Recently I started a project with a few friends called “Loved”, where we were calling for submissions of items, photos and stories of people who, simply put have/had/attempted to have a romantic relationship. Our aspirations were to hopefully gain enough traction so that we can eventually turn this into a physical exhibition where we can showcase narratives of love for people to see.
If you are interested in contributing and seeing what we are up to, check us out here
“Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning
Set in Auschwitz, the worst atrocities were committed against the Jewish prisoners, living there(the word, living is contentious). This was the embodiment of living hell, where the bestial viciousness of mankind reared its ugly head, and the ultimate potential of immorality was fully attained, it would be easy to hold a myopic view of humanity and be cynical about love. Yet, as Frankl documents, the limitless power of love shone brightest in the darkest times. Love was a potent force motivating men to muster the internal fortitude to survive the cold and inhumane conditions. Eureka!
The beauty of love lies in its abstract form. It is not confined to the actual “alive and present” person, it was deeply rooted in one’s “spiritual being”.
I was always fascinated by the notion of love. More often than not, I was bombarded by different perspectives, interpretations of what love was supposed to be.
Was love young, exuberant, romantic and idealistic?
Exploring the dark space of Tumblr, love was succinctly summarised into one sentence, a simplified; bite-size understanding of this complex experience, consumable for all. Tumblr posts were typically tropes of some girl at the beach set as the background splashed with a fancy font, telling me that love hurts. Yet, these words did not resonate with me, as it felt too self-centred, cliched, overused.
Or was love a term to explain our biological mechanism to procreate?
Scientists contend the love to be pure science.It was argued that our emotions of love could be merely chemical reactions dictating our behaviour. (Just like how our lungs contract and expand involuntarily because of our need for air) Our feeling of gratification by love is not a spiritual experience but merely just dopamine rushing our heads and neurones firing that only provides an illusory, other-worldly experience. Despite a convincing argument, such an explanation left me wanting. It felt that despite my conscious understanding of how love could just be physiological reactions, my heart ironically would not approve a deterministic conclusion on love
Or was love a spiritual aspiration to strive towards?
Growing up, I was accustomed to the biblical narrative of love. It was not one steeped in eros but in agape love. Its premise was rooted in selflessness and not self-gratification.
In 1 Corinthians 13,
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hope, always perseveres.
As a Christian, my understanding of my God corresponded with this interpretation. The way my faith and reality corresponded allowed me to see this iteration of love to be true. But, this idea of love that Paul described is the perfect personification of love, who was Jesus. It was clear even in romance, “selfless love” was a goal worth striving for, but it almost feels Sisyphus-ian where no matter how one tries, he will never achieve the end of love. The sense of truly becoming love is an elusive goal to grasp at.
However, unlike Sisyphus, the journey of chasing love is not repetitive and futile, it is dynamic and rewarding. I caught glimpses of imperfect people making extraordinary commitments to love their spouse/partner selflessly. Their dedicated love was not only marked by fervour but it passed the test of time, blossoming in all seasons.
And in my own life, I could witness that for myself when I observed the life of my grandparents. (Read more on their story here)
During my trip to Copenhagen last year, I chanced upon the Museum of Broken Relationships. I saw displays of mementoes signifying failed relationships. The curated narrative was one highlighting the shortcomings of our human efforts at love. Pessimism seeped into my heart, because if this was what love looked like, then my future could only speak of heartbreak and sadness. Yet, these items encapsulated genuine and visceral experiences of love belonging to everyday people like you and me. So,
If love was a bed of roses, an abundance of thorns was waiting to be found.
Hence, the idea of “Loved” popped into my head and settled its nest on my mind. My realisation was that love had no absolute interpretation and was a result of our subjective experiences.
Love is not an “either”, “or”. Love was a “this” and “that”, all-encompassing.
This is why I chose the name, “Loved”.
As a verb, Loved is a past tense. A signifier of forsaken treasures ;faded memories and forlorn regrets.
Yet, as an adjective, Loved is an adjective. A descriptor of present joy, commitment and selflessness.
The ambivalence of this word now breaks the once-delineated boundaries of our understanding of love, forcing us to navigate the muddy waters of what “being loved” truly means to us.
Therefore, be it catharsis or celebrating, strewing your sorrows or sharing your satisfaction, (or even traversing in the middle), we all have a reason to share our thoughts on love.