Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why I Once Thought Love Didn't Exist, And Why I Am Now Not Sure

  So, if you ask any of my friends, I happen to be THE girliest guy you will ever meet. I cry in movies regularly (and not just Toy Story 3 and Lion King either, in movies that most people don't cry in as well), my female friends come to me to talk about their feelings rather than any of THEIR female friends, and one of my female friends has even taken to coming to me for fashion advice. Above all, I am the biggest hopeless romantic you will ever meet. Or at least, I used to be.

Yes, this is what I look like in a sad movie. Or a happy movie. Or pretty much any movie.

  You see, ever since I learned about the concept of "Chemical Love", I've become somewhat cynical. That is, the idea that love is actually just an emotion that is produced by a certain combination of chemicals, and is really just a physical/"emotional" manifestation of our biological imperative to propagate the human race. As I said in my introduction forever ago, I am agnostic; however, "love", for me, always filled the holes that religion left. It gave me something "bigger than life" to believe in, something that seemed off-limits, incapable of being understood. The idea that "love" as we understand it is just a social construct, a romanticized version of what is really just, as I once heard someone describe it, a "glorified sex drive", bothered me deeply. I read about an experiment conducted by a scientist who got 8 pairs of straight strangers of the opposite sex, had them talk for half an hour about goals, dreams, fears, memories, whatever. Then, he had them stare deeply into each others' eyes for 4 minutes. Supposedly, these actions activate the chemicals involved in "love", and six of those eight pairs got married. This totally changed the way I saw things; I've gotten pretty reductionist and deterministic since then.
  I know, I know, I'm boring you. I'm getting to the interesting part, though, I promise, so bear with me. I was discussing these views of mine with a friend one day, and I said something along the lines of, "Love doesn't exist inherently, because anyone who had never heard of love or the emotions associated with it would not feel those emotions. It's not like happiness or sadness, which are inherent to how humans evolve." My friend's response was, and I quote, "So?" His argument was that something being a social construct and not being inherent to human nature doesn't make it any less real. He said that, if people had truly convinced themselves that love existed in its totally romanticized version and that they felt those feelings, that wasn't really any different from love being "real".
  So, now, a question to you, reader: does the fact that something is a social construct, that something isn't inherent to human beings, make it any less real? Is Santa still real for the kids as long as they don't realize it's just their parents in a fat suit? Please comment, I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts.

Love = Santa? Perhaps.

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-Adarsh Nednur


  1. '"Love doesn't exist inherently, because anyone who had never heard of love or the emotions associated with it would not feel those emotions."' - If love is just a biochemical reaction then wouldn't it exist even if we had never heard of it? I know this doesn't detract from the point you made when your friend said "So?"

    I like to think that "real" can be boiled down to what your 5 senses are experiencing and what you can think about. I think that anything you think about can be real in your mind even if it is not real physically. Phrased another way, if you think it exists, then it exists for you.

  2. As to the first point, the difference being that the romanticized version of love is completely separate from the results of the biochemical reaction. Biochemical reactions are produced to cause someone to have a biological imperative to reproduce and raise their children successfully. The romanticized version is responsible for the large sales of roses and talking about feelings within couples.
    As to the second point... That's fair. I was completely split on this question, that's why I asked the readers. Thanks for the answer! - Adarsh