Synergy of Love

Throw Oz Under the Bus Blog Challenge: Week 5

Well, that will teach me to make a facetious off-hand comment about women almost never saying yes to me (follow me on Facebook if you want to know what that’s all about) My good friend M. Elisabeth Howell of Evening Light  jumped on it and gave me the hardest challenge to date.

“Women who never said yes, and how they differ from the ones who did: is love based on choice.”

The first part of that is simple. The former were sober.

It’s the second part that is arduous. What? Sounds easy, you say? To figure out if Love is based on choice we would have to agree on what Love is first. If it is so easy, you tell me; what is love?……Nothing? That’s what I thought. Not so easy now, is it.

Love is a damn hard thing to articulate, nearly impossible, in fact. Poets throughout the ages have tried to define it in words. They try to make it into an ethereal or transcendental element of the heart. I’ve even tried my hand at a love poem or two (don’t ask).

Christina Rossetti gets almost as close as anyone by words alone with “I Loved You First: But Afterwards your love.

Closer even than poetry is music. Death Cab for Cutie gets nearly there with “I Will Follow You Into the Dark

And, closest of all is (surprisingly) Garfunkel and Oaks “Rainbow Connection” Go ahead, I dare you to not get choked up with that song.

But, no matter the amount of talent of the poet or composer, it inevitably falls short of the real thing. Love boils down to ‘you know it when you feel it.’

What, then, is the feeling of love? When looked through the eyes of a neurochemist, love is (not so) simply a cocktail of chemicals released in the brain as a result of a combination of: testosterone, and oestrogen (lust); adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin (attraction); and Oxytocin, and Vasopressin (attachment).

If you ask an evolutionary biologist, we developed the chemicals that give us the feelings of love as a means for our species to care for our young. Loving one’s children gives us the drive to protect them from all harm, therefore ensuring the survival of our genes. Loving one’s partner is a way to stay together and help protect and raise said young.

The Croods

Initially the poet side of me railed against that being all there was to love. Really, it’s just a bunch of chemicals secreted as a way to survive? Love has to be more than that, doesn’t it? All the painting, and poems, and songs, all just because of chemicals in our brains? How…sterile and clinical. Then the scientific side, ever the stronger aspect of myself, stood up in defense of this assertion. All there is? What do you mean ‘All there is’? Our species owes its very existence to love. To think, our ancestors survived where others failed because they cared more, and loved more than others. They were more willing to sacrifice life and limb for one another. They braved beast and blizzards, struggled through fires and famine because they had slightly more of these chemicals, felt a touch more Love, than their contemporaries. Love carried us through millions of generations. Humanity is the result of Love. What is more beautiful and poetic than that? The poet within conceded the point and sulked back to his dark and broody room.

broody poet

That may get me a little closer to what love is, now I have figure out if it is based on choice, or not.

A daunting task, to say the least. Philosophers have argued the point for thousands of years. The existence of Free Will itself is still open to debate (and I’m sure as hell not going to get into that right now). If we don’t have Free Will, then by extension, Love cannot be based on choice.

Assuming we do have Free Will, I still don’t think love is something we can choose. Love isn’t like deciding to have another cookie, or to watch another episode of Big Bang Theory. Love is not an act of will, it is a state of mental being; a beautiful synergistic result of chemical secretions. You can’t choose when serotonin gets pumped into your noggin, or what causes your testosterone or oestrogen levels to rise. It just happens, and it’s glorious every time. You can’t choose who to love, nor should you want to. Just live knowing the word is a better place for it.


Thanks for reading,