“What is love?” I whispered, my question barely rising above the dull hum of the heater. I could feel the chilly air nipping at my exposed toes. He’d turned on the heating but didn’t close the window.
He sighed. “That’s a short question with a long answer.”
Our society has loaded the concept of ‘love’ with far more than any individual could ever hope to unpack within a single lifetime.
The performance of love isn’t uniquely human. We’ve seen birds, such as penguins, engage in lifelong, monogamous relationships; apes such as chimpanzees care for their young offspring; highly intelligent species, like dolphins, work in packs almost like families.
But perhaps no condition is as uniquely human as our condition of love. We write poems, sing songs, create paintings and compose sonnets about this human condition, in an attempt to understand this feeling, this emotion, this state of human being. What does it mean to be in love? What is love?
Intimacy? Sex? Excitement? Joy?
Like the greats who came and went before me, I have no answer.
But I do know that to love is to make a commitment and a promise. It’s a recognition that you’re better off as a person when he’s around, even though you can function perfectly fine without. It’s a realisation that he matters in your life and you care about him as a extension of yourself.
It is, simultaneously, both selfish and selfless, for to love is to seek to return to him the happiness that he brings you, and to be prepared when you are not the answer to the question that he answers for you.
To love, then, is to be human.