Love is a way to enter a relationship – with another person, but it might also be a project, an object, a cultural practice, God or the world. To love someone or something means to commit oneself without having a reason based on benefit, similarities, or shared interests – or at least not exclusively. Love has nothing to do with becoming one – a common misconception –, on the contrary, it means respecting the in-between. Love connects us to others, despite all differences.
To love someone or something is not a matter of will. Rather, it is a form of consent to an attraction which I am somehow submitted to. Love is an event that happens between me and another person or a thing. However, it is possible to cultivate love, by being attentive to it, by fostering it as a cultural force and by encouraging it.
Traditional theories distinguish between different kinds of love – for example, between friendship and erotic love, (ancient Greek eros and agape), or between parental love and romantic relationships. Love certainly expresses itself differently in different situations, but these forms do not contradict each other. The „principle” of love is always the same.
This is true even for the „love of enemy”. If love meant only a pleasant, positive feeling, it would be impossible (or even harmful) to love your enemies. But since love is a way to enter in a personal, committed relationship with someone or something, to love my enemies would not mean that I agree with them, but that I relate to them in some caring way. It means that I am not indifferent to them.
Love is closely related to desire; both are impossible to control but can be pursued or not. No one can deliberately decide to love something or someone, but that does not mean that love is simply a feeling that overwhelms and controls people. Rather, it is a cultural practice. What is thought and said in a society about love, inevitably takes on certain forms, for example, laws, rules and morals over who should love whom, how, and in what way, or not.
The meaning of „love” changes over time. In ancient Greece, for example, love was seen as strongly relevant to the political process. Until the age of Romanticism, friendships among men were regarded as one form of love. Later, especially in the Western world, the meaning of „love” was narrowed down to exclusive male-female relationships with a strong sexual component, and consequently, love as well as the „sphere of women” and sexuality in general, became something strictly „private.”
Today, this concept of the male-female pair is being challenged by many who want to extend it, for instance to homosexual or polyamorous relationships. But for a good life, it would be beneficial as well to abandon the narrow focus on personal-intimate relationships completely, so that the cultural and political dimensions of love can unfold again.