Love — the known unknown
Lately something occurred to me that I find rather disturbing — I don’t know what love is. I don’t say this to be pompous or to draw attention to myself. All I am trying to say is that I cannot rationalize what love is or properly define it. Let’s try to define it here.
I asked my friend Jessica, who is an artist, a teacher, and is in love with a very good friend of mine from college, what love is and she said, “Complete and utter acceptance and joy of the other person in your life.”
The above answer should be enough and yet here I am trying to intellectualize love. Love perhaps should be left best in the hands of artists, musicians and writers. Yet, I sit here wondering about that mysterious force that is out there somewhere. I challenged myself to write about it, and I drew blanks. My mind just blanked out.
I don’t proclaim to be the smartest person around, but usually I have some insight into what society and popular culture is raving about. I don’t feel so bright right now. What I will do, even though I might sound like an idiot, is ask the question and then try to answer it in a way only I can — like a complete nerd that lives in his brain all day.
What is love?
Love is the known unknown.
Love is irrational. Love is insane and stupid. Love is the deepest desire alongside being alive. Love is the known unknown and it consumes and excites the imagination of all cultures.
A known unknown is something that on perhaps a subconscious level we desire and yet when we try to objectively identify that “known” it slips away to the “unknown.” A known unknown — we often desire love but also to truly understand it in a logical framework where someone can point to it and say ah ha, there it is.
On top of not being able to quantify or define it concretely, we also are consumed by its desire, madness and danger. So, we have no idea what it is we seek, and the desire for that danger and madness burns as a longing and desire in our souls.
For example, to be in love, you have to fall in love. You have to fall. Imagine for a second that you are freefalling. For me to be totally out of control and falling down to the Earth seems like a nightmare to me. And yet, some people can jump out of a plane and love that eternal moment of freefalling even if there’s a very tiny chance you’re going to die and be scraped up off the ground by a shovel. They freely choose to skydive like they freely choose to be in love. Perhaps that is why both propositions are seemingly dangerous and yet irresistible.
This known unknown drives us mad — hence the term “madly in love.” Again, someone would have to be insane to try to be in love or even feel that emotion. Talk to a married man who says “My wife is driving me crazy.” Chris Rock tells us that the only way you can tell if a man is in love with his woman is if he’s pulling his hair out and goes crazy (same in reverse for the ladies). Must I be crazy to be in love? Is that how it works?
Yet, after all I’ve written up to this point, there are people out there who still yearn for love. People are out there still aimlessly wandering through their lifetimes feeling something drawing near and fading out. That echo they feel inside their chests is that radar for the known unknown. It’s there near the human heart. I don’t know what it is about love that changes a person’s life, but it does something to people that’s radical and dynamic.
Is the known unknown the utter acceptance and joy of participating freely in madness and danger with another person? Perhaps love is simply a contradiction — the known unknown.
Perhaps all love is hugging someone one minute and then calling them a jerk 10 minutes later.