Every part of the person we love changes, but we still love them. So what is it we love?
Everything about the person we speak of loving changes over time. Every cell in our body is replaced over a period which depends on which source you refer to, but there appears to be no doubt that any given person’s body contains none of the molecules it did some years ago. The few cell types which change over longer periods are not involved in inspiring love.
But the slow mutation of tissue is the least of the tricks the world can play on our sense of identity. The person we love can become a physically different person in very immediate, perceptible, tangible ways, as a recent of severe illness, serious accident or by fire, for example, and we don’t necessarily cease to love. A father might discover that his daughter was in fact sired by a passing vacuum cleaner salesmen, but he will still love her, even though that love was initially based on their shared genes.
Emotionally and psychologically a person can experience, again through illness, accident or the degeneracy of age, perhaps, changes so profound that they become, literally, a different person. We love this new person. In some cases there is no consciousness left, and so we love the non-person. We love the dead, who are nothing. When their mind has ceased to work, their senses have stopped perceiving and their body has been dissolved among the five elements, we still love them
In other words, there exist a number of ways in which whatever we imagine led us to love the person in the first place, can be completely destroyed, and yet we do not cease to love.
We create love within ourselves. That doesn’t mean it isn’t real, but it doesn’t seem to reflect any external reality.