From the scientific to the surreal, the many dimensions of love and what we can learn from them this Valentine’s Day
Ah yes, it is that time of the year. Love is in the air; hearts everywhere. Where will cupid strike next? Rose petals, assorted chocolate and the anticipation of who will be our valentine stereotypically consumes our thoughts. February 14 is great day for those who love it. For others, we are filled with hope that maybe on this day we might find our own. Who will be your valentine? We often hear beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Young love can be so fresh, yet so bitter.
Love is a tricky subject. What is it? There are so many forms, depths, expressions and meaning towards the sometimes ambiguous concept. How do you define love? Some view it as mundane and cruel, while others see it as a necessity like oxygen. We love many things; our country, family and friends. Each form of love may intertwine with one another, yet we express them in different ways. Do you express love differently? If so, how?
There is a science behind love. Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University has been studying it for decades. She claims that dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, stimulates feelings of desire, motivation alertness and more. Norepinephrine, which is synthesized from dopamine, makes an individual shake, have a dry mouth and gets their heart pounding. Evolutionarily, love can be viewed as a survival tool by passing on one’s traits, so that their genes and species may survive. However, not every species that loves reproduces, and we shouldn’t deem their love as less important because of it. We all have an important role on this Earth no matter if we can, cannot, or choose not to reproduce. Emitting love occurs to more than to our own offspring. That is crucial to remember.
Although debatable, love simply is not a commodity. It cannot be bought or sold. We really can’t quantify, control or force it onto one another. When is love bad? Can it leave an individual blind? Is love unconditional and free?
The way I understand it, is that love comes down to the individual and what their needs are. Different needs have unique forms of expression. Even though there are similarities within a defining need, you might approach or express romance differently from me and that’s okay. Majority of us want security, dependability and a journey of adventure. With relationships, we assume these are givens. What happens when they are not? Our preferences are what we desire. We imagine, fantasize, and seek them. We always seem to want things that are better. I’d argue, that love is what we have, while desires are what we want. Can we, however, want what we already have?
We place love as a fundamental human experience that is significant to live a fully formed life. To love the way they look at the world. Support, thrive, and change together. Doesn’t love, sound grand? Why do some people experience love and others don’t? Are there advantages in finding it? When will your time come? Is there such a thing of love at first sight?
Like Phil Collins’s 1983 hit, You Can’t Hurry Love, “love doesn’t come easy when it’s a game of give and take”. It’s frightening. It requires vulnerability, a sense of trust, commitment, and really giving yourself completely to someone. Basically, displaying selflessness and hope that its reciprocated back. I’m independent, put up more walls than I should, and struggle displaying emotion. I find that there is no point in pretending. Who I am is all I can be. Yet, I always wonder, is love all about compromise? In order to receive love, are sacrifices necessary? To quote Stephen Chbosky, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Yet, there is just something beautiful about sharing your life with somebody. The thought is liberating. Maybe I need to embrace the unknown.
We have a mental map of our “ideal.” We categorize our lover by shape, color, educational level, power, wealth etc. What, though, truly matters? Do we necessarily have to have a “type?” What attracts you? Do you judge a book simply by its cover?
Take a look inside. We are very complex; how our mind functions; the way we express, feel and ultimately love. Could one argue that love comes down to personality and how compatible we are to one another? Yes, good ole introversion and extroversion is back! Do you find individuals personalities attractable? We’ve become so focused on judging others by their physical or phenotypic traits that we neglect to consider the inner beauty individuals have. Certainly, what’s inside is what I value the most. So when asked, what’s your type … don’t neglect what’s on the inside. The quirks of people personalities are often the most beautiful things.
Completely oblivious to flirting, the mechanism of attracting a mate is like a foreign language to me. No shame in admitting that. I spend a majority of time in my own head; reasoning, questioning and pondering whatever life throws at me. I often am perceived as impassive, non-gregarious and discreet in conversation. Small talk or networking isn’t a skill of mine either, which some might argue is beneficial or necessary in finding a mate. My rational skills often don’t imply as there is not a set series of steps to find the answer. How then, does one find it?
There certainly are many approaches. A majority of media would imply to “put myself out there,” loosen up, test the waters, get drunk and have “fun.” Frankly, none of the above sound enticing. Some are quick to assume that I must have a low sex drive. Possibly. As mentioned above, I don’t see intercourse as the most important in a relationship. Should it be? Is loving your partner just physical? Certainly, society has personified that it is.
It seems we are pressured to find love. Everyone’s hooking up, breaking up and getting engaged or married. Good for them. Maybe, for us it will come when we least expect it. Does it matter how you find love? Whether it is in person, through a friend, online or an app? Who are we to judge?
This Valentines day, I’m not envious of other peoples love but rather supportive. I may not have love in the shape of a partner, but I have a community, family and friends to which forms of love are obtained. There is no shame in being single, independent, hesitant toward love or not interested in pursuing it. Trust and deep feelings will develop, but they may take time. Surround yourself with positive people, and as long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters.
Kelly T. Knutson 15′ is an opinion columnist for the Concordia who focuses on environmental awareness / concerns in his entries. Originally from the upland prairies of Grand Forks, North Dakota, Kelly recently transplanted to Bemidji where he calls the conifer forests of Minnesota his home. Being ecologically literate and knowing his roots comes at high importance to Kelly. In his spare time he enjoys being immersed as well as fascinated by nature through hiking, birdwatching, mushroom foraging, camping etc. At Concordia he is involved with Sea – Student Environmental Alliance, Concordia Chapel Choir, Eco-Reps as the Coordinator, 2014 Sustainability Symposium planning committee, coordinating the 2014 HILT High Impact Leadership Trip for spring break, and a Lab TA for the Biology department.