Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Eros. Philos. Agape. Whatever.

Do you believe in love? How about Love? What is it? Does romantic love (ie, as in “being in love”) exist as an actual condition that’s either present or not? Or is that just a word/phrase we use to describe a specific cluster of pretty ordinary and non-mysterious feelings?

I think it’s the second thing. I think a combination of physical desire, emotional compatibility*, social programming, and propinquity sometimes results in a condition where we invest emotionally in another person. Their concerns become important to us; their corresponding concern for us feeds our natural narcissism, and the resulting increase in serotonin, oxytocin, and who-knows-what-else creates in us a condition called “being in love.” We become addicted to that rush of chemicals, and assume it has to do with the qualities of the other person, when in reality it’s mostly about our internal processes.

“Ah,” I hear you say, “you’re just cynical because you’ve never actually *been* in love. Whatever you’ve felt in the past, that wasn’t Love, because if it were you would know it’s a feeling beyond explanation and analysis.”

Possibly so. And I don’t want to be all sour grapes about it. I think if someone feels something powerful and wonderful, they should feel free to call it whatever they want, and rejoice in it. And we can be happy for them.

But you could say the same thing about LSD.

And it’s just that so many people attach such mystique to love, as if feeling something intense and overwhelming (and perhaps unexpected, or unique in their experience) automatically means it’s too mysterious, inexplicable, or cosmically-inspired to be understood. In reality, it just means it was intense and overwhelming, and perhaps unexpected and unique in your experience.

And it’s especially un-useful to attach a special phrase to the experience, create a vast social construct around it, shrouded in romance & mystery, and then when it (or something like it – say, intense lust) happens to you, to invoke the special phrase to excuse all sorts of ridiculous or hurtful behaviour. That’s lame.

*emotional compatibility might be healthy or not; i see it as resulting from personality, formative family experience, and acquired tastes and beliefs.


At Tue Mar 03, 07:53:00 PM PST, Blogger jay are said...

so what is it called when you love your child? Why can't you love another person your own size with those same kinds of feelings? Is love for a child not really love? I don't think so. Maybe it's cynical to not believe there's such a thing as LOVE or being in love; maybe it's just wrong. Maybe to not believe it's anything more than a chemical reaction minimizes something that makes us different than just another creature roaming the earth. Who knows?


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