Philosophical Friday: Love

By: Ethan Rampersaud
Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Love is a very ambiguous feeling; there are countless ways to interpret it. For instance, the love given off by a sexual relationship, which is based on passion and partnership, is quite different from the unconditional love a parent would give to a child. However, these concepts of love are all linked to one basic concept: they all create bonds between people. These bonds, whether short lived or long lasting, demonstrate humans’ desire for companionship and camaraderie. This desire extends from the most intimate relationships of couples to the friendships and fraternities of social groups, friends, classmates, and coworkers alike.

The desire for companionship can be observed in life as early as the age of infancy. The baby creates a relationship with their mother and father. When it needs something, it will alarm the parents, usually through crying and bawling. The parents, in return, provide it with food, entertainment, and the inevitable diaper change. The parents demonstrate an unconditional love, as they meet their child’s needs though they may not receive anything back in return. On the other hand, the baby demonstrates conditional love, as they do not have the mental capacity to understand concepts such as altruism and unconditional love, as they use conditional love as a tool to meet their needs.

Later on in life, when the child first enters school, they begin to develop the concept of altruism and unconditional love. For instance, a mother may motivate her child to give a dollar to the poor, as it is a morally correct thing to do, though it is not necessarily going to physically reward the child, such as with tangible objects. However, a child can still be motivated by rewards, which is a sign of that lingering conditional love. Elementary school students may be motivated to help other students not necessarily out of pure kindness, but for a vested interest in their favor, such as candy from the teacher or a “Student of the Month” certificate. Furthermore, this part of life is when “peer pressure” begins. A student may be influenced by peers to do morally incorrect things not because they themselves want to, but to maintain that fraternity, that conditional love between friends.

Jump forward to the stage of adolescence. At this stage, the melange of unconditional and conditional love reaches its climax. High school students are encouraged and begin to join specific groups and cliques that share similar mindsets and ideas as they do. Peer pressure becomes riskier, as the independent spirit of teens can lead them to do irrational, foolhardy and rash decisions, much to the chagrin of school staff and parents alike. In this case, students can perform these acts, such as those involved in hazing, in order to still maintain that conditional love: the acceptance and admiration from the peers inside their group. However, this is also the stage where some teens engage in intimate and unconditional relationships. These relationships, often fueled by the infatuation for someone close, are usually short lived, since circumstances, such as a partner’s family or a partner being transferred to another school, usually cut the relationship short. However, this shows not only a desire for a group of friends, but a desire for a close and trusted one; a confidant, an adviser and an assistant that can help in the darkest of days.

High school is about discovering that love; it’s about the engagement between groups, big or small. However, it’s also about spreading the revolutionary unconditional love around rather than maintaining the orthodox conditional love that has comprised the skeleton of society ever since man’s conception. It’s about doing something for someone and asking nothing from them but their satisfaction. It can be as small as a compliment, or holding the door for someone, or it can have a larger effect, such as giving to your local charity or helping out in a soup kitchen. It is these acts of selfless love that demonstrate the wonders of human cooperation and interaction, and it is these acts we should practice not only at school or at home, but in the real world. After all, the euphoria of making somebody smile brings a greater high than any drug or physical reward could.

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