I have written about love here, and talked about it in Bare Brains, as a perhaps necessary inducement to human reproduction, created by evolution, of course. That kind of description is not conducive to romance or poetry, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the emotion in the same way that we enjoy the taste of food, even though that, too, evolved because it enhances the survival of genes.
David James Duncan doesn’t discuss love in the down-to-earth terms of evolution, but more as an enhancement to the quality of life. His beautifully written piece that I read this morning, “Cherish This Ecstasy,” in the July, 2008 issue of The Sun, ends with a poem:
I find myself caught
in the endless act
This poem brings to an end an ecstatic rush through emotion-laden descriptions of peoples’ experiences, mostly Duncan’s, and mostly with birds. Birds have appeared in poetry fairly often, and ironically, it seems to me, their behavior is even more tightly programmed by evolution than ours. Perhaps their association with love has something to do with the way humans so often feel compelled by that emotion: totally lacking any ability to act other than as their passion dictates.
I’ve had my share of passion-driven moments, and they were certainly memorable, but now that I’m in the “golden years,” I have learned to enjoy—even cherish—the ecstasy, without being driven by it.
Duncan’s poem suggests that there are at least two points of view from which to experience love. He uses the expression, “being loved”—being the object of some unspecified person’s or entity’s love—rather than feeling love as directed toward something outside oneself.
I’m reminded of the frequently encountered, unrequited yearning to be loved, and the classic advice that you have to give it away to get it. I’m not sure that I can distinguish, in myself, any difference between the emotion experienced in loving or being loved. It’s the same warm, fuzzy glow in either case, sometimes intense enough to bring tears.
What sort of stimulus provokes the emotion varies with one’s history, but I think that with practice we can learn to experience it more often, in more varied circumstances. A key, I think, is empathy. If we can find any point in our life where we felt love, either outgoing or incoming, then we can imagine how other people feel—the chemistry of the limbic system is fairly universal. Then all we have to do is look around at other human beings who seem to be experiencing love—mothers with babies are pretty reliable—and use that as a stimulus to recall whatever experience we may have had. The more often we immerse ourselves in that chemistry, the easier it is to reproduce, and we can learn to experience it in the presence of other human beings even if—and perhaps more importantly, especially if—they don’t seem to be experiencing it themselves at the moment.
Most importantly, we can learn to experience love in the presence of that human being who is always and unavoidably available to us: ourselves. We can be—simultaneously and reliably—both the object and the giver of love. It’s a worthwhile skill to develop.
You may have forgotten that the title of this post is “Love and the World Wide Web.” I’ve covered the “love” part, and as for the Web, my new site is up! I had great fun redesigning it, and I “love” it…
I Love This, Too