I have a question, one that I've been trying to understand for a couple of years now; not that I haven't always tried to understand it, but of late it's become a core need to grasp it:
What is love?
I have always considered myself an optimist (as does everyone I know considered me that), and I usually find the good in everyone. I have always believed in romantic notions (often with the capital R, as in the movement); I have always believed in the notion of true love and the possibility of tomorrow being better than today and so on. That's to put this in perspective. Keep in mind my questions don't indicate that I'm leaning in any of these directions; I'm just trying very hard to understand what is "love" right now, and these are things that people use to define love.
Is it chemical?
Surely, that's part of it, at least for passionate love. Those drugs our bodies create when near the object of our love can overwhelm us and lead us to believe love is more important than anything else. Thus it like addiction.
In my last post, I equated comfort to dying. All animals seek comfort, but why? If it leads to stagnation and intellectual death, why do we seek it? Thus, why is this a good thing?
A cure for loneliness?
How can we separate a salve for loneliness from the real thing... if there is such a thing?
A proxy for the numinous?
Being "in love" feels a lot like being in touch with the transcendent, and this likely leads back to the chemical aspect. But what if it really is the source for the numinous? Jesus seems to have taught that, though using different language.
Lots of people get pleasure from service or helping others; I do, for one, in certain ways. This is part of why I teach: I can see how what I do helps those around me, and that gives me pleasure. But is that love? Do I love everyone? Hm.
Does the mere proximity of someone to you lead to love? Or time with that person - can people who like each other and enjoy fucking become true lovers and call one another, "My love"? Do shared experiences - good and bad and everything in between - build into something that lays the foundation for love?
Affection from the other?
Does repeated display of love from someone else lead to feeling in love, one's self? Does the mere act of reciprocation become love?
Expedient or practical?
Being in love leads to living together which leads to reduced bills and greater security both in the now and for the future. It's like the feral cat who discovers that allowing those big, scary humans to pet it leads to food and bowls of milk on the back porch. It's how we turned wolves and wild dogs into creatures who roll over on their backs when we scold them for barking. This is domestication, a synonym for becoming tamed, becoming under someone's control. So does love lead to comfort which leads to the mind-death?
I could ask other questions, too, but you get the idea. A cynic might wonder if love is pure selfishness - but mindless biological selfishness. That is, love makes us feel better, less lonely, and in touch with the numinous while it satisfies other needs. Biological selfishness is something that drives us rather than something which we understand and can control; and if we're driven toward something that kills us by inches, why do it?
I love tatsuko_shikibu, my kitty. I don't understand that. Yes, she's a pleasure to pet, and she does things which suggest that she loves me, whatever that means to a conscience-less predator. I protect her and feed her and clean her litter box; I make sure someone is home to watch her while I'm away. We have more than a decade of history together: I watched her evolve from a puff of fur to a violent play-partner to an adult cat who sleeps on the comforter of my bed in the winter. I behave in these and other ways that suggest I love her. But is that love?
I want to believe love is something magical and core to being alive, but what if it's just these things, just a biological drive no more important in the scheme of things than clean water or a roof over one's head - or less important, really. What if it's just a program in our mammalian genes to ensure the survival of our species, no different from LJ's line of code that translates my typed text here into a post others can read?
What is love? What are your thoughts?