Love is the opposite of the snowclone; unlike the apocryphal 200 words available to Eskimos to describe falling cold white stuff, the English language outrageously, improbably offers only a single option to encompass how we feel about pizza and our only child. And if language is the scaffolding against which we form our entire construct of reality, what does that say about how we experience love?
Today, a combination of laziness, other commitments, and the easy excuse afforded by Valentine’s day caused us to ruminate, en masse, on a single facet of how we love. What do we love and why do we love it? What does that tell us about our relationship with that difficult little four letter word?
We’re flashing a little bit of ankle today, letting you into a private little corner of our souls. If you’re feeling generous, we invite you to show us some LWOVE in the comments. What do you love and why ? And what do you think that says about the nature of love?
The reason is that I love sand. Like truly want to roll around and burrow in it and feel it between my toes and squish it between my fingers. And because sand reminds me that I was just at the beach. And being at the beach makes me deliriously happy.
I think this says that love is subjective. Many many people have told me that they do not share my love of sand. Especially when they find it in their ears.
The reason is these stories have a crystal-clear plot structure and consistent theme. There’s a problem, there’s rising action, there’s resolution. The underlying message — that we depend on laws and logic and reason to (sometimes) get justice — comforts me. Hour after hour.
I think this might say more about art than love. We love art that reflects our values, that reminds us of how we want the world to work.
The reason is that I’m fully present in the moment, and I feel alive and completely at home in my surroundings.
I think this says that love is ephemeral–an experience, not an object.
The reason is that as humans, we are driven constantly to activity — to expand our territory and accumulate resources as warring apes; to engage in social bonding, alliance building and intrigue as social creatures. But we are mammals too, and the drive towards hibernation in warm, dark places is never too far below the surface. The moments between night and day, and between sleep and wakefulness, tap into that Ur desire to nestle in the safety of dark, cozy corners.
I think this says that love is a reward for connecting to our deepest evolved imperatives — to bond with one another, to seek food, and shelter, and safety; to engage in such activities as might under some circumstances lead to reproduction, and to give over most everything of our own for the next generation when they do. Love is the positive feedback mechanism that keeps us marching along as a species. And it’s what wrests us from our warm mammalian beds when the kids start to cry.
The reason is that every passing year puts more distance between me and the shivering wreck I was in my teens and early 20s. Every year the world gets both easier and more impossible to grasp, and that steadily deepens my faith in the general worthwhileness of being alive. Every year I’m more surprised by the things I would never have expected to do or see or feel or understand. Every year I understand the profound reality behind another worthless cliche. I wish I could live forever, or at least see what we’ll be up to in the year 2100 or at least just live to see the first actual Mars base. No matter how long I live, however, I will never stop laughing at this fake action figure of the charred remains of Luke’s uncle and aunt. Wait, is that funny or is it just really dark? Either way, one really nice thing about getting older is that no one forces you to grow up.
I think this says that love has to do with the unexpected.
Max lives purely for the here and now, never worries about deadlines or credit-card balances, always follows his nose, always has time for friends and family and chasing a good ball. He’s thoroughly admirable.
I think this says that love effortlessly transcends the great divide between species.
The reason is that, although I can never fully participate, their proximity — not the men, you understand, but their relationships — makes me feel secure and protected.
I think this says that Tom is right, and it’s another application of the same drive toward evolutionary imperatives. In keeping with the evolutionary psychology theme we seem to have going on here, we love to feel that all is well internally with the tribe. We’ve got a group of well-coordinated workers — and, if necessary, fighters — who are in harmonious communication, joking around, creating new ideas and solving problems together. My ancestral self can shift attention away from safety, shelter, and belonging, progressing up to the higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
I love being a parent. I mean, I don’t just love my kid — I love the actual experience of being a parent. This constantly surprises me, because I also really, really enjoy reading, sleeping, and uninterrupted adult conversation, none of which is the least bit compatible with early parenthood.
The reason is — well, the reasons are many, and most sound cliched when articulated, but parenthood is a terrifying adventure, full of vulnerability and ferocious affection and moments of mind-bending aliveness, and all of that makes me love it — even when it’s driving me crazy.
I think this says that love is not rational, but that it has a logic worth learning.
I love all my dead people: two grandmothers, a grandfather, a father and mother, and of course my son.
The reason is first of all, their unique characters in which I found much to admire and enjoy; second, because they were good to me; and third, how could I not.
I think this says that love is a surprising (to me) combination of admiration, pleasure, and gratitude; and it’s solid-gold hard-wired.
I love my dog.
The reason is that my dog loves me.
I think this says that love is one more example of “altruistic behavior” being code for “ulterior motive.” (Which makes it no less pleasurable, but far more knowable.)
Image credits: poker table, Marce Grez on Wikimedia Commons