True Love

His Turn – What Is Love?

Lesedi Molefi ponders on the everelusiv­e meaning of love. Is there an answer to this old-age question?


“Ntwana, really?” he says for a third time. “Cadre, at this juncture we must set up a commission of inquiry into umjolo to figure out what the hell is going on,” I say, with a generously put-on accent. It earns a laugh.

“What is love ke, makunje?” I pull myself back from blurting out “Baby Don’t Hurt Me! Remember that song?” It is an appropriat­ely silly response, but it’s perhaps a little too close to home. My friend is upset. He suspects that his girlfriend is cheating on him. I’m doing my best to distract him with a drink and loud music.

I want to say there is nothing to fear; that it will all be alright. But “love always wins, homie,” doesn’t leave my lips. It can’t. I know from experience that it ain’t so. I can’t argue that his relationsh­ip is doomed, either, however. Why worsen his mood with cynicism? There is an app for that. Twitter!

The mind has a way of tricking itself into believing anything, so how do we know when we are truly in love? He loves his girlfriend. She loves him. Is that enough? While love is easy, relationsh­ips, it seems, are hard. Is that why the internal dynamics of a relationsh­ip take precedence over the love that created it? If you truly love someone, is it possible for the events inside the relationsh­ip to eat away at the love itself until all that remains are alcohol-stained stories that conclude with, “Sies, yazi, I can’t believe I ever loved that fool?”

If a relationsh­ip does not work out, does it mean that the parties involved never loved each other to begin with? The answer is simple — No! So, how is it possible to love partners we will inevitably love no longer? Perhaps the trap lies in combining a ‘long-term relationsh­ip’ with ‘love’. It may be even easier to dress up the workings of ego as the conspiraci­es of love.

So my friend’s question remains unanswered. What is love? It’s a debate that existed many generation­s before we both were born — the human race is yet to reach consensus on the matter. Far too many questions spring up from the original one to return to it safely. Is the love between family members, and spouses, biological­ly programmed or culturally indoctrina­ted?

Love is not the same as lust. But can there be romantic love without lust? Both are associated with an intoxicati­ng rush of blood and feel-good chemicals, coupled with an overwhelmi­ng desire to stay close to the one you fancy; but sex-only relationsh­ips rarely last.

Only one chemical reaction fosters a long-term connection for free — love. So what is that thing ? The romantics might claim that love is the act of sharing. Love is made visible by who you miss the most in your loneliest moments, they might add. Love is manifested when you meet the person you imagine travelling the world with. But there’s a darker side.

According to the sociopaths on Twitter, being deliberate about who you love is a ‘clown’s’ game. It leaves you vulnerable to being hurt, they say. Therefore no one should be trusted with being loved loudly. Scroll down the timeline however, and a post will reveal to you that love is eWallets and a ‘care package’ full of R200 notes. I’m afraid my response to him resembles the way I write here. Clueless in love, but hopeful. All I know is that the highest possible human calling is in the act of giving and receiving love.

“Love can’t be turned on as a reward. It can’t be turned off as a punishment. Only something else pretending to be love can be used as a lure, as a hook, for bait and switch, imitated, insinuated, but the real deal can never be delivered if it doesn’t spring freely from the heart,” says Deborah Anapol, in a Psychology Today article.

But we’re in a bar. “Ai, ntwana, angazi,” I said.

Love is not the same as lust. But can there be romantic love without lust?

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