In his renowned play, William Shakespeare asked: “What ‘tis to Love?” which is a question that has been puzzling not only psychologists and sociologists, but people in general (cited in Fisher 87). It covers numerous fields, such as personal feelings, attitudes, interpersonal attraction, religion, states of mind, etc. The list is endless. Being one of humanity’s most potent driving forces, it is frequently depicted in literature and the arts. For all these reasons, and so much more, love is a component that human life could not be imagined without, as it not only prolongs the human existence by functioning partly as a surviving mechanism, but also makes life truly worth living.
World poetry, myths and legends, many anthropological and psychological reports suggest the idea that love is a universal human emotion (cited in Fisher 89). For instance, when one says love, the image that appears in one’s mind is that of two people, a man and a woman, who are, in literature, archetypically presented by the image of the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. There is not a person in the whole world, who has not heard of their tragic love story, due to the writing of one of the most famous playwrights in history. The feeling of love is one that is accused of creating a clouded state of mind in the person who feels these powerful emotions, which is why the wise usually tend to say that love is blind. What they mean by this statement is that not infrequently, people tend to perceive the person they love as being flawless, perfect, an ideal embodiment of all they ever wanted in a pair. This state is usually referred to as being in love, being infatuated, and if a finger of blame needs to be pointed, the brain would be the guilty party, creating pheromones and other chemicals, all of which lead to a state of complete psychological bliss. Thus, people who are in happy and satisfying relationships, tend to have a certain glow about them, they smile more, tend to handle stress better and overall, view life as being much more positive experience, than people who lack this feeling of love in their lives.
Almost every single human being remembers the feeling of being in love for the first time. It is like something one has never felt before, and this, when it happens, symbolizes an entrance into a world that will change reality forever. The butterflies in one’s stomach, a blushing of the cheeks every time the object of the person’s affection steps into the room, sweaty palms, all of these are indicators of a heart that loves. Usually, these first loves include just hand holding, perhaps even a gentle, shy peck on the cheek or on the lips. Despite this fact, first loves are memories a person carries within himself throughout his entire life.
Robert Sternberg states that there are three components that make a true, romantic love functional: intimacy, commitment and passion, and that there are different kinds of love which would include only combinations of two of these crucial factors, such as that liking someone would include only intimacy, infatuation would include only passion and so on (Sternberg 121). Consequently, it is true that love is not simply a state of mind, a warm feeling inside one’s heart, but that it simultaneously requires action, physical denotation that the feeling is present. This is why people tend to smile to the people they like and love, hug them, offer and receive kisses and use all other gesticulation movements that signify happiness at the other person’s presence. This is the easiest way one can conclude whether he or she is liked or loved, by simply observing the emotions and gesticulations of the other person. Thus, these expressions of love are the true indicator of what a person feels, because without hugs, kisses and smiles it would be very difficult to know whether the feelings are reciprocated, which is why these small tokens of affection go a long way.
On the other hand, it rarely happens that one’s first love is simultaneously one’s last love. Love is a very fickle emotion, present one day, and gone the next, a process during which numerous hearts are bound to be broken. The experience of love is unexpected and uncontrollable, fickle as the flicker of a candle in the wind. With the proper care, it remains present in a relationship throughout numerous years. But, even when it is still present, people’s innate need for variety sometimes takes over and loyalty appears to be forgotten. It is interesting that, in order for humans to be truly happy, they must be completely certain about what they consider most important in life. This is why humans appear to be bound by social standards to get married and procreate, and couples living together without this piece of paper are still shunned in some parts of the world as behaving immorally, simply because they did not get married in a way that society states is proper.
Thus, love sometimes fades away, and many people have a hard time letting go, realizing but not acknowledging that new opportunities lie ahead, that humans are prone to new loves all the time. Still, letting go of someone is one of the most painful experiences which are inextricably connected with love. It is a relationship of love and pain, where one does not and cannot go without the other. However, it is still an emotion that drives the entire human race forward, making them rely on love as a literary and artistic muse, creating masterpieces in celebration of this human emotion.
It is interesting to note the emergence of the 1960s movement, entitled Free Love, which denoted the idea of love without any restraints, love without pain and possession, without a necessity to be married to someone, and in general, that the more people loved each other, the more beautiful the entire world would be. This hippie dogma was adopted by many artists and writers, who saw the movement as a revolutionary time in history, where humanity would recognize the need for love, and would shun the love of money and other earthly goods, completely focusing simply on loving one’s fellow man. It was a time which liberated not only women and their right of speech, but it also revolutionized the procreation cycle, where women were given the right to choose birth control and take power over their life. This free love movement found its place in the music of many singers, like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and many others who not only sang about the idea of free love but followed this ideal in their lives. Still, even though it proclaimed that free love would lead to a better world, the idea was not accepted, exactly because humans are in need of certainty, and free love offered no such thing. What it offered was a momentary pleasure, a love that might, or might not last, without sugar-coating the true state of affairs, as love really does have the power to disappear.
In the end, love means different things to different people, and they all choose to express it in a different manner. This difference in expression is not important however, as everyone has their other half, somewhere in the world, waiting for them, and when they finally do manage to find each other, they realize that their differences are actually the same. And, what it all boils down to is what Eric Fromm says: “Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”
Fisher, Helen. “The Drive to Love: The Neural Mechanism for Mate Selection.” Eds. Robert J. Sternberg and Karin Weis. The New Psychology of Love. 87-115. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. Print.
Fromm, Erich. Quotes. n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2012.
Sternberg, Robert J. “A Triangular Theory of Love.” Psychological Review 93 (2): 119-135. Print.