Experience. There are many kinds of love. The Greeks distinguished between agápe, éros, philía, and storgē. Consider: five millennia ago, a more nuanced conception of love existed than the McLove that surrounds us today. Without experiencing the many forms of love — evoking them in one another, and elevating them for one another — we’ll probably always feel a little empty.
Act. Love is a verb, not (just) a feeling. Love is investing in, sacrificing for, and caring about; seeking what I’d call higher-order returns — igniting the creation of real human wealth in others (and reciprocation in kind). The former without the latter is to love what Mission Impossible 4 is to great film: banal, disposable, and shinily vacuous. Love, above all, must be lived.
Suffer. Love transforms, and transformation hurts. Hence, you probably won’t love if you can’t surrender to a little bit of suffering. You can’t love your work if you don’t suffer for the art and craft in it. You can’t love your partner if you don’t suffer a little bit sometimes when you see them — as if the act of seeing them reminds you of the heart-stopping fragility of life. And I’d bet you can’t fully love if you can’t deprogram yourself from the cult of consumer not-quite “culture” and its relentless cycle of self-loathing. You have to take a deep breath and plunge into the arduous journey of figuring out why you’re really here, who you are — and why it matters.
Mean it. Erich Fromm, after a lifetime inquiring into the meaning of life, famously concluded: “Love is the only sane and sensible answer to the question of human existence.” To which Woody Allen tartly replied: “Love is the answer, but while you are waiting for the answer sex raises some pretty good questions.”