On the Universality of Love…

Image for post
Image for post

No matter who you are, where you are, where you’re from, nor the depth of your despair — you have the capacity to love and be loved.

This, like so much in life, is somehow taken for granted. It, like gravity, the oxygen we breathe or the dreams we hold in our hearts, is trite or boring or somehow not worth contemplation.

But let’s pause for a moment to consider this universality of love — it’s as true as any principle in physics. We have a capacity for love, a concept that feels as metaphysical as any story we’ve heard, but remains true in the hearts of so many. And, what’s more incredible? This notion of love expresses itself inside the hearts of everyone differently. It’s a shared experience that we have within ourselves.

This isn’t trivial. The color yellow is objectively the color yellow because a group of people agree that the properties of “yellow” exist outside of one definition. It, like all definitions, is communally shared. And, the color yellow is verifiable. We can put it to a vote, and the vote will prove the definition of yellow.

But love isn’t tangible in that same way. Our love isn’t outside of ourselves. We can’t remove it, show it, take a survey of its properties, and have them vote on whether or not it fits a proper classification. (Although, I’m sure, more than a few well-meaning and dear friends have explained after more than a few cocktails how “Ah, yes. This is more of a lust-love than a real love.”)

We understand love by experiencing it — the warmth and joy and eagerness that it gives us. And each of us, in our own unique ways, share in that experience separately. We were born into this and love forever remains with us, even in the deepest moments of doubt and despair. What else in the world shares such incredible properties?

Skeptics would point to chemical imbalances, and some may even say that love itself is a chemical imbalance. And, perhaps one day, we will have a pill that puts us in a state similar to the agape of love.

Others will point out the very difficult semantics involved in the word “love,” which has taken on a world of baggage, not limiting it to sexual desire, physical contact, religious ecstasy and sensorial gratification.

Could the flood of chemicals in our brains after an especially good meal be considered love? Why, sure. But it’s worth noting that happiness and love come not solely from the quality of the food alone, rather a good meal, like all good experiences, bring in the entire experience, including the friends and family you share it with.

There’s a Catholic religious tradition that says, simply, God is love. As one priest told me, “We don’t know for certain much about God, but we’re certain that God is love.”

The universality of love, and our capacity for it, then provides as good a proof point as any for some kind of higher power. We understand love individually, and we experience God individually. Outside of the church or dogma or religion, outside of organized or sponsored or told, this experience is unique and widely felt.

Emotions are odd and amazing things. They can be manipulated and trained and overwhelming. They can cause great suffering, both internal and external, and they can lead to devastating conclusions. But, through it all, if you look for it, love is insidious. It is always there. Sometimes it takes more than a shovel to dig down to it.

And sometimes it’s worth remembering that it’s not pretty, and it’s not kind, and love as confusing as it can be is more than a four-letter word. I’d like to leave readers with the hope that they’re able to take a moment of reflection to find love, and share the often sung words of Leonard Cohen:

Well I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?

Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya

She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

But baby I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor
You know, I used to live alone before I knew ya

And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Well there was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show that to me do ya

But remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya

And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Hallelujah

Author of Populace; former journalist, farmer, librarian, burger flipper, bagboy, groundskeeper, political organizer, and shill.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store