Analysis of perhaps the most complex of human emotions
By Marvin Druger
Love is a very complex phenomenon that deserves some thoughtful analysis.
You can love your dog, your spouse, your job, traveling, your hobby, even yourself. Are all these kinds of love the same?
They all evoke pleasant feelings. It’s fascinating that such feelings are produced by so many different stimuli. Biologically, such feelings come when certain hormones and other chemicals are secreted. My father’s favorite song had the verses:
“Have you ever been in love, boys?
Have you ever felt the pain?
I’d rather be in jail boys,
Than to be in love again.”
Yes, love can be painful when it ceases to be, for whatever reason. Human relations have love at their core, but love can be overridden by anger, fear and hate. These emotions are learned through experiences. We can learn to love, and we can learn to hate. Indeed, some people can even love to hate or hate to love.
I started thinking about love when I was walking on a street in New Orleans. A little girl stopped me in the street and asked, “Mister, I’m doing a study for my church. Can you tell me what love means?”
Without thinking, I said, “Love is when you want to do more for someone else than you want to do for yourself.”
This encounter led to the following poem I wrote:
What Love Means
One day when walking down the street,
A little girl I did meet,
She said she wanted to find
How the word “love” might be defined,
The meaning was inside my head,
And I was pleased with what I said,
“Love is when I want to do
Less for me
And more for you.”
Isn’t that what love in human relationships is all about? The feeling of love comes when we do something kind for someone else. Even small incidents can bring such feelings.
I was in Montreal with a companion and we couldn’t find a particular restaurant. I stopped a woman who was walking rapidly up a steep hill toward us. I asked her about the location of the restaurant. She said, “I know where that is. C’mon, I’ll show you.” She turned and walked with us down the steep hill to show us the restaurant. I’m sure she felt that love feeling when we said, “Thanks.”
My friend was outside her house in Syracuse. She noticed a high school girl trudging toward her home in the snow. The girl was obviously cold and distressed. My friend went to her and asked, “Can I walk you home.” The girl was relieved and pleased, and my friend was filled with that warm, fuzzy love feeling.
When my brother died suddenly, I was in a state of shock. My daughter-in-law immediately came to my house to sit with me in my time of dismay. My entire family called to console me. Love feelings filled the room.
Love lingers on
When my wife was dying from terminal lung cancer, I took care of her at home. Many people regret that they didn’t do enough for their dying spouse. I didn’t have that feeling. I did everything I could for my wife. That love feeling was as persistent as the feeling of grief that I’ve had ever since her death.
So, why not do kind things for others? The pay-off is a feeling of love.
Some people think that love is sex. Actually, sex is an expression of love, but people can have sex without love. I was watching two mourning doves that visit my bird feeder every day. They are obviously mates. I call them Ella and Fitzgerald. I wondered whether they experience love, as we do.
Ella and Fitzgerald are obviously attracted to each other, but do they have feelings of love? Do any other animals on earth, besides humans, experience the feelings of love? My conclusion is that only humans have feelings of love. If this is true, I wonder why humans don’t cherish this emotion and express it more openly and more frequently.
We certainly learn to hate, as evidenced by the long history of warfare that plagues humanity. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if humans didn’t learn to hate each other, but could replace hate and anger with love?
Hugging, kissing and touching bring about love feelings. What better relief from stress than a warm hug from someone? If you want to experience a love feeling, give a person a big hug, or kiss, or even hold the person’s hand. Most of us don’t do this often enough.
Although animals don’t seem to have feelings of love or hate, they do seem to show fear. My daughter’s dog runs for cover whenever she hears firecrackers explode on the Fourth of July. Birds flee from my bird feeder when they see that I am near, or if a cat comes near. Interestingly, birds do not seem afraid of squirrels, and both feed in close proximity on seeds on the ground. How does a bird know to be afraid of a cat, but not a squirrel?
Usually, people don’t express love frequently enough. How often did you tell your parents, “I really love you.”
I’m sure my parents loved me, but I don’t remember ever saying that to them. “I Iove you” are powerful words. Expressing this feeling openly and often will make you feel good, and certainly has that effect on the recipient of those words. Everyone wants and needs to love and be loved.
As I write this article, I have a love feeling, in the hope that my reflections and words will help readers think more about what love means in their lives, and express that feeling openly and often.