented by those we grew up with. We love them, but this is more of an obligation. This is the opposite of having "earned" love. Love should be an automatic for everyone and everything, but we tend to consider it a Pez dispenser of reward. Throwing your arms open and hugging someone who just gave you a car is a form of earned love.
And, within families as love is a default, it's somewhat closer to what is described in Heaven by near-death experiencers. It's just automatic. No requirements. Just plentiful and always present. To love a family member, in spite of them being a pain in the butt, is real love. You love them because they exist.
Sometimes, love is silent suffering, being strong, humbling in its ability to take abuse and understand, forgive, and help. Humility and love are partners.
Perhaps those who experience near-death can tell us the most about the depth and breadth of absolute love. It's a love we have the moment our child is born. It is a love we have when someone puts an arm around use during a trying time. It is the love we feel holding our parent's hand as they pass. It's those indescribable moments when two human beings share the human experience and are humbled by it.
Love is more about what we become when we accept being part of the human race with all its foibles and potential. Love awakens in us a sense of belonging, being understood, having someone to be strong for, someone to share the task of being a mortal. It colors our vision with enhancement of the aspects we adore in another to the point that their weaknesses are endearing instead of exasperating.
Perhaps the greatest thing about this elusive thing called love is that it is contagious. You can't be innoculated. There are no barriers you can put up to keep it from seeping in. No matter how hard we try to protect ourselves from the losses and risks of loving another, it will be there, lurking in our souls because love conquers everything. That is why its been a simmering pandemic since mortals first found each other.
My personal favorite measure is when you recognize in another that -