What is love?
What is this thing called love? This simple question begs for an answer. The symptoms of love are familiar enough. A drifting mooniness in one’s behavior and thought, the fact that it seems as though the whole universe has rolled itself up into the person of the beloved, something so wonderful that no one on earth has ever felt about a fellow creature before. Love is ecstasy and torment, freedom and slavery. Love makes the world go round. Until recently, scientists wanted nothing to do with it. The reason being that love is life’s most intense feeling and love is mushy. Science is hard. Anger and fear are emotions that have been researched in labs and can be quantified through measurements. Pulse and breathing rates, muscle contractions, etc. Love cannot be charted or measured. Anger and fear have a definite roll in human survival: fighting or running. Love does not. And since it is possible for humans to mate and reproduce without love, all the swooning and sighing is beside the point.
Up until the past decade, serious scientists assumed that love was all in the head. Now the research has become more intense. This may be because of the spreading of AIDS and that casual sex carries mortal risks. Others point to the growing number of female scientists and suggest that they may be more willing then their male colleagues to take love seriously. Whatever the reason, science has come around to a view that romance is real. That it is bred into our biology. We have always been influenced by love in our culture. It is a dominant theme in music, television, films, novels and magazines. It is a commercial bliss. People will do or buy anything with a promise of romance. Does this imply that love is just a false emotion that we picked up after years of it being drilled into our head again and again by society? If romance was purely a figment, unsupported by any rational or sensible evidence, then surely most would be immune to it by now. But that has not happened. Love is still in the air. In 1992 a study was conducted by anthropologists William Jankowiak and Edward Fischer. They found evidence of romantic love in at least 147 or the 166 cultures studied. This discovery should be enough to wipe out the idea that love is an invention of the mind rather than a biological fact. Among the things that anthropologists tended to do in the past was ask questions about the courtship and marriage rituals. This turned out to be the wrong way of going about things. In many cultures, love and marriage do not go together. Weddings can have all the romance of corporate mergers, signed and sealed for the family or territorial interests. More and more scientists are coming to believe that love is truly a biological predisposition. That we are all scientifically fated to love by our genes and chemicals. A lot of people would just as soon to not want to know. No one knows exactly how to place this mysterious emotion. It comes in many shapes and forms and different people and cultures celebrate it in different ways. But perhaps it is better that we don’t know the scientifics and just enjoy it. Why pull at such a beautiful and wonderful thing and try to pick it apart when to the beholder it is already virtually perfect? The more we try to delve into the puzzling depths of love, the more mysterious it is bound to appear.