What is love? A question we’ve often spent hours at a time trying to figure out.
Love, perhaps the most abstract of all emotions, is by far the most poorly defined. People (men) throw the term around loosely because of its inherent power (luring women), but are yet to really understand what it means (inevitable backlash) to say it. Fear, anger, lust, envy, guilt, joy, and sadness are all well-known, readily defined feelings that we experience on regular basis, but love defies all such concrete boundaries. Just look at the Internet’s definition of love. I, for one, am not convinced that one word can mean so many things at once. In this post, I will attempt to define love.
The first, most important distinction from conventional wisdom that I will make about love is that love (noun) only has one definition. “What? But I love my brother and my husband, and I definitely would never fuck my brother! I don’t love my brother like that!” The mistake with this kind of logic is that we are lumping multiple feelings into one “love” and allowing it to have multiple categories. True feelings are raw and innate to humans because they are programmed into our brains–they do not have “forms.”
By acknowledging love as a real human emotion, we must also acknowledge that it has a biological—and therefore evolutionary—basis. Basically, love must have a certain function for it to exist. All things have a purpose. Evolution only keeps things around if they work to benefit us, and that includes emotions. To give a few examples: fear exists because it’s an important survival response to danger; fear triggers a nervous response to boost alertness and physiological activity. Lust, however, exists because it drives us to reproduce, with reproduction being essentially the primary goal for any species. Lust rewards our desire for sex with the feeling of pleasure (fortunately we cheated and invented condoms, suck it nature!). Get the idea? Every emotion or feeling exists because of a biological necessity. Love must be no exception if it is to be a real human emotion.
Now, an important thing to note is that I am making an assumption that love is even a real thing; this is an assumption that an increasing number of people are beginning to believe in the scientific community. Let’s get back to the idea that love is a singular feeling. To figure out what exactly this feeling is, we need to extract the common denominator from all the experiences where we feel love. Let’s start by first dumping all of the drinking, shopping, money, marijuana, Chicken McNuggets, oral sex, etc. into the I-love-you-but-not-really category. Addictions and material possessions, even if resembling a human, cannot and will not be “love-able” in our definition.
The most obvious source of “conventional love” that comes to mind is a sexual/intimate relationship between two people. In reference to this type of relationship, most would probably describe love as a unique sense of companionship, loyalty, affection, and physical attraction. For a family member, you might describe it similarly minus the affection and plus the fraternity. For your close friends, perhaps we see less loyalty and more aligning of interests. The guiding principle is that there is definitely an overlap between all these circumstances, but we still can’t point a finger at one thing.
Let’s try another approach, going back to basic evolutionary biology. What is the most primitive driving force a human being would need for the feeling of love? Perhaps it goes back to the basic need for community in the earliest human days. If you loved and were loved by those in your tribe, presumably you could form a more cohesive unit. This “unit” would be much better at defending each other from wild animals and taking care of each other during times of illness. The consequences of not feeling this strong connection with others would be devastating to your survival. This built-in propensity to seek out love remains with us, even though we aren’t worried about getting eaten by bears (at least most of us aren’t). However, the ‘wild’ of old has been replaced by a modern ‘wild.’ Namely, we exist in this crazy society, trying to spread ideas that will hopefully improve the human condition and advance our understanding of what this thing called “life” really is. Just like it would be much better to have a tribe when trying to find food, it is infinitely more enjoyable and successful to have a team when trying to navigate this scary, yet beautiful world. Therefore, this biological basis and physical need for love burns as strong as ever in us today.
Now, you and Haddaway might still have the same age-old question; that is to say, “What is love?” Having considered what purpose love might serve, we can really begin to see its true meaning. Despite all the complexity associated with this word, when we really strip away all of the accessory emotions that often come with love, we arrive at a very simple yet incredibly powerful definition.
1. A permanent, irreversible sense of togetherness
Love surpasses all types of boundaries and distances. I really like it; I hope you guys like it too.