What is Love?

by , Monday March 11, 2019
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What is Love?

What is Love?

baby don’t hurt me ~ don’t hurt me ~ no more

 

Nowadays, love seems to be filtered through a very specific and narrow lens that most Western movies embrace: an all-encompassing, more often than not painful, possessive, and sometimes deadly sentiment that needs to make you hurt and be elated in equal measure to even be considered love.

 

A close friend once told me: “you don’t love someone if you don’t fight or argue.” That made me revisit my relationships with the loved ones and ask myself: “Is that true? Do you really need to hurt each other to feel the love between you?”. I tried to see if it was true and failed spectacularly, mainly because I strive for harmony in my relationships (not the kind of harmony that means giving too much of yourself and not receiving anything back). That’s when I realized that each relationship is different, be it a romantic or a familial one and that you cannot force them into fitting a designated label or model.

 

That being said, I believe that the way we now see love stems (if not mostly at least in part) from the language we use, so I’ll take a bit of a detour from the main topic to explore how love is used from a linguistic perspective.

 

English is a language that’s considered global, as in many people across the globe speak it, and as such it has an extensive vocabulary: new words coming in and other words suffering modifications in meaning like ‘awful’ or ‘clue’. But for all its vastness in vocabulary, English still fails to offer more than two words for ‘love’. So you love your significant other, your mother, your best friend, your dog, that person that says something clever at the right time and you can only think of this word to express a kind of love that has nothing to do with the ones mentioned previously.

 

There isn’t any distinction as to what degree of love you mean. Sure, you get that from the context, but wouldn’t it be easier to have specific words for specific degrees of love? For example the Japanese have at least 7 ways of saying ‘I love you’, and the Ancient Greeks made use of 6 words to describe their love: eros or sexual passion, philia or deep friendship, ludus or playful love, agape or love for everyone, pragma or longstanding love, and philautia or love of the self.

 

To return to our subject at hand, toxic relationships can be very subtle. So subtle, in fact, that you wouldn’t see them as such when you’re the one subject to that. Take for example the relationship between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter from the NBC TV show Hannibal. Bryan Fuller did an amazing job at twining the macabre elegance of the murders with psychological manipulation; in fact, the show deals primarily with emotional manipulation. No one realizes that Hannibal manipulates them until it’s too late; more so for Will Graham, a consulting agent who gets too close to Hannibal Lecter. So close, in fact, that he almost dies for it.

 

These two characters are put through a grinder through the three seasons, all of it at the hands of each other, and Hannibal Lecter is such a controlling, manipulating person that when he is finally caught after a long game of tag with Jack Crawford and Will (not because he got sloppy, but because he willingly surrendered himself) the last words he tells Will are: “I want you to know where I am and where you can always find me.” (s3, ep. 7 “Digestivo”) He refuses to let Will Graham go and live his life peacefully because he wants Will’s attention to the point of pleading insanity when he’s tried for a long chain of murders. He becomes so obsessed with Will - and the fact that he is the only one who truly saw and understood Hannibal for who he was - that he is unable to let him go...

 

Why is that?

 

Because Will Graham rejected him: “I miss my dogs. I’m not gonna miss you. I’m not going to find you, I’m not gonna look for you. I don’t wanna know where you are, or what you do; I don’t want to think about you anymore. Good-bye, Hannibal.” (s3, ep. 7 "Digestivo")

 

Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter’s story is much more complex than that, in the sense that it is not just Hannibal that manipulates the people around him, but Will does that too with the people who trust him; what I said so far is only the tip of the iceberg, but their relationship boils down to two main issues: emotional manipulation and control.

 

P.S. Haddaway’s song (this blog’s title) is another take on the toxic relationship... Think about that, and if any of this inspires you, write about it in our latest competition, Toxic Love.

 

Thank you to DeeundDrang for writing this guest blog post :)

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