Most people believe love is important in our lives. Yet hardly anyone thinks that there is anything to be learned about love. And though people watch endless films about love, read and talk about love stories yet love remains one of the most misunderstood subjects amongst human beings, why?

Surprisingly, majority of people think of love as a pleasant situation that arises as a matter of chance, something one falls into, if one is lucky. This is because most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving (one’s capacity to love). Hence the problems begin since everyone is concerned only with how to be loved, of being loveable rather than how to love. In pursuit of this aim, men try to be as rich and powerful as their social margin permits and women try to be as attractive as possible by cultivating their body, dress etc. both genders even make use of various avenues and props to make themselves “sell” or appear as loveable by being pleasant in manners, inoffensive and helpful in demeanour or by making interesting conversation. As a matter of fact, what most people in our culture mean by loveable is essentially a mixture between being popular and having sex appeal.

The second fallacy generally held by such people (or rather immature people) is to think that to love is simple, but to find the right object to love – or to be loved by – is difficult. This attitude is rooted in the materialistic outlook of our society whereby everything is available for a price. Despite overwhelming evidence to be contrary, people continue to hold the belief that nothing is easier than to love. Nevertheless, we see so many relationships going sour after the initial attraction has worn off; the sudden “falling in love” gradually leads to breaking down of walls between two people, they become acquainted, their intimacy loses its mysterious charm, until their disappointments, mutual boredom and their antagonism kills whatever is left of the initial excitement. There is hardly any venture, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hope and expectation and yet fails to last as love. Prey, what are the reasons and why are only a handful of people blessed with a love for a lifetime?

To understand this question, we must first study the meaning of love. It is important to realise that ‘love is an art’ and like any other art it needs a great deal of effort and cultivation – the mastery of the art must be a matter of ultimate concern. Unfortunately, despite our deep-rooted craving for love, we consider success, power, fame and money far more important than a saga of love. As one succeeds only in what one desires with immense passion and works at it, you will find that all those who have enjoyed constant bliss from their relationships are the ones who have invested their whole selves – physical, emotional and rational – into their relationships to make them everlasting and successful.

Further, love implies an active concern for the life and growth of that which we love. This active concern is made up of several elements of which care, responsibility, respect and knowledge deserve special attention. Love is an attitude of the mind, an orientation of character whereby a person relates to the entire world as a whole and not towards one ‘object’ of love. If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow human beings, his love is not real love but a symbiotic attachment or an enlarged egotism.

Care is the concern for the welfare of the other human beings whereas responsibility is the entirely voluntary response to the needs of the other human beings. These are best reflected in the love of a mother who tends a child on her free will or a Florence Nightingale (or Mother Teresa for that matter) whose overriding care and responsibility are obviously reflected in her voluntary mission to nurse the wounded and sick. Responsibility could easily deteriorate into domination were it not for the third component of love, respect.

Respect is the ability to see a person as he/she is, to be aware of the unique individuality of another person and allowing that trait to grow. Respect, therefore, implies the absence of exploitation and exists on the basis of freedom in every sense of the word. Respect comes from knowledge and understanding of the other-self, rooted in the basic need of fusion of loved ones. Every human being is a bundle of unfathomable secrets to himself as well as to his fellow human beings and hence, it is only when one knows a human being intensely that one can know his or her sublime and pure essence in the act of love.

Thus we see that love is a concentrated meditation and effort involving care, responsibility, respect and knowledge. And like any art, the practice of love requires an immense amount of discipline, patience, concentration and supreme concern with the mastery of the art of loving. If you carefully observe any successful relationship you will find the immense effort that has gone into making the relationship worthwhile. If there is faith in oneself, one’s ability to produce love in others and in its reliability, there is no reason why the ‘art’ should not triumph.

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