“The Most Difficult of All Our Tasks” – Rilke

Though love may not be as it seems, it still holds as the highest form of beauty.

Love is often portrayed as a fantastical whirlwind romance, with butterflies and roses and ice cream on noses. We see it everywhere: in movies, songs, and the stories we tell one another. It’s the highest romantic ideal — the lofty picture of togetherness and happiness. But submerging oneself into the most admired human emotions will yield a paradox of unfamiliar and strange feelings. We start to think to ourselves, “but love was supposed to be nicer”. The rosey images of love shatter as, all around us, relationships break down, couples married for decades divorce, and a once happy pair of smiles turns into two not-so-happy ones.

A host of philosophers and respected writers have written about this emotion throughout history. They can offer great insight into the meandering and labyrinthine paths of love, with an emphasis on its more troubling and not-so-rosey sides as an ode to its everlasting beauty and power.

Thinkers such as Khalil Gibran, Jalal Ad-Din Rumi, Leo Tolstoy, Rainer Maria Rilke and Susan Sontag purport that suffering and hardship are essential ingredients of love. People assume the start of a relationship means an end to pain, loneliness and isolation, but many will beg to differ. All these things remain part of the experience of living and are especially characteristic of love, the most tormenting emotion we can feel for another person.

Love is fated to be imperfect, incomplete and flawed because the human condition is essentially imperfect, too. Anyone who has trod the difficult path of love is familiar with its agonising challenges, its cavernous afflictions, its lip-biting regrets. But it is precisely because of its defects and hardships that it is such a prized sentiment. Therein lies the beauty and honour of love.

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