In a world where everything and everyone is potentially toxic and fake, where do our fears leave us when it comes to love?
Do we even know what it is and entails beyond our self-serving vision of another person vouching for our heart?
What can love achieve when deployed in the war zone of life, whose orders does it follow, and can it achieve peace alone?
Most of us are terrified of it. We’re afraid no one deems us good enough for companionship; we’re afraid loneliness is a permanent relationship status. As a result, we experience a tsunami of benevolence and gratitude whenever someone pays us any attention, whoever they may be.
We do not, alas, always do our due diligence and ask ourselves where their interest in us comes from nor what might have prompted it.
But we probably should, especially when we hold ourselves in such low regard; that’s not intelligence, that’s common sense. The opportunity to see ourselves through another human’s eyes is priceless as it can teach us a lot about how we come across to others.
We might, if we cared to pause and take stock of our interactions, realize there is a reality gap between who we think we are and how we behave, i.e. our narrative.
Who we tell the world we are isn’t as important as our personality but it often misleads others so should we really blame them when relationships go awry?
We keep kicking our hearts from pillar to post. Then we wonder why they often deflate, shrink, and wither away as we contemplate the magnitude of our assorted lonelinesses.
Across the gender spectrum and at all ages, humans get lonely.
We are quick to accuse tech of alienating us from one another even though we yet have to learn how to use the internet to ends other than self-serving. We are quick to condemn toxic relationships and toxic love even though we yet have to learn how to think for more than one, in the present moment.
It doesn’t matter how kind and devoted to us another human being may be.
If we consistently fail to take them into account because we are too wrapped up in ourselves or the future, they will suffer.
Little by little, the hurt will pile up until it fells them or they wake up one day or their heart demands they untether it from this burden of pain. The latter is an act of self-preservation and the reason many relationships turn to dust the minute difficulties arise.
In a culture of instant gratification, appearances, and greed, we want it all and we want it yesterday.
The inexhaustible supply of human hearts makes us careless, lazy, and entitled, whatever our gender.
The patriarchy so many outrage peddlers decry doesn’t just hurt those of us without a penis, it hurts everyone. Women systematically faulting men for their love life not turning out as they expected are shirking accountability.
All humans have the intellectual capacity for analysis and criticism; all humans have the emotional capacity for love.
No, you’re not special because love failed you.
But what if it was you who failed it instead? How does this perspective impact your narrative?
We were all manufactured to the same standards therefore we theoretically stand on an equal footing.
Only this idea seldom turns into reality as we continue to promote style over substance, appearances over character.
How many of us spin what we think of as our desirable traits into distorted truths to conceal what we think of as our least attractive ones?
So many centuries later, it is still a little curious to blame Shakespeare for giving us the wrong idea of what love is. For all our cultural complaints about the literary and televisual representations of love, we don’t seem to ever question them. We consume them like we consume all mythologies, from the omnipotence of self-love to being self-made or self-partnered.
There is no place for anyone else amid the raging narcissism we describe, package, and sell as self-confidence. Adoring yourself borders on religious fanaticism and this kind of fervor leaves no room for anyone but the hapless few.
Among the desperate, hope thrives eternal and human yearning for it may make us more susceptible to facile reasoning, lies, and tall tales of woe.
We, too, are one of love’s victims, see how it disfigured our heart, too?
Sooner or later, love will victimize us but the self must remain an impenetrable fortress, we argue at length to justify our selfishness.
A person who keeps mistaking attention for love needs connections other than those social media offers. We may have maxed out on Facebook friends and not have a single number we can call in case of emergency beside 911 because no one cares about us.
Love makes itself known without an introduction but most of us are unable to see it, so blinded are we by our fear of letting another see us are we are.
The bond of trust love demands calls for surrender, but it doesn’t eradicate the need for us to do our due diligence first. Is love something that could grow if we rearranged our inner landscape to accommodate another’s self?
Here’s the thing: Our fears about love aren’t specific to us and neither are our partnership dreams because no human can go it alone in life. Like it or not, with or without the internet, we’re all interconnected, from hyperlocal to global level.
We’re one same species blundering its way forward in the dark guided by some nothing more than the compass in our chest. We all want to be seen, we all want to be acknowledged.
And we all want to be accepted exactly as for are whenever anyone else sets eyes on us.
Once a year, hearts appear everywhere for a few days to remind us to take care of ours.
Unhelpfully, some of us will preach about how love broke our heart so now we keep it for ourselves.
Love betrayed us so we have decided we are better off alone channeling our outsize needs for validation into something else. We hope this something else will earn us notoriety so we might parlay the dearth of love into dollars while our heart atrophies a little more each day.
We offer nothing but self-marketing, we make ourselves unknowable on purpose, and we surrender to fear.
And when love turns up and another human offers us their heart as a home, we begin a valuation of their respective traits as we go down our perfect partner checklists.
We do not see they are holding a door open for us to step out of our heads and into the world, we do not see they are holding out their hand in our direction. We do not see they are sincere and genuinely curious about us.
We do not see the glimmer in their eye when our representations collide.
As darkness begins to descend after they go, we slowly understand.
Love isn’t an idea, it is a proof of concept.
Many of us live in democracies where we are free to reinvent and redefine love endlessly for the benefit of all and for the common good. Now that the internet has turned us all into media, we can spread messages faster than ever before but they’re seldom of service.
We can still choose to celebrate our shared humanness and love as a force to embrace and not to fear.
Love may be self-evident but it doesn’t mean we should never question it otherwise how can it ever grow and mature into unwavering trust?
Only honest self-inquiry can help us transcend fear; love is not a truce between two feuding selves but an ongoing global peacekeeping mission.
Allowing another into our head and into our heart takes humility and fortitude. We cannot recoil at our own intellectual and emotional nakedness, we must accept it so someone else can, too.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.