‘There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved’ – George Sand
Love is just amazing in all its manifestations. Be it affection or friendship or romance or unconditional giving, love radiates luminously that transcends any description.
With the short of words, we often regard it as spiritual, divine, super-mundane and unconditional.
Then in all these intangible notions about love, what we forget habitually is that it is a potent life. Yes, its physical manifestation is sentient beings. In the process of reproduction, nothing seems more important than a deep euphoric love.
‘Let go of stress, love more, and enjoy the time of togetherness’ – a gynecologist would suggest the couples who plan for a child. It is prescribed that they love each other, love the time they spend together, and love the love they share mutually. They are just to think love, speak love, and act love. In the intensity of their unfathomable love, they are to forget even what they are aspiring for. An instinctive, uncritical, and madly love is prescribed to them.
But, this is the kind of love Plato denied to the first two classes— philosopher king and the warrior — of an ideal society. He only allowed it to the artisan class. For he said that reason and appetite are the two polar qualities of the human soul and family based on appetite would come as an impediment to the first two classes who essentially discharged their duties through reason.
Allowing the family to these classes would distract their attention from obligations to the community.
Plato thus wanted them not to indulge themselves in impulsive love. The sort of love they could enjoy was a love devoid of attachment.
This idea supports one of the stories that go around Valentine’s Day which is celebrated on February 14 every year. As we look into the history of this widely celebrated heart day, we find several stories that curled up around the life and activities of Saint Valentine. Though legends go differently about this Day of Love, love, marriage, and family have been the keys of the backdrop to this day.
One legend dates to Roman times. According to this legend, Valentine was a priest in Rome who lived during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. During his rule, Claudius is said to have engaged Rome in several gory wars which required him to strengthen his army. The emperor thus needed to recruit soldiers continuously. But unfortunately, Claudius did not get many young men interested in joining the army as most of them were deeply attached to their wives and families. To sever this bond of attachment, the emperor outlawed marriage and engagement for young men in Rome.
Realizing the injustice of the decree, Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform clandestine Christian weddings for young lovers. When Claudius came to learn about Valentine’s defiance, Claudius ordered his army to beat him up and put to death. It was February 14, as the story goes, when Valentine was put to death.
It is said that since then the day has been observed as Valentine’s Day, a day of romance.
History shows many awful incidents of tragic death and self-immolation due to failure in love. Teens committing suicide for the cause of their love has been a piece of daily news for us. This brings to the fore a serious question on their understanding and the practice of love – if it is solely based on pleasure and passion.
Love based upon pleasure and passion (romantic love) is rooted in the self and not in the other, for it is the emotional high it gives that counts as absolute. Here the feelings of the others get less importance. This makes romantic love short-lived.
On the contrary, rational love rooted in both the self and the other counts passion and pleasure as important but not paramount. Being mature and independent, this type of love does not fear change and aging. It rather welcomes change as another chance to grow.
Life does not go always as how we want it to be. Challenges and opportunities, hardship and eases, planned and chance are the polar opposite facts that characterize our lives.
We have landed on this planet called Earth by chance. Our arrival here is not always planned. For us, being the product of the romantic love of our parents, there is always a possibility that we could have been the other.
But it is certainly our parents’ rational love that cared, brought up, and made us what we are today. We are all love personified!
Ramala Sarma is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy in Nowgong College. She can be reached at: [email protected]