The concept of “love” is one that is shrouded with cliches. Saying “love is in everything” or that “love is the most important thing” have become trite slogans. And I believe, rightly so. Most people throw these slogans around without understanding the true nature of love. When we understand the true nature of love, however, we come to realize that these slogans constitute some of the deepest truths known to humankind.
What, then, is the nature of love? A good way to understand the nature of love is to understand what the nature of love isn’t. Take a look at the thread on Reddit entitled r/relationship_advice. It is a place where individuals go to vent their frustrations about their relationships in the hopes of gathering advice on how to move forward. Needless to say, some of the things people post on that thread are shocking. To put what is posted on this subreddit into short blurb words: it consists of pettiness, betrayal, disloyalty, dishonesty, coldness, hostility, and worst of all, treating one’s partners and relationships with little or no value.
Many of the people who post in this subreddit seem to be acting as if life is going to go on forever. I say this because such behavior only makes sense in light of such a belief. If we understand the fact that this life is finite, in light of this fact, these behaviors are absurd. Indeed, in light of the finitude of life, some of these behaviors are outright abhorrent. And at bottom, we deep down know this: why do you think so many people have regrets regarding their past on their deathbeds? Precisely due to the knowledge of the finitude of life.
This is the crucial nature of love: the perspective for which love begins is one in which we realize the finitude of life. Through this realization, we begin to take life much more seriously, through presence and through seeking the right things. Being present, showing kindness, being honest, being understanding, and treating others with supreme value, makes sense in light of the finitude of our lives. Why might this be? It is simply because, in light of the finitude of life, we realize that we only have one chance to make things right. If we fail, we don’t get another chance.
When we are truly in love with someone or something, that is how we treat it/them: with respect, dignity, and value. We value the thing we love, and the relationship that we have to it. And we do so in a way that is non-instrumental –i.e. We treat the object of our love as an end it-itself rather than a means to an end.
It really seems like it is needless to say, then, why it is that love is important. And yet, so few treat the things and people they say they love this way, that it does suffice to point out its importance.
The reason why true love is important is that it gives depth to an otherwise miserable, or boring life. Love is what engages us in our activities deeply and meaningfully. Which is to say, love is what makes our activities actually worth pursuing. It makes little to no sense to pursue activities that we don’t love, as such activities will inevitably make us unhappy. Love, then, is the most important factor to take into consideration when you are making decisions.
This goes for both relationships and for ordinary life decisions like jobs. For instance, if you simply get together with someone in a romantic relationship due to custom or because everyone around you is telling you that you’d make a great couple, the odds that will become a good relationship are not very high. Indeed, we can see this quite clearly in the case of non-monogamy. Insofar as non-monogamy has been considered not a norm, those who would have otherwise sought open-relationships or polyamory are forced into monogamy due to social customs. Hence, they are forced by social customs to suppress feelings of love! It is no wonder so many monogamous marriages end in divorce: many are non-monogmous and are missing out on love in their lives. When we are not able to fulfill the loves that we have in our lives, we become unhappy.
In light of this, it readily follows why I begin by saying that the word “love” is thrown around way too much. Just how many people who say that they are in love are truly as committed, loyal, honest, kind, and genuine as the term “love” truly requires? It is quite doubtful that many people are. Indeed, we can see this quite readily by the fact that the statistics on the matter show explicitly that most people do not live fulfilled lives. And this is on all measures in which love is relevant: friendships, relationships, occupations, and hobbies. It is an unfortunate state of affairs that love is probably the most important thing possible in our lives, and yet, its true and deep manifestation is absent from most of our lives.
Given the importance of love, how can we make it so more love enters our lives? First and foremost, you need to break with tradition. Many things you love might not be the norm, and at bottom, that is okay. If you want to have romantic relationships with multiple people because you love them all, you should go for it, no matter what your culture tells you. This might result in feelings of isolation, but enduring these feelings is truly worth it. It is the difference between having a meaningful life or not having a meaningful life. You must learn to recognize what you love and let nothing stop you from pursuing it.
The long story short on the importance of love is that love is the key to having a meaningful life. Without people or things that you love in your life, what is there really to live for? Love is what prevents the impending existential dread of life. Saying yes to love is truly saying yes to life itself.