Friday, 14 February 2014

What is Love? Famous Definitions from 400 Years of Literary History




“Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get —
 only with what you are expecting to give — which is everything.”
Here are some of the most memorable and timeless insights on love, culled from several hundred years of literary history — enjoy.
Kurt Vonnegut, who was in some ways an extremist about love but also had a healthy dose of irreverence about it, in The Sirens of Titan:
A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.
What is love but acceptance of the other, whatever he is.
Stendhal in his fantastic 1822 treatise on love:
Love is like a fever which comes and goes quite independently of the will. … there are no age limits for love.
C. S. Lewis, who was a very wise man, in The Four Loves:
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.
Love can change a person the way a parent can change a baby — awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess.
Nothing is mysterious, no human relation. Except love.
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.
Ambrose Bierce, with the characteristic wryness of The Devil’s Dictionary:
Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage.
Katharine Hepburn in Me : Stories of My Life:
Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get — only with what you are expecting to give — which is everything.
Philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell, he of great wisdom, in The Conquest of Happiness:
Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky puts it even more forcefully in The Brothers Karamazov:
What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.
Anyone who falls in love is searching for the missing pieces of themselves. So anyone who’s in love gets sad when they think of their lover. It’s like stepping back inside a room you have fond memories of, one you haven’t seen in a long time.
Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.
The more one judges, the less one loves.
Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
But perhaps the truest, if humblest, of them all comes from Agatha Christie, who echoes Anaïs Nin above in her autobiography:
It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.
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