It is the one human emotion that remains mysterious, argued photographer Susan Sontag. It is temporary insanity, only curable by marriage, grumbled novelist Ambrose Bierce. Dorothy Parker said she would have been better off without it, along with freckles, curiosity and doubt.
We are, of course, talking about love. But what do we really talk about when we talk about love? With another rose-filled Valentine’s Day upon us, we asked local experts to define what is arguably the greatest – but most elusive – human emotion of them all.
The philosopher: ‘Without love, life is a mistake’
“There are perhaps as many kinds of love as there are lovers. Infuriatingly, we can’t seem to settle on a definition that does justice to the thing itself. Yet we know what love is. We know when we feel it – or don’t quite. And when we get it – or don’t quite. And when we have lost it, for sure. I’ve learned that somehow love is the thing that links us, not just to each other, but to life itself. Nietzsche wrote: ‘Without music, life would be a mistake.’ He was narrowly wrong: Without love, life is a mistake. Music makes the lack of love bearable. That he did know.”
Andrew Day is a philosopher, author and playwright. He is the director of continued Professional Development and Specialist Philosophy Teacher at The Philosophy Foundation in Forest Hill – http://www.philosophy-foundation.org
The poet: ‘Love holds us together’
“For the poet, love is fuel. We are often moved to start writing by the sight of a beloved; or better, someone we would like to become a beloved. But beyond the romantic lies the bigger quarry we are mining – love as an expression of what we feel when we encounter the world. Deep down poets share the same ambition: to find words that express the inexpressible. For the words to propel our readers to say: ‘I felt like that too – how did you know?’ I know because I am human. I know because, in the largest sense, I know that we all love, and want to share that love. I know because love is the glue that holds us all together.”
Rishi Dastidar is a poet and trustee of “Spread the word”, a Deptford-based development agency for writers from diverse backgrounds. https://www.spreadtheword.org.uk/
The erotic emporium entrepreneur: ‘Love is freedom to be ourselves’
“Sex is a key facet in love’s diamond, not its devilish alter-ego. It fires up the feel-good hormones and it is central to our confidence, our self-esteem, our self-love. Sex is how we express love.
“Love is the acceptance of different lifestyles and identities that helps us all to be free. As women, we’re rejecting the little boxes we’re put in and instead we’re owning our own bodies, our own sexuality and exploring. That’s the brilliant thing about love; it opens up all possibilities.
“With both love and sex, we’re bombarded with messages of how it should be. But, just like love, sex is individual not ‘one-size-fits-all’. We are beginning to embrace this individuality and freedom to be. The passing of gay marriage into law is the recognition that love means being equal, without hierarchy.”
Ky Hoyle is the owner and founder of Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium in Hoxton – www.sh-womenstore.com