Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to James and Lily Potter (née Evans). I was in no way involved in the procedure of his creation.

Footnote (standing upside-down): I have no idea what I'm doing! How can people work like this? Writing and uploading a story chapter by chapter? This is madness! Madness, I tell you!

No, it's cool. I'm chill. Just stay with me. Keep breathing. It'll be alright.

Seriously (for a change), I have at least tried to come up with some kind of rough outline for where I want to take this, and I can proudly say that I have achieved no less than underwhelming semi-success, leaving generous room for the not so unlikely possibility that I will violently scrap the whole thing or at the very least completely rework it at some point. I'm just easy-going like that.

In the meantime, if you are at all willing to indulge me, here's what at least for now seems to be the first official chapter of this… thing. Have… fun, maybe?

Also, I cannot in good conscience make any promises about how (ir-)regularly I'll be able to update this. The required equation for that depends on variables I don't even know about. Mathematically, that's bad. Right now, it stands at something like this:

(motivation to do it + feedback from readers) * ability to bring order to chaos² inside head = maybe sometimes

- I -

Simple Semantics

7 September 2005

Or am I? It is such a simple statement, so quickly made and so easily accepted at face value by most people. When somebody declares he loves someone, what sane person would ever doubt them? Who would ever question the validity of that somehow intrinsically profound statement? And it's not even exclusive to politicians and religious fundamentalists. It works for anyone. You say it, so it must be true.

Here's a thought: that's bloody ridiculous!

Take my neighbour back in London for example: Mrs Spunkmeyer. If I were to spontaneously go over to her garden fence while she's tending to her petunias for the umpteenth time in a week and tell her that there is never a decrease of entropy in isolated systems, she would probably have no idea what the fudge I'm talking about, but since dear old Mrs Spunkmeyer isn't half as stupid as her name might imply, she wouldn't necessarily take the validity of my statement for granted. Well, she would, actually, since she's been my neighbour for my whole life and my semi-insanity is uncomfortably well known to her, but suppose for the argument's sake that I had chosen a better example – a person entirely unknown to myself – and pretend that Mrs Spunkmeyer, now meeting me for the first time, would instead raise an eyebrow at me and challenge me to prove my assumption, to cite my references, or at the very least to elaborate and explain. That's what people of reasonable intelligence – few and far between as they may be –, such as Mrs Spunkmeyer, do whenever somebody tells them something they have no way of verifying on the spot themselves. They don't just believe everything they're told.

Now imagine the same framework, petunias and all, but this time I don't tell her about that something that doesn't do something somewhere, and instead I simply make this announcement: "I'm in love with my best friend." Do you know what she would do? She'd congratulate me as if I had just won the Nobel Prize for being the most emotionally disturbed witch of my age! She'd smile and say, "I'm happy for you," or "That's so wonderful, darling." Yes, Mrs Spunkmeyer is a nice old lady, but at least in that specific reaction quite representative for about 99.9% of all people.

You know what I think? I argue this: declaring that you are in love is a far more dubious thing to claim than saying that entropy doesn't decrease in isolated systems, for the latter is an objective fact while the former is no more than a subjective assumption, questionable even on the level of semantics. In order to know if such a statement is true, one first has to establish what observable phenomenon the term love actually describes, what being in love means and how one could possibly validate being in such a state. And after at least two and a half millennia of recorded elaboration and discussion of the topic, it can be safely said that the only conclusion reached so far is that there is no conclusive result at all.

So, if anything, things should be exactly the other way around. Somebody tells you something sciency? Might have to look it up, but in the meantime you might just shrug it off as long as you don't know any better. Ultimately, it's either wrong or right – if yet to be determined – and that's that. Beautiful in its simplicity. But somebody claims to be in love? Now that's truly a bold declaration and an invitation for scepticism and enquiry!

"Are you sure of that? How do you know that you're in love? What do you even mean by that? What's your evidence? Do you have any experimental data to support your thesis? Whose definition of love is your statement based on? Who do you profess to be in love with and what makes that specific subject of your alleged affection more likely to actually be the subject of said affection than others? What do they have to say about it? And have you taken the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics into account, which, interpreted in a macrocosmic sense, basically states that you cannot, with equal precision, simultaneously know that you are in love and what exactly that means?"

I mean: love, the very word. Just look at those four letters. Isn't it outright crazy that pretty much every language in human history seems to have produced one such simple term to describe so utterly elusive a thing? No one really knows what it is, but everyone has a name for it. It's like a dog's name for which the appropriate dog hasn't been found yet, so in the meantime everything even remotely canine, from a Chihuahua to a Doberman, gets that very name. Come here, Love!

And how inflationary it gets flung around! It's outrageous! I wouldn't be surprised if love were the fourth most used word in every Indo-European language after I, me and mine and their respective equivalents. In actuality, according to a list I found in the library last night, it seems to be ranked 387th in the English language; two whole places ahead of money and one hundred behind fish. Now there's something to think about.

Anyway, what people proclaim their love for these days! They love their cars and their broomsticks. They love fame and money, even if apparently they love fish even more. They love sports, parties and strange noises they refer to as music. They love jewelry, shoes and their Prada backpacks. They love New York, dinosaurs and Jesus. They love the smell of napalm in the morning. Ron loves Butterbeer and the Chudley Cannons. Neville loves plants and green stuff. Fred and George love to laugh. Hagrid loves things nobody else loves. Luna loves things that don't exist. Draco Malfoy loves himself. Professor Snape loves to hate.

Now, I'm not dismissing the validity of their general feelings of affection or appreciation towards whatever they may be infatuated with, but… love, seriously? Suppose every statement about love made above is true: what in Merlin's name does that make love? How can you describe your feelings for your parents and the fondness for material objects or your preference of some activities over others with one and the same word? Is it our language that's so inadequate for a more nuanced differentiation, or are human beings really that limited in the scope of their emotions?

And what about me? Well, I believe I can safely say that I love my parents, my grandparents and my great uncle. Let's summarise that under the term family, encompassing five individuals. Though my great uncle Milton is insufferably grumpy about 30% of the time (that's equal to the time he's awake). Then there are the two best friends I ever had the great fortune to meet, and they are both male. Yeah, I'm a real maneater. Furthermore, I also love Hagrid like a favorite uncle (or a giant, living teddy bear) and, of course, Crookshanks. And then, well... there's literature. And science and nature. And music and art and poetry. And books as actual, physical objects. And there are some movies I really, really like as well, though I don't get to watch those for the greater part of every year for obvious reasons. Hogwarts is medieval like that. It's borderline offensive.

In my opinion, this might just call for a distinction between love and passions, as I prefer to call what others usually refer to as hobbies. But even if we were to accept that all of the above can be associated with the term love, I would nevertheless argue that there are different variants on more than one level at play here. For instance, I cannot possibly say that my love for my parents and for Crookshanks is the same. I could swear he just narrowed his eyes at me. But I'm not even talking about specific attributes, like intensity or value. They are just different forms of love, not intrinsically worth less or more.

But if there is such a multitude of versions of love, its definition will get no less flimsy – and at what point does it become impractical to collect so many different variants of something under the same term? That problem continuously arises in the nomenclatures of the sciences as well, but there the differentiation becomes relatively easy (if not immune to debate) – due to its objectivity – as soon as you have sufficient data. Except for Pluto, of course, who doesn't seem to be able to decide if he wants to be a planet, a dwarf planet or something else entirely. And don't even get me started on Biology. What's a whale shark again? A shark that apparently would much rather be a whale? A fish with an identity crisis?

Ugh. Where was I? Ron keeps bothering me with his Astronomy homework. I assume it truly must be hard to wrap your head around Kepler's third law when you are still under the impression that Astronomy will help you foretell your own fortune, or lack thereof. There is always Divination for that kind of nonsense. Stop looking at what I'm writing, Harry. Thank you. I know I'm not being nice.

So… what is love? Now don't even think Baby don't hurt me. I can only hope you're not the kind of smart arse who says, "When you think you're in love, you're in love." Or his negative twin who retorts, "When you doubt if you're in love, you're not in love." I really don't believe things are that simple. Not where love is concerned, at any rate. I guess if there's anything at all I have illustrated verbosely up to this point, it's the fact that things aren't very simple for me. In case you don't believe me yet, I will elaborate on this further another time. Nothing about this situation is simple. You might have noticed how I haven't even directly talked about him yet. That's because it's just so damn hard, which it shouldn't be, but… it is.

Seriously, how can you even be in love with someone without them actually being there with you? You can love someone without them knowing about it, sure. You can even love someone who verifiably doesn't reciprocate your affection, no problems there. But in order to be in love with someone – wherever exactly that's supposed to be – I really think they need to join you there, in love. Now, I don't claim to fully grasp the concept of love being something you can be in (let alone fall into, like a trap or even a prank. Like, "Haha, you fell for him!" – "Sorry, I'm clumsy like that."), but accepting that to be the case one would also need to see it analogously to anything else you can be in, i.e. Paris.

You can't be in Paris with someone if they aren't there with you. If you're in Paris alone, you're just there. You're in Paris. Alone. And whoever you wanted to join you on the trip, but who for some reason or another didn't, can be happy for you from wherever it is they are currently at (or in). You can send them a postcard, letting them know you're in Paris, but if they don't like either Paris or you – and Paris is, as far as cities go, really quite nice –, chances are all the postcards in the world won't change their mind.

So, even if my dramaturgically sound punch line from the preface were true in a general sense of its meaning, which I cannot help but fear it is, it would nevertheless be more precise, in my opinion, to say that I love the idea of being in love with my best friend, because I love him; which, of course, doesn't do anything to improve my thereby uninfluenced situation whatsoever. I am, in a manner of speaking, waiting for him in Paris, yet the chances for him joining me there are infinitesimally slim, given the undeniable fact he doesn't even know I'm there.

Then again, I'm not even sure if I want to be in love at all, you know? Even without taking the specifics of my individual situation into account (hint: it sucks), I doubt being in love is an intrinsically desirable state. To make any kind of conclusive statement about that, I would of course first have to establish what exactly that means (I have quite a few relevant books left to read that I bought during summer), but when I look around me in the common room right now, or the corridors and hallways and classrooms during the day, and I see all these hormone-infested Zombies performing their vulgar mating rituals all day long, thinking that is what people call love, then I can at least assuredly say one thing about the whole affair: thanks, but no thanks. If that's love that's in the air around here, suffocation might be imminent.

The problem remaining, of course, that it's my best friend who's at the causal epicentre of everything this is, whatever it is, and we certainly have never participated in any kind of mating ritual. I think. I hope.

Wait. Is that a good sign? Oh, I've never been this confused…


Author's Note: I am, by the way, trying to write britishy. At the very least in so far as there are U's where there are no U's in North America, among other letters that somehow got either lost, misplaced or interchanged in the New World. Don't know how consistent I am in that endeavour (see?), but I try to look out for it while writing. I also believe the British prefer to keep their skeletons in their cupboards.