Love is just a four-letter word” is a famous line of a song sung by Joan Baez. However, this simple four-letter word is probably one of the most widely uttered, celebrated and even ridiculed words among all other words. When someone falls in love for the first time, love seems as sweet as honey. When someone gets used to being in love, love becomes a habit. When someone is heartbroken in love, love seems more bitter than the bitter gourd. Love is a very dynamic feeling that changes its definition every now and then. It is a beautiful feeling which is felt as well as acted lovingly. If we try to define it, we can at least say that it is an enacted feeling.The dictionary defines love as "an intensive feeling of deep affection". The word "love" is both noun and verb. It is an abstract noun which can only be felt and perceived. It is a stative verb which describes a certain state or condition of mind. So, love, in linguistic discourse, is a feeling of affection. The definition is objectively true in most of the cases. Also, it gets fit in almost all kinds of love.
However, people define love on the basis of their individual experiences. The idea of love is defined and fabricated in many literary, philosophical and psychological works. In my article, I will try to compile a few interesting definitions of love given by various scholars. I will also add my comments to each of them.
1. Let's begin with the Nobel Prize winning Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. One who loves to sing or listen to songs loves Tagore and his works. Tagore is so versatile that he cannot be introduced in simple words. Love has been one of the major themes of his songs, poems and other literary works. Tagore, very aesthetically, defines love by saying, "love is an endless mystery, because there is no reasonable cause that could explain it". How beautifully Tagore puts the idea in words! When we ask our loved ones and look for the reason behind being loved, we absolutely get no solid reason. We love, because we love to love. We love, because we feel deep affection for the people we love.
Tagore, in his another song, writes, "they want love for the sake of happiness. Love never comes and happiness disappears. Now they wonder whom to get and whom to forget". Here, Tagore shows the contradictory relationship between love and happiness. The same kind of message is given in "sokhi, bhalobasa Kare koy?/ Se ki keboli jatonamoy?" (Dear, what is love? Is it only supposed to be painful?) So, the idea is that love takes people to melancholic state of mind. We love and we suffer. Is that so?
2. Now, let's see what our National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam has to say about love. Nazrul is popularly known as the rebel poet and poet of equality and egalitarianism. However, he has been very passionate and also progressive about love. He writes, "love has no meaning or amount". Yes, we cannot measure the amount of love we actually feel for our nearest and dearest ones. For example, if someone asks us how much we love your mother, can you scale the amount? I guess we never ever can even think of measuring the love we feel for our mothers.
Some of Nazrul's words regarding love can be misleading to the youngsters. In his poem, "Anamika", he writes, "prem ek, premika se bohu" (there is one love, but many lovers). This is misleading, because people will keep on falling in love, make new relationships after breaking up with the previous ones. But if taken optimistically, one can move on after a massive failure of a bad relationship. Many people tend to have an emotional break down after a break up. They stop having faith in the idea of love. This should not be the way of looking at love. Love does not sustain, probably because it has not been nourished. The idea of love remains eternal and unchanged. But the person can be changed due to some unavoidable circumstances.3. Now let's see how William Shakespeare defines love. William Shakespeare is one of the greatest playwrights and poets of England. He has written 37 complete plays and 154 sonnets in which he has incorporated so many themes and ideas. Love is also very prominently present in his literary works. In sonnet 116, he defines love by stating what it is and what is not. In the first quatrain, Shakespeare writes, "love is not love/ if it alters when alteration finds". To him, love is "the marriage of two minds" and it does not change when the change in the loved ones is seen. In my opinion, this is a very suggestive definition of love for this generation. To this sparkling, dynamic and whimsical generation, appearance matters. People first fall in love with the appearance. The more beautiful the appearance is seen, the deeper the love is felt. As soon as there are a few physical changes are noticed in a loved one, the love also changes its direction. What Shakespeare suggests is that love should remain eternally constant even if the loved ones change. We see changes in love of certain types of people when they find more attractive people around them.
4. Now let me philosophise the idea of love. When we talk about the philosophy of love, we immediately recall the great Greek philosopher Plato and his Symposium. He says, "any general aspirations towards the good things or to happiness; that is love". "Platonic love" is popularly used term which is named after Plato. He talks about a kind of love that is absolutely nonsexual. There is no connection with the body. Physical desires are not encouraged. Rather, the pure union of souls is what matters in love. In today's age, can we really think of a love that excludes sexual involvement or attraction? If yes, then that's platonic! Platonic love contradicts the idea of romantic love which involves sexual attraction and sensuality in a relationship.
5. Psychoanalytically, the definition of love is undoubtedly and exactly the opposite of Platonic love. The father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud develops two theories of love. One, the theory that combines love and sexuality together. And the other one is narcissism or self love. According to Freud, we learn to love from the early relationship with our parents. A baby can also have erotic feelings when he/she sucks on his/her mother's breast. Freud may sound weird, but this is what he has got after dealing with his patients. Sex plays a vital role in the wellbeing of people. But when someone falls in love just for the sake of having physical relationship, it just destroys the purity of human souls.
If one starts to define the idea of love, one can go on writing. The ink of a pen will be finished, but the true definition of love will not be found. Therefore, let love be love as love itself is. And let's love our loved ones to the fullest.
The writer is a Lecturer, Department of English Language and Literature, Premier University Chittagong