Ah, love. It’s the subject of our greatest poetry, our most stunning music and our most touching films. It’s fundamental to what it means to be a human being, and in many ways, it drives every aspect of our lives.
It’s also painful, corporatized, cruel, toxic and a whole host of other delightful adjectives.
Society can’t seem to decide which way it feels about love. Do we love love, or do we hate it? Do we merely tolerate it with resigned dissatisfaction? What does it even mean to be in love, or to love someone?
Of course, it would be futile to attempt to answer these questions — which human beings have been discussing for centuries — in the space of one column. But attitudes toward romantic love in the modern day are interesting.
Often, people perceive real love to be nonexistent, a manufactured product of a world where romance sells. Many people are cynical and jaded — renouncing love as a myth better left to idealistic high schoolers. Others avoid emotional intimacy and run through a string of casual flings, unable or unwilling to truly connect with those around them. Perhaps saddest of all, many settle for romance that is lackluster and lukewarm — comfortable enough, but lacking anything moving or life-changing.
Love is not only natural and necessary, it is important. The systems that oppress us are directly opposed to all types of love, be that self-love, queer love, or just honest, romantic love. Hundreds of books and movies tell tales of star-crossed lovers beating the odds to be together — the Hunger Games, anyone? Real life doesn’t need to be this dramatic, but romance and love can and should be seen as subversive acts.
Devotion to other people, rather than social norms or higher agendas, is radical, profound and often politically powerful.
This kind of tenderness and attachment is scarce, and that makes it special. However, it seems to be rarer than ever in our modern society. I’m not criticizing hookup culture or casual relationships — there’s nothing wrong with exploring and having fun!
However, the growing trend of dismissing serious commitment is a bit concerning. Love makes us better, happier people, and emotional intimacy is just as, if not more important than physical intimacy.
Ephemeral, fleeting flings may be enjoyable and healthy for a time, but what about true connection and empathy? So many people today feel isolated, misunderstood, lonely. Perhaps transience and distraction can’t fill the voids in our souls.
Perhaps we need to, eventually, look for something deeper.
But how to go about finding the right person or people with whom to form that bond? I’m definitely not qualified to answer that question, but I do believe that compromise in a romance is not the same thing as settling. Any relationship is based on give and take, but love should be transformative, not dull and humdrum.
Of course, there is comfort to be had in almost any relationship, but leaning into tedium, rather than seeking out stirring, transcendent love is an enormous disservice to everyone involved. Human beings are capable of colossal depths of joy and wonder. If we have the ability to choose our paths, why squander that and settle for something tepid?
Allowing yourself to be truly seen and loved — and doing the same for others — takes courage. But when we pluck up that resolve and convince ourselves that we deserve authentic love, we become kinder, gentler people with a shot at sincere contentment. As sharp as pain may be, there is nothing sharper than joy. The world is so often cruel and harsh, and life — tragically short and at least half-terrible — is a blistering, heart-rending experience. What is it worth, if not for love?
Sandhya Ravikumar is a Sophomore from Lawrence majoring in engineering physics.