A simple Google search for this at once simple and at the same time deeply philosophical question ‘what is love?’ suggests that it is actually not a simple question at all.
What is love? It is in fact, one of the most asked questions in recent times, topping the Google search list in 2012. Yet, we are no closer to the answer. Not until this article that is.
But let us quickly focus on what type of love we are analyzing – a relationship between a man and woman (or whatever other combination of both sexes apply). Consensual adult relationship which may or may not end in a long term union.
So this rules out love for one’s parents or siblings, pets, shopping, food or Monolo Blahnik shoes.
And for the benefit of doubt, it is possible to be in a deeply loving “asexual” relationship with another adult.
So what is it that draws one person inescapably to another person? Why do we find ourselves so pulled by another person’s aura we are usually at a loss as to how it happens. An attraction so powerful, it defies logic or rational analysis.
Let us take a trip to the extremes and see if we may find clues there: why is an otherwise astute wheeler-dealer super successful entrepreneur besotted with a 22 year old gold digger, whose antics are obvious to everyone else but him? Why is a composed classy senior management happily married woman willing to risk it all for a fling with an arrogant youth corper/intern with “swag”?
Temporary insanity is a reason which has been put forward many times. In fact our first definition of love may well be that it is a form of madness. Afterall, that which defies logic and rationality must be madness.
Or indeed magic. Now there’s a word often associated with love. Magic. Mystery. Combine either expression with “passion”, and love is defined. End of story.
Blue Flame, Red Flame
But what happens when there is no “burning” passion in that teenage high school or Hollywood sense? When both parties are in fact very rational thinkers. No lasting bouts of jealousy or blind rage, no drama, no public show of disaffection. Just your middle of the road, safe and very respectful conduct towards each other.
This is Blue Flame. And as anyone who is conversant with a gas fire knows, the blue flame burns hotter than the orange or red flame.
But, the red flame is far more dramatic. It’s in your face. Its the colour of a just lit match stick. Its the colour of every fire picture, painting or imagery you can think of right this moment.
Yet, as any young chemistry student or housewife will tell you, it is temporary. Blue flame is what endures and cooks meals that satisfy.
In fact, you can achieve blue flame usually by turning down red flame before it burns itself out.
We have digressed. But in the process we have stumbled on the possibility that there is a love which endures – patient, rational, forgiving – Blue Flame. And there’s the “love” which burns passionately – irrational, dramatic, showy, jealous, even dangerous sometimes – Red Flame.
But what is it that brings either form of affection (or affliction even) about in the first place?
Let us reduce our definitions to one: blue flame. Red flame is not love. It is a great many things – lust, infatuation, desire, affection, ego. But for the sake of this analysis, it does not qualify as love. Love must endure, and it must forgive.
Which leaves us with Blue flame, oh yes, and the un-introduced and frankly misunderstood term so far used only in certain circles, mostly in Nigeria, Agape Love. It is beyond the scope of this discussion and will therefore remain untreated.
True love, blue flame, must be based on inadequacy. It must start with an inferiority complex whether we realise it or not. Two “complete” individuals cannot fall in love with each other. It won’t last. For you to truly love someone, that person must possess a characteristic, or a trait which you do not, and probably cannot.
Why is the pain of rejection arguably the very worst kind of emotional suffering, comparable in many instances to the death of a loved one? It is because a jilt confirms our base fears of inferiority to another person. When the person to whom you have literally shown your soft under belly rejects you, that person re-affirms what you already felt on a subconscious level – inferior.
It really is that simple. It may be a disparity in age, backgrounds, class, social standing, wealth, physical beauty, spunk, patience, intelligence. There must be something about the other party which renders you inferior. Incomplete.
And that is the key. Completeness. When the ‘Igbo’ youth who learns business savvy and charisma from an early age and goes on to make millions plying his trade chooses a bride, he invariably does so from a higher social stratum. He wants a graduate wife. Preferably one with a PhD. She completes him.
And what is probably most interesting about this phenomenon is that people hardly ever go about it knowingly. In fact, most people refuse to admit a deficiency in the very character trait they subconsciously seek in a partner. Lets face it, how many people will willingly accept that they are inferior to their partners? Yet, it is that inferiority that attracted you in the first place. Again, it is what ‘completes’ you.
So there we have it: love is a manifestation of an inferiority complex. Now this doesn’t sound very nice. It removes from the “magic” of love as we know it. So another attempt: Love is the search for a “completing attribute” in another person.
This proposition opens up a whole new vista, which on the surface disputes the hypothesis above: Why then does love go sour? Why does it die? Does real love in fact actually die?
This is a lot to ponder and will therefore be treated in the concluding part.