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Chapter Four
Does Love Exist?

Romantic. Unconditional. Familiar. Difficult. Worthwhile. Platonic. Kindred. Understanding. Warm. True. Eternal. Anxious. Unsettling. Self-sacrificing. Gentle. Giving. Forgiving. Spontaneous. Destined. Painful. Comforting.

Love can take shape admist all the above sentiments, but it is not the sum of all those parts.

Sure, we can be very much familiar with the emotional tidal waves experienced by Love, but these are merely symptoms and side effects of it.

We often feel these byproducts of Love as we swim deeper into the ocean of Love with somebody, but what is it exactly we are swimming into— or toward when we develop a relationship?

How can we be certain love actually does exist if we have no idea what it is?

Love is a refined emotion, it is one that resides over a large timeframe, it is a constant attitude, one subconscious in nature — it is less an emotion and more a mindset.

To think clearly upon the nature of love it is important to not mix it with the emotions it ignites, because the key factor to understanding Love doesn’t entirely involve how one feels at any given moment.

Emotions are flux and influenced, constantly churning, changing — increasing, decreasing at various times of the day. Emotions can’t be trusted when asking yourself, “Do I love this person?”

“What could be more convincing, moreover, than the gesture of laying one’s cards face up on the table?”

— Jacques Lacan

The Certainty of Reconciliation

Have you ever fought with a family member, been incredibly honest with your siblings that you hurt their feelings? Have you ever attacked the insecurities of a close friend or significant other because you were frustrated by their behavior? Have you ever hung up on your mother after she tried to discipline you over the phone?

These quarrels often happen with the ones we love. With the ones we find security in being totally honest with. The truth hurts, and we are typically most honest with those we love. In this regard, it is easier for us to be much more brutally honest with a family member, best friend, or lover— because we simple have an understanding that we will certainly reconcile: that nothing can tear our bond apart — not even our harshest criticisms.

This is what makes Love feel unconditional, it is this certainty of reconciliation that keeps our emotional flairs honest. That allows us to understand the tides and currents of the ocean we are swimming into with certain individuals we’ve decided to have a relationship with. At a certain point we are in so deep that we’ve lost all sight of the beach we first cast off from; deeply in love we come to an understanding that only a massive tsunami or hurricane of circumstances can push us back to the shore of our affection, back to dry land where we no longer make an effort to continue loving. Those tsunamis or hurricanes are ones which we have no prior knowledge of, situations that must be experienced in order to test if we’ll keep swimming or sit it out on the shoreline, recognizing that our efforts to maintain the relationship is no longer worthwhile.

This mutual feeling of a Certainty of Reconciliation, or love, can develop in a matter of days with some individuals or over the course of many years with others. Shared social experiences often result in stronger bonds with individuals, and those experiences may be a simple moment, but it results in a budding understanding that something is there.

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”

-Carl Jung

Shared Experience

It is a simple experience such as being stuck with others at an entryway during a terrible rainstorm, looking out into the parking lot that activates our social sharing. We are at that time, together underneath the awning, experiencing the same thing: an angst of getting wet and getting to our vehicle. These moments bring out even the most introverted individual’s social interaction, because they no longer feel alone. There is something to relate with. Next time you’re caught in a rainstorm in public, pay attention to how much more social people get around you. These tiny common struggles are opportunities for new relationships.

But more often than not, the best of relationships stem from an experience shared that is far more special or impressive to our psyche. Such as those we may develop with our college roommates or classmates, our coworkers, our summer camp buddies, or the fellow travelers we met at a hostel. It is any number of shared situations and experiences that cast us off the dock, swimming into the waters of Love with somebody else. And we must be attentive to when we are experiencing life with others, because those individuals may contribute greatly to your emotional growth in the future.

It is typically the sentiment that an individual “arrived at just the time I needed them” or you felt the hand of God leading you to meet a certain person — and more often than not, it’s nothing miraculous, it’s just simple because you both needed something from each other at that given moment in your lives. Focus on understanding what lessons you have learned from forming this destined relationship, cherish that knowledge and grow from there.

Shared experiences and relationships not only improve the lives of others, they open up different avenues of perspective, allowing us to not only reconcile with others better, but also one’s self.

Searching all directions
with one’s awareness,
one finds no one dearer
than oneself.
In the same way, others
are dear to themselves.
So one should not hurt others
if one loves oneself.

— The Buddha

Reconciling with One’s self

Whether we like it or not, we must come to the realization that we are out in the middle of the deepest ocean, swimming all alone with our emotions, flexibily choosing to reconcile with ourselves or not. There is no shore for us to reside upon in an attempt to disconnect from ourself. No, we do not have this opportunity when we let ourselves down, hurt ourselves emotionally, or feel failure.

We can retire into the darkness for a while and ignore our existence. We can suppress our emotions and factor in only the parts of real life we agree with. We can reconcile with parts of our individual self, while allowing other portions of our life to linger on with fragility.

And this is the test of knowing if you truly love yourself: have you reconciled with your most damaged parts? Are you actively swimming to better those portions of you that bring you frustration or sadness? Know yourself, search deep within and understand where you can improve if your goal is to love yourself — otherwise quit swimming altogether and allow yourself to drown. The latter route is a miserable road, because an individual unable to continue to grow becomes frustrating to others, disrespected and ignored. This floods your reserves, making it ever more difficult to reconcile the broken parts of your individual self that needed fixing long ago. Remember, you don’t have to fix these things alone, seek therapy, a trusted friend, or the ear of a family member that will be honest with you. But the objective here is to keep swimming, further exploring the vastness of the ocean of self love.

“Storming a breach, conducting an embassy, ruling a nation are glittering deeds. Rebuking, laughing, buying, selling, loving, hating and living together gently and justly with your household — and with yourself — not getting slack nor being false to yourself, is something more remarkable, more rare and more difficult.”

— Michel de Montaigne

The most worthy consolation in all this is that we’re all swimming alone with our thoughts, emotions, disappointments, and it’s best to understand that this is our shared struggle — all of us together as humans struggling to figure out how to best live our lives — much like a rainy day staring out into the parking lot, except we’re all staring blankly at the day — one day at a time.