Why I Don’t Believe “All You Need Is Love.”

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It's time someone amended this tired, hokey phrase.

What used to hang up on the walls of 19th century college housing units before “Life, Laugh, Love” & “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching” posters? Were there equally kitschy inspirational quotes surrounded by mysterious wisps of smoke and beautiful couples walking their miniature pups against a picturesque autumnal backdrop? 

I found college to be an incredibly difficult time. I was unsure of, really, every aspect of my life. I didn’t what I wanted to do, I didn’t know who I wanted to be, I didn’t know what kind of people I wanted to be near, and the thought of even washing my own clothing proved to be a daunting task. As I settled myself in and made friends (who were soon demoted to the role of vague acquaintance) I would find myself reaching out to them in hopes of gaining a little bit of knowledge on how to, in so many words, live my life. What I received tended to be a mixed bag of advice from a group of people who, understandably, knew very little about what they were talking about. I was told to follow my heart, never let go of my dreams, never put the cart before the horse, don’t put all my eggs in one basket, you are your own person, and—the clincher—all you need is love. 

Let’s start at the root of this overused, misunderstood, bastard of a hyperbole. All I need is love? For, like, everything? Maybe we could begin with the specific type of love people talk about when they say this? Because, at that point, the only love I’d experienced was the kind I had with my family and the kind that would inevitably crash, burn, and mushroom cloud. Love at that age was nothing more than lust-on-crystal meth. Love was easy to obtain, easier to drop, and impossible to understand. “Love” wasn’t going to point me in the direction of my major or keep my sweaters from shrinking. 

What if we were able to take and harness this “love” and put it to use. How would we holster love within the a big Tesla-coil love-gun and shoot it out at those who truly need it? I didn’t know how to apply love to those who really needed it. How does one use love, any type of love, to solve a crisis? Do you hug a heartless billionaire on the eve of Christmas?

My mind instantly goes to the Ma-ti from Captain Planet, the de facto black sheep of the group who was cursed with the least cool power—the power of heart. While Wheeler and Linka used fire and wind to burn and blow their enemies to death, poor Ma-ti only had the power of love, which could never take out a building, regardless of its shoddy infrastructure. He would point his magical ring at the villain of the week and they’d see the error of their ways and would use the “power of love” to shift their personal beliefs. 

That was never an option for me. The only thing love had done to my heart was twist it and strangle its core. As a freshman, I was reeling from the ill-effects of two particularly sadistic high-school girlfriends and was in the midst of toxic relationships. Love, to me, was holding back my wince of pain when I was told that I wasn’t fun and picking out the emo song that was the most relatable. It was usually Dashboard’s “Screaming Infidelities” or the entirety of Weezer’s Pinkerton. 

I tried listening to “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and The News with a level head, but didn’t find much to relate with. I went back to Captain Planet and decided that most people ultimately want what Ma-ti had, the ability to point your finger at an inherently evil person and, with the power of your mind, completely change their perspective. Gee golly whiz, that’d sure be nice. That would give a lot more meaning behind “All You Need Is Love” and would elevate it to more meaningful phrases like “Be Kind Rewind” or “Fasten Your Seatbelts”. Because, as you have it, those last two phrases yield results. 

There are just too many facets of love out in the world to clump into one magical cure-all phrase. It’s especially evident when you’re going through something emotionally taxing and the only piece of advice your friend can give is; "go for the gold."  There are no cure-all phrases, only good ol' fashioned life experience. 

My biggest life lessons have always had the fullest effect when they had a heaping side order of harshness doled out next to them. Whenever I’ve had this whole issue of love come up, whether with a girlfriend or some other type of horrific force, the advice that sticks the most is that which is yelled at me and smacked into my brain months after the fact. I hated wincing in pain when girls told me they didn’t like my taste in music, so I started dating women who wouldn’t get upset over something as trivial as what I like to listen to while I’m driving. 

The only time this cluster-F of phrases has ever rung true is with family. Because there’s nothing more sacred and unbreakable than the love between parents and their children, the love of two siblings, and how I assume it feels to hold a newborn baby in your arms.

That’s the type of thing you should always defend, fight for, and trust. 

So, to amend this hokey-ass phrase:

“All you need is (trustworthy, serious, well-managed) love [but not for everything]”.


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