The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return.
These words have been reverberating inside my head all morning, begging for attention and analysis. I believe that the writers of Moulin Rouge hit an ideological jackpot when they created this sentence, because the more I consider it, the more it makes sense. What feeling is greater than love? Not just romantic love, but love for your family, your friends, for humanity, nature, the universe and life.
Advertising has tapped into the idea that the ultimate goal a person can achieve is love (which branches off into many sub-section such as sex, wealth and material comfort). The whole point of consumerism is to make yourself a better person, through the items you surround yourself with. Your clothes, your Doc Martens, your iPhone, your car, all convey that you are a particular type of person. They put you in the category of “down-to-earth-and-don’t-give-a-shit” or “sophisticated-and-perfect”, or simply that you are a unique individual with something to offer that other’s can’t. But what is the advantage of conveying your personal traits to society? It is this: like-minded people will be more attracted to you, like moths to a lightbulb. Friendships are formed, love is created. Bingo. I would call this kind of love conditional love. Someone loves you because you have shown to them what kind of person you are, and this love is generated by the conditions surrounding the both of you.
However, unconditional love is different. It’s hard to put into words what unconditional love is, or why we feel it. A personal example is what I feel for my eight-year-old brother. When I am around him (which sadly isn’t often anymore), or talk to him on the phone, or even think about him, I can feel love lift me up (this is going to start sounding a bit Bible-bashing now). It’s like something is glowing from inside me. I don’t love him because we’re blood related, or because he’s adorable, I just love him because. And experiencing that because feeling is probably the closest I’ve felt to the higher stuff (I refrain from using the word ‘God’ because it’s such a limiting term).
To digress briefly, many people believe that the purpose of life is to get to Heaven by adopting religion and being a good person (I think people usually do the former more than the latter). They attempt to right their wrongs and hopefully get a one-way ticket to Heaven, or Nirvana, or Godhead – it’s all the same place. I’ve never been a particularly enthusiastic participant of my religion, Hare Krishna, so maybe I’m too uneducated to make the next statement. But, if unconditional love for my little brother takes me higher than I’ve ever been when I meditated on Krishna (and remember that in any religion the love of God is always emphasised), we need to take a look at what we think God is and possibly consider the fact that God is not a man sitting in the clouds, lapping up our love like a thirsty dog, but maybe God, or the higher stuff, is in us all. Maybe you, and I, and every sentient being on this planet is God, and maybe we should be taking our focus away from worshiping a divine being who seems inconceivably distant from us, and instead focus on worshiping and loving each other.
What a tangent. But to bring this argument back to the main point, and to oversimplify an infinitely complex idea, perhaps the purpose of life, the great lesson our lives lead us unceasingly towards, is to love.