“What is love” was the most searched for phrase on Google in 2012 and right now there are 185 millions searches each month. It’s not difficult to see why. Love is for most of us the single most important human emotion. Perhaps we can find an answer to this age old question “what is love?” by finding out what love means to some famous novelists and songwriters who are inspired to write about it.
The novelists’ views
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
This is an extremely pessimistic view but nevertheless one held by many who have been hurt and often repeated by poets, writers and musicians alike. Indeed it’s this unrequited love that creates such such dark thoughts and inspires them to create great work that resonates with our very being. Paulo Coelho in The Zahir: A Novel of Obsession (P.S.)
Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.
Here we see a similarly jaded view of love. Paulo Coelho sees love as something uncontrollable which has the power to destroy us. Perhaps at the time of writing he was thinking of a love lost that he had done his best to keep but in the end it was the keeping of it that lead to its loss. Of course anyone who has loved and lost can relate to the devastation portrayed in these words as well as the feeling that we need to capture love in case it escapes. E. M. Forster in A Room with a View
You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.
This view is far more hopeful than the two previous novelists’ views. The concept of eternal love if you are an incurable romantic is undeniable. Here love is seen as something irrepressible and spiritual, a view E.M. Forster claims is shared by poets.
The songwriters’ views
Paul – That’s a very young song. I wrote that in England and that’s an adolescent song, or really, a post-adolescent song. Probably if I could, like, not have a song for a hit, I would pick “I am a Rock.” and “The Dangling Conversation.” If they would go away, I would be happy. But to be kinder to myself, I would say it’s very young.©1991 Paul Zollo Paul – Unquestionably my most neurotic song. When I finished it I thought “Oh man,I can’t be this sick!”‘
This song, despite Paul Simon’s comments, inspired me when at twenty years old I lost both my parents and my fiance (my first love) left me- all within the space of 3 months. I used it like a mantra to give me the strength to carry on and still love it to this day.
I wonder how many others this song has helped overcome the huge and unimaginable sadness felt when the love of your life leaves you and you are left overwhelmingly alone.
This is the dark side of love that often inspires songwriters to write sad songs although “I am a Rock” is different from many others because it leaves you feeling strong enough to endure and overcome the pain. I think Paul Simon should be proud of this song – how about you?
The chorus of this disco hit reveals how vulnerable love makes us feel because whilst love can seem like heaven on earth the end of love can feel like hell on earth especially when the decision to part isn’t mutual.
What is love
Oh baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me no more
Oh, baby don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me no more
The poet’s view
My love is like a red, red rose by Robert Burns Obviously Robert Burns was in the throes of love when writing this beautiful poem. Not for him the pain of a love lost but possibly a new love just won who had captured Burns’ heart and imagination.
O my Luve’s like a red, red rose That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve’s like the melodie That’s sweetly played in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear, Till a’ the seas gang dry:
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear, And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will luve thee still, my dear, While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only Luve, And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my Luve, Tho’ it ware ten thousand mile.
What is love?
Love is the most powerful and perhaps complex human emotion. It can be simplified by breaking it down into a cycle – looking for love, finding love and losing love. Whether you love it or hate it depends on what’s happening to you in your life at any given time. This video by Dr Helen Fisher provides the Anthropologists answer to the question “What is love.” One thing’s certain the debate about trying to define what is love is as eternal as love itself!