Defining love: How art and acts of service shape one student’s view of love

Megan Wheeler, sophomore in industrial engineering, defines positive love through friendship. This is one of Wheeler's twelve art pieces about defining love. (Sierra Staatz | Collegian Media Group)

Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean love leaves the air as quickly as chocolate leaves store shelves.

Megan Wheeler, sophomore in industrial engineering, believes love can, and should, be shown every day of the year.

Love also comes in levels, she said.

“You have to be able to love yourself before you can give love. That is how I see love,” Wheeler said.

Last year, Wheeler investigated through art the Ancient Greeks’ definition of love which distinguishes love through six different words, each with a separate meaning.

The words are separated in the categories of self-love, playful love, deep friendship, passionate love, longstanding love and love for everyone.

“There’s so many different kinds of love,” Wheeler said.

With these definitions in mind, Wheeler created twelve pieces of artwork. Each piece represents either a positive or negative form of each type of love.

“My favorite one was love of a friend,” Wheeler said.

Through each creation, Wheeler exhibited the wonder of all types of love. Completing the negative pieces, however, was a challenge.

“I don’t like the negative side,” Wheeler said. “It makes me sad.”

Throughout the process, Wheeler said she learned how love is more similar to heat: just like cold is the absence of heat, there is also the absence of love.

“There is no such thing as toxic love,” Wheeler said. “It’s the absence of love, but people consider it toxic. Love itself can’t be toxic. The relationship may be, but there is no true love in them. It is only under the mask of love.”

So, how can one show real love to others, in all the types of love? Wheeler said she believes being more knowledgeable about each may be just enough to spread it more effectively.

“Find something that makes you individually healthy,” Wheeler said about self-love.

Some find this through exercise or reading. For Wheeler, this comes through adoration, where she can center her mind.

For platonic and friendly love, Wheeler recommends the love language test to help learn how each person likes to feel respected. If you know what someone’s love language is, it’s easier to show them love, she said.

“My roommate’s love language is acts of service,” Wheeler said. “So I sometimes do both our dishes for us.”