Wow, I hadn't realized that it had actually been so long since the last time I posted here. (I've been working on a few posts, which probably helped preserve for me the illusion of actually having posted.) For those who may wish such reassurance, let me say that I've been well, and even a little bit busy, between working on a cause in which I deeply believe with a few friends, writing a long-ish story for a fan fiction exchange in which I'm taking part this year, making crochet hats and scarves for various care packages to be sent out this winter, and (as of this week) doing some volunteer work in a local elementary school.
Anyway, some time ago, somebody found this blog with the search term "Pagan thoughts about love." I can't speak for most Pagans, of course, but here's what this Christo-Pagan thinks about love.
First of all, I think that in Western culture, we've given the word a terrible reputation. I think that we've commercialized it, made it into an excuse, cheapened it, bound it up in far too many limitations, and yet abused and overused it to such a ridiculous degree that the word itself doesn't mean much, at least in certain circumstances. When it's not the type of love reserved for family members, which rarely enters into conversations about love anyway, we've turned the meaning of the word "love" into something that's purely hormonal, something that looks and feels mysterious but is really nothing more than the effect of various chemical compounds on the brain. We've taken an action and turned it into a feeling that is at once sought-after and held in disdain. We've privileged some forms of it and dismissed too many others as unimportant because they don't usually involve sexual arousal. To love, we're told, is to burn, to feel passion and the "urge to merge," and if you really love someone, that feeling will never go away. We're told that to really love, there has to be only one other person involved, and we have to be everything that they need, and they have to be everything that we need. Friends (especially friends who are of the same gender and sex as your partner) and family are nice but unnecessary when you've found that ONE BIG LOVE. And then we're surprised when, crushed by all of these expectations, what we thought was love did not stand the test of time.
All in all, I think that the word "love" has gotten a pretty raw deal.
Furthermore, I think that love itself is not a feeling (or at least, it's not only a feeling). Affection is a feeling. Lust is an experience. But love is an action, something that's shown, not merely felt. Saying "I love you" ought not to just mean "I feel a lot of affection for you" and/or "I want to have sex with you." It should also mean something along the lines of "I trust you, and you can trust me. I'll help you when you need my help. Even when we're not getting along, you're important to me." Without actions, without a solid foundation of trust and mutual support, what we often think of as "love" isn't quite it.
I've also been thinking lately (again) about the nature of what's known as unrequited love. (For reasons that are probably made obvious by the paragraphs preceding this one, I dislike the use of the word "love" in this term, but at the moment it's the only phrase I know that describes this particular experience; I'm aware of what limerence is, but that's not what I'm talking about here.) I admit that I have at least one personal reason for doing so; I'm kind of on the edge of it at the moment, and I'm fighting it. So far, though I admit that there's always the possibility that I'm fooling myself, I think I'm winning. It's difficult, though. Late last year, I met someone who's proven to be an intelligent, funny, and compassionate person. We hit it off more or less right away, and he and I have become fairly good friends in the course of the past year. I knew that I was attracted to him, but I shrugged it off; I'm aware that for various reasons, I'm not exactly the type of person he'd normally consider dating. As our friendship developed, occasionally that attraction bothered me a little, but I've long been of the opinion that unrequited attractions, and even what we call "unrequited love," do not necessarily ring out the death knell for a friendship, especially if the friendship itself is solid and both (or all, depending on the situation) parties are still invested in maintaining it.
The thing that annoys me the most about the way that people see unrequited love is that there's this automatic assumption that you have to want the feelings to be requited, and you'll be totally miserable when, time and again, it's proven that they are not. It's as if everything goes to hell once the hormones kick in. And although I'm not speaking from current experience, my past experiences have shown me that this doesn't necessarily have to be the case. Even if you can't control your actual feelings, you can choose how you will react to them and how you will deal with them.
Meanwhile, practically everything I've read about unrequited love suggests that it's one of the Greatest Lifetime Disasters of Humanity, as if it's automatically a cruel and humiliating experience that absolutely destroys one's life. Call me a heartless bitch if you like, but I don't think that unrequited love even ranks in the top ten disasters that a human being can experience. Sure, it can be unpleasant, and I'm sure that there are people for whom the experience is worse than it's ever been for me, but it doesn't have to be the end of the world.
In any case, as I've said before, love itself is more than a feeling. It's action. It's compassion. It's mutual trust and support. Under certain circumstances, it can involve lust. But what it never is, is selfish, jealous, possessive, or manipulative. Anyone who acts in those ways and says it's because of love is a liar.