What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me… because I do not have a definitive answer to that question. Perhaps it is due to love being an ever-evolving concept for humanity. It itself is not tangible, but its effects are. We do things because of love. Love is not able to be physically sensed by sight, sound, taste, smell, or touch, and yet we undeniably feel it. I mean really, emotionally feel it. This emotional sense of love enacts a tangible chemical reaction within us. Our body’s recognition of a loving situation prompts hormones and neural synapses to do their thing and feel that love tonight.
Of course, we can physically make love as a means to share and show love, but as with so many other detectable and quantifiable measures of love’s presence and action, this can be scientifically simplified from the lofty romantic ideals we desire it to have. Making love is, after all, just another way to say sexual intercourse. Or is it? Sex without love is quite real and happens frequently in relationships that have lost their luster or maybe never had it for one reason or another. This is saying nothing of cases of sexual assault. The presence of love is not directly correlated with the occurrence of sex. However, sex can be an extremely loving process (it doesn’t sound very romantic described simply as a process either). Two or more people can enjoy a beautiful experience that bridges the gap of emotional and physical love. Such an experience is nice, but it does not raise love up with enough escape velocity to propel it out of the reach of party pooper science.
To explore this further, let’s have a listen from the sword’s tip of scientific brutality that is Rick Sanchez:
To Rick, love is what it is empirically quantifiable as. He labels the aforementioned feeling as a compulsion to breed, a primal, instinctual, animalistic draw to propagate the species with one’s own DNA. This is the love that I have learned about in biology classes that is responsible for animals doing their damnedest to survive long enough to spawn some offspring. Evolutionary success is all about getting your genes to the next generation. For Rick and these instinct-driven critters, love is just your body’s way of accelerating this when a potential mate steps onto the scene, i.e. your biological clock. It’s difficult to tell if animals even feel love as we do, seeing as relationships that seem loving, such as the bond between humans and dogs, have been explained away by real-life Ricks as a co-dependency that began thousands of years ago to provide wolves with better sources of food and humans with protection and hunting assistance. Dogs aside, do all humans even feel the romantic love Jerry waxes poetic in this clip? Considering the state of his marriage, Rick is right to criticize taking advice from him (or me for that matter, being an unmarried, unattached young man without much relationship experience), but is Morty even feeling real love? He probably thinks he is, pining for Jessica under the impression that to be with her is achieving a real-life Disney-esque true love in which they’ll live happily ever after. He may be right, but he may also be young and unable to grasp the complexities of a sustained human romance. His inexperience may have him believing his first love is his final love, which is certainly not always true. Not to mention, that as a teenager, Morty is locked and loaded with hormones that signal his body’s growth into sexual maturity and that evolutionary compulsion his grandpa talked about is kicking in and making him pick out prospective targets.
While funny, and painfully accurate on many fronts, we must remember that all three of these men are ill-equipped to fully judge how love works because of their lack of experience for various reasons. Morty has not yet experienced romantic love; Jerry’s marriage occurred more out of need than desire; and Rick squandered his marriage with bad habits and scientific pursuits (not necessarily the same thing, I might add to potential scientists). They are poor representations of love experts, and Rick’s cynicism may be appropriate for his own failed marriage and his son-in-law’s ailing one, but it is not representative of all marriages. Many marriages are happy from start to finish, many hit bumps here and there and go in one direction or another, and many end prior to death doing them apart. The often wrongly stated numbers on divorce skew the perception of good or bad marriages that truly are a mixed bag with mostly happy results. And that’s just marriage; there are other relationships, both old and new that work just fine and seem to be flush with l-o-v-e.
Want another sci-fi based explanation of love? Here is the famous, or perhaps infamous key plot point in Interstellar (spoils ahead):
It is interesting to consider how true this is that love is the only thing besides gravity that we know of that is not bound by spacetime. It may be presented on-the-nose in the movie (which if you have complaints, please watch this Movies with Mikey episode), but it is remarkable how love affects us across distance and time.
I am thinking of love right now because two of my best friends just got married. I have never known a couple as well as I know them (nor have I loved a pair of people like I love them), and I can honestly say that they love each other. Whatever love may be, they have it, and lots of it. I know this because I have noticed it in everything they do together and apart, great and small, simple and intricate, over the last nine years since I met them, to when they got together, to their matrimonial union, and beyond. Seeing their love for one another, the love between other couples I know well, and the love my parents shared, especially through my father’s death, I can say that there is something going on there that is benevolent and beautiful. I do not believe that I have yet experienced it as they have, but maybe so. Clearly not being married or even in a relationship I am not in the same company of paired love as others, but even when I have been it has never been with a person that I loved, a fact made evident by the end of those relationships. Most of the time things have ended before they started. When I was younger I was frequently on the infatuated side of unrequited love; now I find myself increasingly being the one setting the record straight for someone looking in my direction (ugh, that sounded disgustingly self-centered, true though it may be). Many times I have let something with the potential to grow slip away because of some ineptitude to pursue it further. Certainly there is some inexperience at play here, but could there also be some lack of love that kept me from working harder to get one of my bulbs to blossom? In order words, if I had really been in love, would I have made more of a move? Last year when I met my latest ex-girlfriend, it was months after I had let another woman with whom I instantly connected better with slip away. As a result, I vowed to not ever let this happen again, and I told myself that I would make a more concerted effort with the next person who caught my eye, regardless of how she measured up. I did just this and… it didn’t work out. I was with her long enough that my body began to produce those wonderful and terrible hormones that are like beer goggles for the heart, and I stayed with a person who I didn’t like after initiating a relationship I only started out of an ultimatum to myself I only made because I still felt bad about not trying hard enough with a better match for me. Ironically, and hilariously, I passed my ex on the highway on my return home from my friends’ wedding. Perhaps it means something, or perhaps it’s just a funny coincidence, either way, she really needs to fix that dent and get a new rear license plate – I mean, I have felt the love emanating from others who deeply love one another, so maybe, just maybe I will be lucky enough to one day experience what they already do. I hope so, even if I have to wait a while for it.
Thanks for reading! I hope that you find love in a person, place, and or thing that allows you to feel and practice it safely for you and others. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments, and come on back next week for a little more love from yours truly.