A very dear friend of mine recently commented on my Facebook about a Tweet I recently posted. The comment itself included a statement trying to clarify his “(c)omment on this story (my tweet) of unrequited love.” And it is to this “unrequited love” that induced in me thoughts of whether this (unrequited love) is a good thing, a bad thing, an indifferent thing, or even a meaningful thing. First, the below is only tangentially, at best, a response to my friend’s comment. As such I am neither trying to refute or otherwise repudiate his statements. Nor am I, per se, trying to persuade anyone of my position; I am merely trying to express, inform and possibly “think out-loud”, as it were, my own cogitations.
The word, unrequited, at least denotationally is a rather straight-forward one of:
unrequited |ˌənriˈkwītid| adjective; (of a feeling, esp. love) not returned or rewarded.
However, there is an interesting thing when we turn to its connotational form. I have no specific reference other than to draw from myself, but when I hear the words “unrequited love” it brings to mind a tragedy for at least one party. How can it not when so much of the common canon of love speaks to being loved?
If you wished to be loved, love.” – Seneca, Roman philosopher
If this is true then unrequited love implies a sense of pointlessness. Unrequited love bumps up along infatuation in so much that it only requires one person to feel something, and in so much that the two do touch they share a mutual connoted sense of futility.
If we remove for a second that love must be returned in order to be rewarded, then unrequited love merely denotes rather plainly and factually that the love is unidirectional. However, if we argue as Seneca does, then we might argue that love is driven by a simultaneous connection of affections; that love is bi-directional. While there is an obvious emotional attachment to requited (reciprocated) love, I do not agree that love requires reciprocation to be meaningful or worthy of consideration.
To get at what I mean by this, let me side-step to one of the greatest sources of suffering in the world: expectations we levy both on ourselves and others. This, of course, is not something novel but has a long, deep discourse in Buddhism. Whenever we love with the understanding that the target of our affections also love us in return we are levying unduly an expectation on them. Namely, we form our love upon a condition: if you love me then I will love you. Or worse, the conditional becomes an imperative: I love you therefore you should (must!) love me. Both of these propositions are, to me, wholely inappropriate and therefore more so woefully inadequate to qualify as anything approaching meaningful (selfless) love.
At some perfunctory level I appreciate the sentiment of Seneca: the reward for loving others is to be loved in return–give love first before we receive love second. It is sanguine sentiment, and I believe it is better to see Seneca speaking to acts of selflessness than to the nature of love itself, though. To wit, for me love should always be unidirectional, starting from myself and extending outward to all other peoples. A person who hates me is still a person I love. A person who loves me is a person I love. I do not love them for any other reason than that I love them–on my terms and without expectation of reciprocation or benefit.
While not central to my current thesis, I might add that when love is returned I believe that a “state change” occurs. It moves from an internal manifestation to an external one, from a (mere) potential to a (substantial) kinetic. This state change is a powerful one; so much so that it is what I consider “fate” is all about: two persons intersecting in space and time and consciously deciding to love each other. Regardless, the absence of this state change does in no way dilute love in its internal (unrequited) form. Yes; I love another person. Yes; it is not reciprocated: it is unrequited. These are facts.
But these facts bely the nature of my love and the state of my mind. I levy no expectations on how this love is returned let alone whether it is returned at all. Success, as it were, is not predicated on whether they love me. I do not need them to love me in order for me to love them. And yes, it is more than likely–almost guaranteed–that they will never love me in the fashion I love them. But I do need to love them in order that I love myself: because the love I have for them is tied up as an expression of who I am–it is nothing more nor nothing less than this. To re-iterate, I love a person–this person–as much for who they are not as for who they are. Which is to say, if they do not love me then I love them for that, too. Love is not an action with an outcome, its success is not predicated on the laws of causality–of cause and effect and of an outcome external to itself. Love is a state of being, an emotion, and it is itself justification for itself. I love. It is enough.