What is love and how do we manifest it in our lives? Why don’t we manifest it more often? If God is love, as the Bible says, and I believe this to be true, then why is the world so troubled and full of hatred and fear and evil? Better minds than mine have wrestled with these questions – C.S. Lewis, for example, who says because God is a loving God, He does not force Himself upon us. He does, however, drop a lot of hints. I asked what love is and I don’t know if there is one answer. Again, citing C.S. Lewis, he breaks it down into four categories in his book The Four Loves. As excellent as his ideas are (and far superior to mine), they are only manifestations of love. Agape – God’s love, Phileo – brotherly love, Eros – romantic or sexual love, and Storge – empathic love. (Lewis did not use the term “agape.” Later commentators did.) These are all beautiful and necessary, but again, only manifestations. They do not exactly define the word.
Maybe love, like God, is indefinable. Maybe all we can do is witness its many manifestations. But maybe we can also manifest it ourselves. This too has many possibilities, perhaps an infinite number. We can manifest, demonstrate, show, exhibit, give, create love by loving ourselves and doing what brings us joy and then sharing that joy with the world. The reason I write is for love. The reason I study history is for love. The reason I teach is for love. I do these things because I love to do them. They make me happy.
I like being happy. I don’t seek happiness directly, because it can’t be found. It’s always attached to something, some type of work, some good deed, some form of self-care or care for others, some form of sacrifice or self-discipline, which means sometimes I do things that I don’t want to do initially, but then as I do them and as I get better at them, I grow to love them. This too makes me happy. This too manifests love.
Again, though, what is love?
I don’t know.
All I know is when I feel it, I feel peaceful and joyful and I have no conditions on anyone. I don’t expect others to change. Well, I do, but not for me, but for them. When people grow, that too is love.
Love is natural and spontaneous. Once, when I was 17, I was trying to find some answers in life and I was going through a period of spiritual uncertainty and confusion. I was talking about it to a friend, Eugene, and he said, “I’ll be right over.” I was standing in the kitchen where the phone was (this was when phones were attached to walls). A 7-year-old neighbor girl just happened to walk in as I hung up because she was looking for her brother. I was so happy about Eugene coming over that I spontaneously gave her a hug. This was not something I normally did. But that was love, or a manifestation of it…spontaneous and happy.
Sometimes love is work. It’s commitment and self-discipline and sacrifice. Sometimes the spontanaiety and the happiness are not there, but the lack of these things doesn’t make love any less valid. I find that commitment, self-discipline and sacrifice often create a different and more powerful type of happiness. I have a lot to learn about this kind of love, but I find the more self-disciplined I am, the happier and more loving I feel.
To answer my second question, I believe that the world is so troubled and full of hatred and fear and evil is that most people lack something that makes them feel spontaneous and happy and they also lack something worth creating self-discipline for. Too much of the first leads to laziness. Too much of the second leads to fanaticism. We need to Get Started and Keep Going, but if this doesn’t create love then we need to Get Started and Keep Going in another direction.