Carl Pettit is a romantic: despite the word’s overuse, he still believes in love—true love.
Love is a nebulous concept for some. For others, it’s extremely simple to define. Like the overused ideal of “freedom,” it’s often invoked in public discourse and in our media to measure the value of a human life, our reason for being, or to call us to action. Some commentators criticize the abuse of this word in contemporary society, citing how a person can proclaim, “I love this taco,” and “I love my wife” with the very same breath. We might love our family, lovers, countries or gods, or we might love a stamp collection, WrestleMania or a zesty chili sauce. Love, taken in the modern context, is a tremendously flexible word.
Yet as ubiquitous as the word “love” has become, many of us still cling to the concept of “true love,” and set it somewhere apart from the conventional love we see displayed almost every day. Ah, yes, that wonderful feeling handed down to us from the fates, or perhaps the universe itself, distilling millennia of evolution, life experience and star stuff down into a simple cocktail containing only two, basic ingredients, which consist of you, and your perfect (a relative term) half. I must confess, I am a disciple of this kind of love, even though I recognize how vexing and difficult the search for this mysterious beast can be.
Of course, when discussing true love, we should acknowledge that the “true” part of the equation can be defined in numerous, and frequently contradicting ways. One person’s definition might not match another’s, yet it my mind that doesn’t make his or her love (if one has ever experienced such a thing) any less true.
I often think of the human world as a massive, rough-hewn jigsaw puzzle, where some pieces fit together, more or less, in a coarse kind of way, while others don’t fit together at all. In the realm of love (however you choose to define it), pieces that match up, at least to some extent, could be considered love. If two rare pieces fit together in exacting harmony, with every angle, edge, and zigzag matched down to the minutia… well, there you go. That’s my personal, albeit fairly abstract, definition of “true” love.
People who are angelic in nature, or masochists and folks of an evil bent, all have the chance (although there’s no guarantee) of finding someone, who in their own personal universe could become a true love, locking in perfectly with the idiosyncratic designs of their individual puzzle pieces. Regardless of your moral qualities (or lack thereof), station in society, sexual orientation, belief in monogamy or otherwise, there very well might be a chuck of jagged puzzle out there that matches up to yours. Finding it, and knowing when you’ve found it, is a different matter.
My sentiments concerning love fall into the “romantic” category. I know this, and fault a love I once had, but let go of because I was too busy traversing the globe and not wise enough to know better, as the reason. I also fault, or owe a debt, depending on your perspective, to my parents, who gave me the statistically uncommon example of two people in love, who met when they were very young, and then committed to each other for a lifetime. Experience and the precedents we’re exposed to, along with romantic films and songs, probably have a lot to do with how we feel about love, even if they typically give us an unrealistic view on the subject.
Perhaps you don’t believe in true love, which is understandable, since it’s almost never an easy, or practical thing. Or perhaps you knew it once, but lost it, and live with some regret. Or if you’re one of the lucky few, you might live in its light still. No matter what camp you fall into (even skeptics), the pursuit and ideal of true love, from our hearts and imaginations, to our perceived realities, can often be a painful, yet life-giving thing. For many of us, regardless of the pleasure or pain love brings, it’s still one of the best reasons to keep getting out of bed.
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