Love is a paradox. It exists simultaneously as a falsified, sensationalised, clichéd tool of the media to entertain or sell us things, and as something pure, untouchable and mysterious that emanates from somewhere deep inside us. As a philosophy student, I tend to question why things in society are the way they are, and so this paradox represents a fascinating challenge to me. That is why some of the most pressing questions which preoccupy me are, ‘What is love? Is it real? How do we know when we feel it?’ 

Some view it solely as a chemical, engineered by our survival instinct to help each other as a community, giving us a better chance than we would have alone. But I believe that people who say love means nothing more to them than a chemical or an evolutionary quirk are usually just trying to be edgy. Someone who genuinely does not believe in love is just going to miss out in life, because love is cherished by human beings for a reason; it is something that we need to survive, not just physically, but also intellectually. 

I have intuited that love is the first human concept, meaning that when you think of what it means to be human, love comes to mind. There are enough books about people who moved mountains and fought wars for love. It is a topic that we as humans seem to return to again and again. However, such stories seem to represent sensationalized love, and most of us will not be able to relate our experience of love to these grand, dramatic stories. But they are rooted in the truth that love is hard. In our daily lives, it can be long-suffering or suffocating or exhausting. It can mean parents who stay up late, working hard and preoccupied over bills and their kids’ futures. It can mean comforting your annoying little sibling when they cry, even though it was their own fault they got hurt. It can mean patience with a parent, spouse or friend of many years, biting your tongue no matter how angry you are. This is how we define love in our society. 

A pivotal moment in my personal journey of trying to understand love was when I realised the heart is deep enough to love the whole world. This realisation occurred as I moved from place to place, met new people and realised strangers were just friends waiting to happen. As humans, we are too small to ever interact with more than a limited group of family, friends, colleagues and classmates. But the love in our heart is infinite. We never run out of it; we can just give more to every person we meet. This realisation proved to me that love is not solely defined by our casual interactions. Love, even for an insignificant person like me, can be vastly momentous. I do not have to be a legendary warrior or leader for my love to matter. 

Furthermore, in my experience, as much as love can extend outward to the whole world, it must also extend inward to one’s self.  Self love is the most undervalued form of love. Many people may never realise the benefit of being able to look at yourself objectively—it gives you the knowledge you need to try and change yourself to become a person you can love. Growing up, I have been told to love my family and community, but never told to love myself, and it took me this long to figure out why self-love is even necessary. Eventually, we realize that love is not necessarily what we first thought it was. We just have to grow through life to understand what it will mean to each of us. 

Surely the greatest misconception of love is our belief that we can define it at all. I am only seventeen, yet I have experienced so many different types of love that I eventually ran out of ways to differentiate them. I concluded that love is not a singular all-encompassing concept. It is different with every person. No two relationships involving love are comparable, just as no two human beings are just the same. 

This is as far as I can explain love, although I know my ideas will evolve as I have more experiences, and I also know that everyone who reads this will have a unique perspective on this concept that may differ a great deal from mine. However, even if I continue to philosophize my entire life, I hope I never understand the true nature of the concept. Unpicking the great mysteries of our being is one of the most entrancing pursuits we have been gifted.

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