For Valentine’s – A Few Words in Support of “Love”

It’s hard to get  pumped up about a holiday that is bogusly named after a christian martyr and who had nothing to do with romance.  For Valentine’s Day, love is most often valued in terms of gifts given.  Not any meaningful sense of the word.

Crass commercialism will exploit this day as it does all of our holidays and to some degree the deepest expression of love will get lost in the objects we purchase and share as they are handed out in ritualistic style by many to insure the recipient that they are still thought of, at least to some degree and on this special day.

The apostle Paul called love the greatest of human traits.  Without love he said we are essentially an empty shell.  We can have great wealth, wisdom and generosity but without love they gain nothing for us.   Do you suppose the free markets who capitalize on this holiday really reflect upon Paul’s ambitious sentiments of love?

During my college days as a student of the social sciences I once took an analytical approach to this emotion after having been both the hurt victim as well as the elated recipient of “love”, and asked my yet-to-be-wife, who had expressed her love for me during our brief courtship, what she thought that consisted of.  What I was really looking for by asking such a question is what would it take for her to see me differently down the road where she might no longer feel so enamored.  She of course fumbled with it and I realized, feeling foolish for asking it, that there is no succinct answer to such a question.

To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage.”Lao-Tzu

Neurological reactions where chemicals develop in the brain effect our amorous behavior.  It’s a powerful reaction too that makes us feel invulnerable to anything the rest of the world can throw at us.  It’s hard to believe that the high we experience being connected to an individual in ways that lift us past the mundane concerns of everyday existence is simply the result of increased levels of testosterone, dopamine and oxytocin triggering physiological responses that foster passionate love and long-term attachment.  It’s possible that if this knowledge had been available to the poets and romantics of a bygone era that the great epics and lyrics we’ve come to know might never have ben penned, but I doubt it

The sensation of real love that creates that emotional attachment we develop with another gives us a powerful reason to live and lifts us at times when others in the world would abandon us or tear us down.  And though this emotion is perhaps its strongest in our youth, its memory can carry some couples through for years, long after that emotional high wanes, which it will over time.

Even though, by the time we are twenty-something, we have usually been in and out of enough relationships to realize that we can be hurt if we give ourselves over to unrequited love or even love that is equally reciprocated, love’s pull on us never really fades.  The drive to recoup love’s grandeur is never completely lost and in each succeeding relationship we hope we accomplish that something we felt in our first love.

The emotion of love comes from that wiring we are born with that drives us toward another individual.  There is no guarantee that it can be sustained.  Our survival depends on us linking up with others so we can prosper and grow.  How we prosper and grow derives from our environment but it is the internal workings of humans that connects us.

In the final analysis, though I believe love is but a mere mechanism to perpetuate the species, it doesn’t mean it has to be viewed from a laboratory mentality.  We should celebrate love in ways poetic and place it in the realm of something outside a defined biological equation.  But romantic love by itself is really not enough “to make the world go ‘round”.  There has to be more expression of plutonic love, what Paul called agape, that is part of our existence.  Unless we extend our self-serving feelings of love beyond two people we will fail to develop an enriched atmosphere where it can truly prosper and grow

Without this wider concept, love will always be relegated to a level that can be exploited by those who have none themselves and seek to divide us for some personal agenda.  Divisiveness begins when self-interests take hold of every other instinct we possess.  A love that is understood and shared with other humans is an antidote to this susceptibility.

The believe in love, no matter who or what we see it derived from, is the glue that holds most of us together as it drives humans to accomplish extraordinary things that the other species don’t seem to be able to.  This may not always be seen as a good thing.  Our inability at times to see the development of some of our creations which can ultimately threaten our very existence may sadly prove to win out in the long run.  But such a force is also capable of doing great and enduring things that can improve our world and allow future generations to celebrate love in the traditional way that has inspired great verse and music.

So, as crass and corny as it is, Valentine’s Day can still serve as a reminder to us all that without love, life just doesn’t have that much to offer.

“Loving can cost a lot but not loving always costs more, and those who fear to love often find that want of love is an emptiness that robs the joy from life.”  Merle Shan

11 responses to “For Valentine’s – A Few Words in Support of “Love”

  1. Hurray for oxytocin and vasopressin, the hormones that promote trust and make us want to be close. Hurray for limbic bonding. And especially, hurray for the true joy of a love that lasts after the initial lust wanes.

    • Thanks Donna. This post came out a whole lot different than it started out. What I originally had was too vague and too schmaltzy. I was not going to post what I originally had but within hours of posting it I found a new direction that felt a lot better. Writing is a lot like love don’t you think? Difficult most times but so rewarding when we sincerely engage it. 🙂

  2. Only a guy could write this analytical piece, LB! The thing is, that you are absolutely spot on, despite staying so much on the intellectual plane. Hate to say it, but you remind me of my ex, who was VERY cerebral and thought things through in his own head then announced his “final decision ” to me. That didn’t work very well with me, since I’m more the consensus type.

    I would add that all those shared stories and experiences also play a huge role in keeping couples together. But love remains a daily choice to care for others (and ourselves, too. ) The concept of “agape” seems to have been lost by many Christian groups, narrowed and applied only to their own small community, not to others.

    • I think this kind of outlook is in most males’ DNA today Kathleen. I still tear up when lost love is rediscovered in a good book or movie or when when a life partner is taken before its time. But I think I find solace in the mechanics of what actually affects our moods because I never want to lose control and act irrationally, harming myself or others close to me.

      I couldn’t say with 100% accuracy however that there is nothing out there that would simply overcome me to the point where I might never recover.

      Good hearing from you as usual Kathleen

  3. great post Larry and I agree with you about St. Valentine….i we celebrated his life we would buy stones and stoned our loves ones to death….that is the fate of the saint…..

  4. Well that was most analytically said! Still I do get your point. I pity those who give up when the fireworks subside and rush off to recapture that, failing to realize that there is something far better in store as the years go by. It’s warm and loving and safe, and just always there. Have a good one!

    • Love has been cheapened in so many ways and flies out the window with too much ease today. Deep love, the kind that holds people together when things get tough is sparse and the bigger love that unites us as a people is more conditional than it has ever been. But for all of its flaws love is the glue that binds and gives us a sense of belonging, making this chaotic and often insane life bearable.

      Think about it. If your wiring broke down and you were never attracted to anyone or feel elated to some degree from the love given you by another, what really would you have to look forward to each day.

  5. Nice. Brings to mind a post I have in the queue for next week titled “Divorce as Default”. I wonder, is choosing to love someone even when you momentarily don’t like them a question of individual will power or is deep-seated, long-lasting love more likely within communities where people remind one another of their initial commitments, encourage them when difficulties inevitably surface, and challenge them to work through seemingly intractable conflicts?

    • Yes and no. I think deep seated love makes you work through difficulties because the initial strong instinct that drew you together burns inside to stimulate a need to work some things out. But if problems persist I also think the urge to fight off leaving one another weakens.

      My personal experience has been “to love someone even when you momentarily don’t like them [through] individual will power.” That was something that became instilled in me at a very young age. I’m sure it has something to do with how I see the value of vows. That’s why I don’t make them lightly.

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