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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Is love "ineffable?"

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Author Topic: Is love "ineffable?"
daedalus_rebuked
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Do you think that romantic love, or any aspect of it, is something that is ultimately beyond rational understanding?

Is it incomprehensible because it is a spiritual, religious, or mystical truth?

Is it beyond the human capacity for rationality altogether, or do we have the potential to learn it? What impact does the biological imperative to procreate have on what we see as 'romantic love?'

What do these conclusions say about the human condition? Knowing what we do about 'romantic love', how can we use that knowledge to better our lives?

Will mental masturbation put hair on my frontal lobe? >.<

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Jill2000Plus
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Seems to be all chemicals and synapses in the brain, so far as I can tell, and I'll say that the biological imperative is not present in all even if sex has evolved for reproductive purposes.

Also, mental masturbation won't put hair on your frontal lobe, I'm afraid you'll need to invest in a synthetic frontal lobe wig.

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Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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pcwhite
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I happen to be of the school of thought that nothing is beyond rational understanding. (well...except maybe quantum physics [Razz] ) Love might be very DIFFICULT to understand rationally, but not impossible. [Smile]

I'm also a monist...that is, I think it is impossible to separate the mind / spirit / soul etc. from the physical brain and body. (The opposite of a monist is a dualist, which is a person who believes in a separate "mind" entity from the body / brain.) All thoughts and feelings exist on a physical level in the brain...if this weren't true, then brain damage would be of no consequence. If it exists physically, there is a way to measure it - and we do have ways of measuring activity, at least, like fMRIs and EEGs. However, because the brain is so staggeringly complex, it's understandable that people might find it hopeless to ever achieve a full, penetrating understanding of it.

re: biological imperative of reproduction...I think love is intimately tied to this, as is everything we do. Natural selection is a notorious penny-pincher, and it seems unlikely that a response to sex as elaborate as love would arise and persist for this many generations if it didn't confer a tangible advantage to the people who experience it.

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Heather
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I just want to pitch in that on notions of romantic love and sex as inextricably bound with reproduction, the big fly in the ointment there is us queer folks, as well those of us who can't or don't have any kind of imperative, biological or otherwise, to reproduce (and have not, even if we -- ahem -- have had decades of love relationships) even when we are in romantic love relationships where reproduction is possible.

Yet, still we desire and pursue love. Go figure. [Smile]

I also want to riff a little on pcwhite's last statement, which is to say that I DO think there is something to be said for tangible results or products of love, but if we even just take a look at the history or art and literature, we can see one very clear way where love produces something tangible that isn't babies. Too, I think we can see pretty clearly through that history that plenty of people have also done a pretty darn good job of expressing it and what it is and has been to them.

I gotta also add that I don't think romantic love is as separate from other kinds of love as the troubadours -- who kind of came up with it in the first place and not all that long ago -- liked to make it seem. And if THAT kind of love is inexplicable (which I don't think it is), I'm not sure why other kinds would not be.

[ 12-26-2008, 08:39 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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pcwhite
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Hi, Heather. [Smile] I seem to have said something that touches a nerve...oops. I should clarify.

I want to start out by saying I'm a queer person myself, so my opinion isn't coming from a direction of heterosexism.

I'll quote myself with some added emphasis..."re: biological imperative of reproduction...I think love is intimately tied to this, as is everything we do." What I mean is that everything humans (or any other species, really) do or experience generally has something to do with enhancing our ability to pass on genes. Like, how the ability to feel fear enhances our ability to reproduce. I'm using "fear" as an example because it's only indirectly tied to reproduction, but it's an emotion that still affects our success at reproducing, because in order to reproduce you first have to survive. Does that make sense? [Confused] My head is a bit wooly today...

I think love is a little bizarre, actually, in the context of organisms maximizing their efficiency of gene propagation. It makes superficial sense that love would impel us to have sex and reproduce, but if it was all about reproduction then why would we need love in addition to a sexual drive? Wouldn't the sex drive suffice on its own? And even humans' sexual drive is not so cut-and-dry...even sex itself isn't all about reproduction, because even heterosexual people still regularly have sex on days when a woman is not at all likely to conceive.

So, I think romantic love is about having babies, only insofar as feeling fear is about having babies, or the human digestive system is about having babies, or liking the taste of cheesecake is about having babies. [Smile]

Moving on...I like your last point about how romantic love isn't so distinct from all kinds of love. er...yeah, not much to add, except that I think that in itself makes a very interesting discussion.

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lintil
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I prefer to understand love within social, cultural and historical contexts. E.g. Marrying “for love” is a very recent concept. While I do believe that love (and other feelings) have to do with neurological functions, we are not slaves to our biologies. We feel those things as a function of experiences. E.g. I know that I love my baby niece (8 months), and maybe those feelings could be described by certain neurological functions (the how), but why do I love her? Because I just do. And I think that I could have (almost) just as easily chosen NOT to love her (due to bad family experiences, and my own anger and bitterness as a result), but I chose to, because babies don't need bullshit anger in their lives. Do we have the potential to learn love? Absolutely. I know that my niece is going to learn love because she experiences that through the people around her. She could also learn hate and violence, if she (or anyone) grew up in conditions in which that was heavily present.

I believe that love does not have to be necessary to procreate. And how “imperative” is the biological imperative to procreate and when LOTS of people don't want to have kids (like me) or can't? I believe that love is necessary for survival (not just procreation), but to thrive, grow, evolve and to heal from pain. E.g. Back in the day, premature babies weren't held or cuddled because they seemed so fragile. But they died because of that lack of touch and warmth – they died of loneliness. So I prefer to think of love not only as “romantic love” (which I believe is a combination of lust, chemistry and intimacy, depending on the situation) but as something that is always present. We only have to learn how to open ourselves to let it in – that's how I think knowing this, we can better our lives.

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Heather
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quote:
I believe that love does not have to be necessary to procreate.
I think what lintil said here bears repeating.

Particularly when you consider how very many women in history have been forced to become pregnant when they did not want to through sexual violence, and we can be very sure that the perpetrators of that violence were not acting out of love. The same can be said for other instances where procreation was about things like control, guilt, feelings of obligation, etc.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Narwhal
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quote:
Originally posted by lintil:
I believe that love is necessary for survival (not just procreation), but to thrive, grow, evolve and to heal from pain. E.g. Back in the day, premature babies weren't held or cuddled because they seemed so fragile. But they died because of that lack of touch and warmth – they died of loneliness.

Lintil, I think that hits on something really important. What I get from that is that love--not just romantic love, but love, period--is as necessary as food and water. I guess you could say it's something without which our lives just wouldn't be whole, and we would be missing out on a lot of what it is to be human (intelligent beings generally? I'm pretty sure my cat expresses love, that horses and dogs and probably a lot of other animals express love, so it must not be exclusively human).

I think that what we call romantic love is just one manifestation of the need we all have for companionship. We take comfort in the company of others and gain fulfillment from caring for them, whether it's a romantic partner or anyone else we love.

I guess none of that answers the OP's question, but this is a fun discussion, anyway [Razz]

[ 12-28-2008, 02:51 AM: Message edited by: Narwhal ]

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Heather
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Indeed, good discussion. [Smile]

I also think people tend to forget that romantic love is, in some sense, often temporary, and also that if and when we feel romantic love, that isn't exclusive of other kinds of love or other experiences of love with that person.

In other words, as time passes, when love is sustained, it tends to shift and grow between people and integrate other kinds of love. I think the Greek framework for addressing love is actually pretty fantastic, and in that framework, what I'm saying is that eros, what the greeks frame as erotic or passionate love -- what people usually mean when they say romantic love -- shifts to incorporate or become more agape and philia, types of love marked more by friendship and deep compassion than physical attraction or erotic feelings.

If you talk to very old couples who have been together for a long time, for instance, they'll almost always tell you that the kind of love one has for their very closest friend is what they feel most for their partners. By all means, they may still be "in love" with them in many ways, their relationships may still have a sexual aspect, but I think very often when people talk about romantic love, they're talking more about new relationship energy than about love in the first place.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Narwhal
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While I was lying awake last night pondering the mysteries of the universe (or waiting to fall asleep, or something...I'm fuzzy on the details [Razz] ) I thought about something in my religious beliefs that I think pertains to this discussion. As in any discussion where religion comes up, I'm only presenting my perspective, and can't claim that mine is The Right Answer (TM)--I wouldn't even claim that my interpretations or ideas would ring true for everyone from the same religious tradition.

In the Qur'an (the Islamic scripture, for anyone who's not familiar with it) it says "And among God's signs is this, that God created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and God has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are signs for those who reflect."

I've always particularly liked that verse, and it has a profound influence on how I see the nature of love. I think the idea of love, mercy (another way of phrasing the idea of compassion, like in the Greek agape, I think) and tranquility all being linked together is kind of...well, comforting, I guess.

Other passages use the metaphor of spouses being like shelters for one another...I like the idea of love being really rooted in mutual care and compassion. And, going off of Heather's observation about couples who have been together for a very long time, I think those are the aspects of love that really tend to last. Being in the process of establishing a new relationship myself, I'm finding that letting those dimensions develop first, BEFORE giving energy to the "romantic" love, is working very well for me. Basically I feel very secure and comfortable, because the whole thing has progressed at a pace that feels right for me, rather than being "swept off my feet".

Once again, this doesn't exactly answer the original question. I just thought this perspective might be of interest...I hope so, anyway, because it turned into a pretty long post :B

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daedalus_rebuked
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Honestly wasn't pointing in one direction or another with that question...just looking for opinions, which I got tons of! Thanks everyone [Smile]
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Heather
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By the by, I swear to gawd I am not bell hooks' agent, marketing person or stalker, but on top of another book of hers I suggested to you elsewhere, I consider "All About Love: New Visions" the BEST treatise on love I have ever read. I tend to quote it incessantly when talking about love, and it's one of the only whole pieces I have ever found which I feel speaks most truly to my own thoughts on the matter. I'm not in perfect alignment with all of it, but certainly with most of it and absolutely with its spirit.

And while it's a very different take, and I don't know if polemics are your style, "Against Love: A Polemic," by Laura Kipnis also has some fascinating things to say on the subject, IMO.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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