I have a simple question: why do we love?
And this isn’t one of those wonder-struck, awe-inspiring moment where you look up at the sky with semi-amazement and release a sigh of relief thinking how beautiful life is, no.
I’m actually frustrated.
Look at everyone around you,
There are the type of people who are in love, then there are those wanting to be in love and finally the ones been in love, all of them with a slightly different but mostly consistent opinion about the awesomeness of love. But what is so special about love that makes everyone want it?
And to be honest, love isn’t simple, it’s weird. There is confusion, tension, pain and even single-sidedness in most cases! (I mean, what am I supposed to do with all the ‘unrequited-love’ quotes? guys give me a break!) Treading over the edge of sanity, love appears to be downright stupid and yet we fall for its wicked schemes.
All of these don’t seem to be good promoters, and yet we totally ignore the logical half of our brains, crazily craving for love as if it was some drug.
Well actually it is,
Brain scans of people recently fallen in love shows brain-activity similar to what one may expect to find inside the brain of an addict. I don’t think I need to say it out loud, you can extrapolate yourself. (For the nerds who might wanna find out more, read this.)
That makes sense because we are biologically wired to love. Somewhere between our transitions from upright apes to modern humans, we evolved complex limbic systems and concepts like monogamy that equip us to experience something as magical and stupid as love.
But if our brains can’t tell the difference between cocaine and romance, if our brains evolved over thousands of years to love, shouldn’t that make love easy and extremely pleasurable? I mean it is, but it’s also extremely difficult and pain inflicting. Why is it that way?
And biology always takes the easy road, organisms always choose options where the risk-to-benefit ratio is in their favor which doesn’t seem to be the case with love, so the problem persists.
Consider the second law of thermodynamics for instance,
Entropy always increases. In other words complexity degrades into simplicity and disorder increases. Life and especially humans are ‘anti-entropic’ meaning life (including human beings) are sustained and thriving packets of order and structure in an otherwise decaying universe. Extend this logic to human relationship and things get weird. We too, like the universe prefer simplicity. We would like to avoid sustained complex conditions and live a reality that gets simplified along time, if that’s true then romantic love must be our worst nightmare, instead it’s the opposite.
If you aren’t into physics, it can be a bit difficult to think about this problem. But luckily, there are too many problems with love for us to consider. Such as the age old affair between love and tragedy.
The age old affair
Love and Tragedy are entangled.
If literature reflects reality then there are hundreds of examples (Romeo & Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, blah blah) affirming this notion, but it isn’t just 16th century art work that compels us to consider such a counter-intuitive idea. Instead, it’s the fact that everyone who has dared to love, has been hurt. It is interesting to know how something as celebrative and joyous as love could cause levels of grieve, intense enough to encourage one to take away their own life. (Yea, I’m talking about 16th century artwork where suicide as a response to the death of one’s lover was an integral part of pop culture.)
Regardless of the cultural interpretation of love, I’m intrigued by the duality of it, by the oxymoron of pleasant pain and resentful joy. By the fact that we’ll always dare to love, in spite of the possibility of pain.
“Love is the most beautiful of dreams and the worst of nightmares.”
― Aman Jassal, Rainbow – the shades of love
Tragedy is indeed an integral part of the entire love experience. There is no love without a tinge (or a lot more) of hurt. In fact love feels a lot more real, tangible and worth having under the dark skies of pain and rejection (gosh, this keeps getting weird.)
Including the idea of tragedy makes the problem worse, it doesn’t answer why we love rather it makes it look like a stupid choice.
And so far we’ve only discussed the possibility of being hurt, while in love a certain amount of pain is inevitable.
The inevitable pain
Even if you find the perfect person, manage to stick together after the initial wave of hormones subsides and feel an emotional connection that brightens your life; it’s still not easy. The idea of a perfect romantic relationship is so impractical, it borders next to delusional. Because human beings are complex, there is no way two people can understand, embrace and celebrate each other at every single instance of time. The intimacy love demands has to, occasionally, breed conflict.
Also the idea of being entangled with another human, to belong to someone, does cause certain levels of discomfort. It’s a huge responsibility, to command over someone else’s emotions can be debilitating perhaps even annoying.
We wish to be loved, embraced and accepted but at the same time require a certain space, a healthy distance, some mental and emotional privacy. Human beings are weird. We are fated to exhaust ourselves in the pursuit of the point of balance between intimacy and solitude.
I haven’t found my balance yet, I wonder if I ever will.
Until that happens, a sustained romantic relationship seems improbable.
Love require sacrifices, facing conflicts, expects understanding, occasionally hurts and requires us to place someone else’s happiness before ours which is why I wonder, why do we even bother with it?
Why love at all?
A glimpse of divinity
Maybe love doesn’t fit a simple pain pleasure equation, but rather symbolizes something greater?
(Ok this is the part where I begin to say good stuff about the whole love thing and we all get to keep our relationships, yay! :p)
I had randomly written about this idea some time ago, which I recently realized was the opinion of many philosophers and poets as well.
Love is the answer to our search for transcendence.
Ok this is about to get ‘too philosophical’ maybe, but hang on its better than Hollywood.
Chew this for a while, isn’t the whole idea of love an attempt at creating a ‘we’?
this “we” is “a new entity in the world…created by a new web of relationships between the lovers which makes them no longer separate”
says Robert Nozik on the subject of love.
With love we try to answer our need for unification, our hunt for godhood. Our desire to aspire and live for something above and beyond us is met by an opportunity to love. Maybe because love offers us this divine distraction which saves us from the vacuum of meaning that threatens us of nihilism.
They say to love is to cheat death, it is to step out of space-time and lose the distinction of identities, to be one and complete, to be here and now. Maybe it’s in these brief moments of connectedness where we have this addictive experience of immortality; an illusion so beautiful, we would trade our lives for it.
Love becomes our escape. It is the portal that takes us from the meaningless to the meaningful.
Love is the excuse for two souls to exchange mental spaces and merge, it’s a way to explore the universe from another point in consciousness, the superposition of two psyches, a glimpse of divinity.
Simply said, love is a lot of amazing things at once but the greatest of all the gifts it has offered mankind is a sense of meaning to the human existence. Love give us a reason to be and not just be, but to be our best.
(Check out Jason Silva on love, you can find more of his work at his channel Shots of Awe.)
And it all ends with broken hearts and philosophical ideas, affirmations that love in an integral component of the human machine, a central element without which death is imminent.
We might never find the answer to the ‘why’ behind our indispensable need to love. But we know that it exists and there is no escaping it. Our desire to love, at many levels, defines who we are which is exactly what make it so intrinsic to our existence.
To love is to be human, to be alive, so don’t hold yourself back.
Instead, go lose yourself in the arms of another only to be found by pure truth.
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Keep up the awesomeness, thank you for reading 🙂