Thursday, February 10, 2011

Okay, I have to share a little love.

     What is love?  One might love a child, a wife, a song, a flower, a car—but what is real love and why does one love?  Can one love and hate at the same time?  Is love psychological or biological?  Might one search for true monogamous love while another enjoy frequent and casual love with many partners?  As Mark Twain pens,Love is the irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired."
     I believe I know what love is.  I’ve been deeply and passionately in love with my beautiful wife for 28 years.  I have nurtured a playful, thoughtful, guiding and loving relationship with my daughter for the past quarter century.  I worship every smile, giggle and tear of my two grandchildren and unconditionally love the two heroes who raised me.  Love great food, the work I do, my dog and summer but is love a noun or verb?  Before answering this question we must examine love.   
     I remember my almost first kiss.  Being a late bloomer, I did not really kiss a girl until my sixteenth year of life.  Having not been kissed previously, I wonder how to be sensitive but not eager, ruggedly manly but not cave-mannish, chivalrous while not attacking.
     My victim, Charlotte was a beautiful girl who understands kindness.  She talks freely and laughs often.  I decide her kindness will be rewarded with my first gentle, soft, slow kiss, which I learn and practice by watching mushy romance movies with my mom and observing the confidently passionate seniors at my high school.  I dream about kissing a girl and watch what my kiss might look like in the bathroom mirror. I am ready.  Charlotte disagrees. 
     Sitting in my Mustang at the end of our fourth date I prepare myself.  With eyes closed, I move my head toward hers and instead of lip I hit cheek.  Charlotte must have thought me too forward and turned to offer her jowl instead of lips.  Embarrassed at misreading her intentions I never call her again—my loss.
     My psychological and biological attraction equals physical aggression as I misread my friend’s intentions.  I crave physical interaction due to peer pressure, curiosity, a strong likeness for Charlotte and testosterone overload while my partner craves more conversation, nonphysical intimacy and nurturing.  I throw away a maturing relationship because of embarrassment and the desire for physical intimacy.  As a sixteen-year-old child, I am emotionally, psychologically and biologically ignorant.
     Love is understanding, listening and really hearing, paying attention and caring.  I was not really listening.  Love is active—a verb.  We actively create love and without action, love dies.   
     Biologically our bodies and brainstem understand one function—to make more of us and carry our genes into the future.  We physically desire certain traits, which create more of us as we search for those traits in a mating partner. 
     Men in 37 cultures from Australia to Zambia, judge women as more attractive if they have a youthful appearance.  Evolutionary psychologists say men are drawn to healthy, fertile-appearing women.  Women with smooth skin and a youthful shape suggests many childbearing years to come.  Women with these traits stand a better chance of sending their genes into the future. 
     Regardless of cultural variations in ideal weight, men everywhere feel most attracted to women whose waists are roughly a third narrower than their hips—a sign of future fertility.
     Women feel attracted to healthy-looking men, but especially to those who seem mature, dominant, bold and affluent.  Such attributes say evolutionary psychologists, connote a capacity to support and protect.      
     Psychological love is different.  In one’s mind, one learns to love from past exposure and experience.  One might first look at their caring blue-eyed mother and want to be around more people who look and act like her ensuring future nurturing.  When this same mother punishes, her caring blues eyes turn into strict, condemning eyes that the child wishes to avoid. 
     One laughs and plays with a neighborhood girl and loves looking at her brown, squinty eyes.  Her eyes represent fun and kindness.  One now finds brown eyes kinder than blues eyes as their view of attractiveness develops.  
     One begins to build a schema of what one finds attractive and what one finds frightening or unattractive.  The child now likes brown eyes, which make them laugh instead of blue eyes, which love but punish. 
     Now in fifth grade the child begins to play with a skinny girl with straight dark hair and straight little teeth.  The child’s new attractiveness now revolves around skinny brown-eyed girls with small teeth and dark hair.  The kid is psychologically creating their personal likes and dislikes.  They are learning through experience and brain maturation what makes them happy or unhappy in a partner. 
     The child is not just writing their future but restructuring their brain.  As they age their brain is webbing.  Neurons are searching for connections that create who the child mentally is while building the cognitive adult they will become.  The child’s brain isdeciding likes and dislikes and connecting strongly to the likes and not connecting to the dislikes.  Experiences are making the person.  Nurture is leading nature.
     One might form poor neural connections if exposed to negative experiences.  If loving parents also abuse, one might form neural connections or learn to accept punishment as pleasure and confuse abuse with love.  One might accept partners who abuse, demean or disrespect if parents lay this roadmap during childhood.
     The biological link to physical love is fleeting while offering extrinsic satisfaction.    Psychological, cognitive love is intrinsic.  Lust is not love.  The need to procreate (lust) is an animalistic human response to an unrequited desire.  Psychological love separates humans from animals.  Love is active.  Emotional love offers internal warmth, like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night.  I choose the blanket.         
     The Hip Hop group, The Black Eye Peas, ask a question about love which most question in this hurtful, unfair world we live, in their song, “Where is the Love?”  The lyrics ask, “People killin', people dyin', children hurt and you hear them cryin', can you practice what you preach, and would you turn the other cheek?  Father, Father, Father help us, send some guidance from above, cause people got me, got me questionin', where is the love.”  Our Father answers this question about love in His book, I Corinthians, 13.
hat is love?  “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous, or conceited, or proud; love is not ill-mannered, or selfish, or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs: love is not happy with evil, but is happy with truth.  Love never gives up: its faith, hope and patience never fail.  Love is eternal…there are faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.”    

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