Another trip: Defining love.

Unattached people, in particular, think about the meaning of romantic love every February 14. As you know, the lover’s holiday has been a focal point of my posts this week. From my entertainment background, I know this is a good “hook,” an annual opportunity to wax rhapsodic on a ritual.

As the underlying theme of my thinking this week, I’ve found myself spinning off into reveries related to other kinds of love. Yesterday, two experiences sent me off thinking about love differently. I watched Whitney Houston’s “Comin’ Home” and Emilio Estevez’s movie “The Way.” These experiences propelled me toward the complex network of feelings, actions, experiences, and understandings of love. As I wandered through this maze, I wondered if all of this was love or, if there is a way to define it at all.

Goin’ Home.

Why did I tune into the Houston send off? I’m not religious. But for me, music is a spiritual experience—it is there that I pay respect and honor to that which I do not know or understand but believe is the pervasive good in the Universe. That Whitney would have a “Goin’ Home” service drew me. The passion and theatrics of the Baptist tradition fascinate me. Gospel music digs through the depths of my soul, loosens any feeling stuck to the bottom, pulls it to the top, and sets it free. The physical manifestation of and sheer abandon to gospel music is contagious. Like a powerful wave, it sweeps you up and lifts you to the crest. When I sang with Cincinnati’s MUSE Women’s Choir last year, we performed a rendition of “The Storm is Passing Over.” Detroit Mass Choir has a magnificent version. Each time we performed it, tears welled. Emotion unconsciously pushed my limbs and a sway took over. This rush of emotion and joy is ecstasy. This is love. Right?

“I Will Always Love You”

I expected heartfelt tributes, but had a new respect for Kevin Costner after hearing him speak. He spoke with affection, humor, and understated emotion about the small stories of experiences shared and childhood similarities that bonded them. Funny missteps that exemplified the fragility of both. A rare understanding that builds unlikely, unusual  bridges of trust and loyalty. And, I thought, this too, is love.

Love and The Way.

After two and a half hours of leave taking, I looked for diversion. Instead, I found “The Way.” Dear friend, Ray, had recommended Emilio Estevez’s movie starring his father, Martin Sheen. I was plunged into another 90 minutes probing the complications of leave taking and love along the Camino de Santiago. Extracting love as family obligation, as the destiny of a parent. Love for a reason, season, and life time. Love as  acceptance and tribute — and a legacy that, even in a person’s absence, can lead to transformation.  Pain. This is love, too, isn’t it?

Love and what I want from you?

Is there a more confusing concept than love? After a week of contemplation, I am clear about one thing. I am unclear. I understand the characteristics I equate with love. Is it that subjective? Or is there truly a universal standard?

What do you think? 

Though I always encourage your comments and participation. This time my sole reason for posting is to provoke active participation in this discussion. Maybe, it is as Britain’s Prime Minister says in the movie “Love Actually”:

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… love actually is all around. 

Please tell me much more about what love is to you.

Emailed Comments

The result of a recent test I took says it all:  my number one strength is my capacity to love and to be loved.  So, I respond to your question, “What is love?”

First, here is a sample of who/what I love:  I love my family; my dog; my neighbors; sunsets; nature; artwork; crisp, clean air; how I think; good food; live music; theater.  To me, all are beautiful.  I am able to look with a blind eye and cherish them for what they are and more.  And I never, ever want that to change.  Love is having that sixth sense.  Of forgetting about less desirable things, if at least momentarily.  It is feeling warm and good, and feeling that the universe is likewise sharing this with you. 

Love fills you with the three pillars of happiness:  pleasure, engagement and meaning.
Sending you my love,

About vbassoc

Donna Van Bogaert is a researcher and consultant in the field of cognitive styles, health communication, and organizational communication and behavior. Her business, Van Bogaert & Associates, Inc., specializes in cognitive-based coaching, management consulting, and leadership development. When the winds are blowing her way, she travels and talks about workplace potential and creative problem solving. In another life, Donna sings jazz. For a very long time, she fronted two 18-piece big bands —All That Jazz (Madison, WI) and The Gardenia Big Band (Rockford, IL). She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio where, in a third parallel universe, she leads a media branch of a national research institute. Mostly she has returned to painting, poetry, and plotting the next chapter of her life.
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3 Responses to Another trip: Defining love.

  1. Bea says:

    The Native Alaskans have lots of words for snow. We seem to have one. Out language is boring compared to other languages. We seem to have one word for Love. I love my dog but not in the same way I love my granddaughter. I love my granddaughter but not in the same way I love my husband of 43 years. I love my time spent in the studio but not the way I love my time behind a camera taking photos.
    It’s to easy to use just one word. I can dislike what somebody is doing, their behavior but still love them.
    I can feel passion about something, get excited about something.
    I can feel warm and cozy about something.
    I can feel excited about something.
    I can feel joyful and blissful about something.
    I can love sitting on the beach listening to the sound of the waves. Something that I can bring back to my mind at anytime and feel that same love of that experience.
    I don’t like putting labels on things.
    What I feel for my husband at this point in our lives, together, is entirely different from what I felt as a 20 year old and thought, “I’m In LOVE.”
    When he sat with me in the cancer ward, holding my hand, waiting with me for news from the doctor, that feeling I felt for him far surpassed the passionate, emotional feeling I had, at age 20, when I waited by the mailbox for a letter from him.
    I can say I love my mother but I find it difficult to spend more than 2 hours in her presence.
    There are just too many layers, not enough words, in my view to have a simple discussion about love.

    • Well said, Bea! I have ruminated on “love” as well. With a difficult family background, I’ve wondered what “love” is when accompanied by neglect (benign, generally), a parent’s willingness to sacrifice his/her child for the parent’s ego. We heard “I love you” a lot – but I wonder what that meant/means.

      To me, person-to-person love is a commitment to another, a willingness to work through difficult times to give more than 100% and to be willing to ask for what I need when there’s a risk of rejection. To trust that other person with my inner self. To be willing to be real and to accept the other person’s real self as well. I’m sure there are degrees of love but for me, the willingness to take risks and put the other person first, to just THINK about what my actions/reactions can do to the other, is essential.

      Thanks, Darlin’ Doctor Donna, sister extraordinaire, for the topic! Love, El

  2. ephiker says:

    Is love subjective or a universal standard? I don’t believe that it is subjective, I think it is a universal standard, I believe that people are people, people are the same every in the world. People have feelings of love for people and things that make them feel good, happy, at peace, the people and things are different but the feelings of love are the same.

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