Teddy bears, pet rocks, Barbie dolls, and puppies are not alike. Puppies love us back. In the childlike years of our growing up we learn to like reciprocation, to expect a return, and we make friends, deem our own worthiness, and love more intensely those who love us back. Even mature adults find it difficult merely to give love. We want it back. Parents have abandoned children because the child does not sufficiently contact them; does not show interest. Brothers and sisters become estranged. Friends no longer 'love' because they have lost contact, or the one has somehow hurt the other. Couples no longer love because their marriages are unfulfilled. In adulthood love is no longer an easy feeling given to cuddly teddies and zoomorphized rocks or anthropomorphized dolls; yet it is something we give to the taste of coffee, the look or feel of a car, the house we live in, the clothes we wear, or even the film star we've never met. It is a word we bandy about easily. But when it comes to saying "I love you" to people that we know, whether close to heart or those we do not like, it is a word that can stick in the craw.
How does it go again, Corinthians? If love can be a feeling of unconditional acceptance that emanates from the self, independent of proximity, touch, communication, return, appreciation, approbation, acceptance, or even knowledge by another, then love has a completeness, for it wants for nothing, expects nothing; it is its own source. Love gives.
Liking is another word.
We choose the pet rock, the teddy bear, the doll, the watch, the cell phone, the car, the house, our our clothes based on initial preference. And once acquired, we start to love it if it does not hurt us, disappoint us, cost us discomfort. Then we love the thing. We can feel really sad, upset, at a loss, betrayed, robbed, grieved when the thing is broken, stolen, misplaced. We have a reciprocity with it, a dependence, an expectation, an attachment. It's the way we've been raised to look after things, to value things that cost our parents money, to appreciate things that have been given, passed on, made yet more valuable by history, sentiment, and relevance. A lock of hair. A tea-set. A picture. A ring, broach, or tie-clip. One's cell phone. We are given to love the things that make our lives richer. But for things that distress us, it is most difficult to love, let alone to like.
Liking and loving; they are concepts worth examining. If we accept love as the essence of the universe, the verb that enlivens life, then to like or dislike is a feeling aroused by the many particulars. Love as an essence comes with no attitude, no preference, no expectation. Love ideally is entirely integrative. Whole. Love is what the poets sing, the literature examines, the priesthood professes. Love is independent of the negative. No wonder love is so difficult for us simply to feel. We are quite bound up by, cultured toward, and predicated upon the relevance of negatives. We do not love things we do not like. We do not like too much otherness, too much verbosity (ha!), difference of contention, things that are wrong, abusive, hurtful, hateful, or distasteful. It is natural to dislike. It is not so natural just to love. We are bound up in particulars. We find it difficult to understand the mother who loves her murdering son; the wife who loves her cheating husband; the forgiver of the intentional transgression. To like or not to like is a verb; to love includes all grammatical forms. Love is everything. We are love, like it or not. Ha!