The Love Paradox

January 7, 2015 at 5:24 pm

“What is love?” is one of the most commonly searched phrases on Google. Our obsession with love is unending. It is the emotion that drives most of our stories, movies and songs. We look for it and try to find it in almost every small thing in our lives. From gadgets to food,  from people to organizations, Love is everywhere and yet love is the one thing we are looking for the most.


Image Courtesy alles banane

Image Courtesy alles banane

I have grown up absorbing myriad definitions of what love is. It is chemistry, It is a survival tool – a mechanism we have evolved to promote long-term relationships, It is sexual, it is platonic, it is unconditional and it is divine. Love is not one thing, it has always seemed like a confused amalgamation of many things. There are many different kinds of love. Love for neighbours, friends, parents, partners, country and God. In the last few decades we added one more flavour to this list. Love for the self. But is it really so segregated or have we made it so?

Dante believed that Love was the singular force behind all human action. In “The Divine Comedy” he explains that good deeds are the result of love rightly directed and a sin by the same definition is the result of love distorted and perverted for the sake of evil. This theory of love being the root of all our actions dates back to Aristotle. He believed that the force of love is manifested in every object in its search for its “right or natural position”. This according to him kept the planets in regular motion and motivated temporal and seasonal progressions. Hence love was first defined as a supreme organizing force that maintained the natural physical order of things.

This definition strips love of all sentiments and places it as a force in nature. It is simple and universal. Perhaps that is the reason why I was first drawn to it. According to this definition, love is the only reason we are where we are and we do what we do. At least it ought to be. While the thought is simple we don’t live like that. As romantic as it seems to follow your passion and do what you love, very few of us really subscribe to it. If love doesn’t drive our lives, what does?

Rick Warren in his book “The Purpose Driven Life” says there are five basic factors that drive a persons life and contribute in making the vast majority of his or her decisions: Guilt, Resentment, Fear, Materialism and the need for Approval. These five coupled with love constitute the whole gamut of driving forces that the advertising industry uses to lure us into spending. Look at any advertisement, it is either using a form of love or one of these other driving forces to push you towards or away from a commodity. That by itself stands as a testament to the truth behind Rick Warren’s statement.

Fear and the need for approval have been the major driving forces in my life. They made some of the biggest decisions in my life. I became an engineer because everyone around me was doing that. I didn’t want to lose out on what was made out to be a big opportunity. This in turn decided what my career would be and that determined how I spent 2/3rds of my day and where I lived. Using a trend coupled with misplaced reason as an organizing force to determine your career is like using security or religion to determine who your life partner would be. They are ineffective organizing forces. They can bring about success but they seldom bring contentment. The thin line between these two is often the breeding ground for regret.

  “If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” ― Joseph Campbell
Image Courtesy Chris Piascik

Image Courtesy Chris Piascik

We have always been using love as an unconscious force to organize our life and to determine our purpose on earth. Along the way we erroneously picked up fear, approval, guilt, resentment and materialism as other forces to organize ourselves. This is unnatural and goes against our very essence as can be evidenced in the world everyday. Doing what you love is natural and not a dream out there that only a few people can realize. We don’t have to “chase our passion”, we need to come home to it. It is our birthright, the reason we were born. It may not be the easy option but it will be the option that feels right. Most importantly it will lead to the kind of work that could probably tire us by the end of the day, but not the kind that tires us as soon as we wake up.

This difference is just as important to realize, as there is no regret here and while it may not be seen as conventional success by many, it is where contentment thrives. We have been fooled into thinking that success is out there and that it needs to be achieved. It really is inside us and needs to be felt. If our lives have been wrongly constructed around anything but love, we need to dismantle it and reassemble it around love. This is what many people around the world call a sabbatical. Although I believe, taking a break to follow your bliss isn’t really a break, it is finally your time to start living the life you love.