Translated from Russian original by Joanna Dobson
Of all the questions posed in the prologue there is just one question to which The Last Faith is unable to provide an answer, or to which it has only provided 50% of an answer. This question concerns the mystery of Love. For clarity’s sake, here we are talking only about the natural form of love that occurs between a man and a woman. The Gene Preservation instinct undoubtedly lies at the root of this kind of love. In a sense this fact might serve as an appropriate answer to the question and yet, it still only goes halfway towards a full answer because Gene Preservation instinct cannot explain why love is so supremely selective. Why does a man or woman in love, long to preserve their genes exclusively with one sole representative of the entire second half of humanity? Even if we cannot provide a rational answer to this question, we can at least look at it more closely.
At the outset, I deliberately avoid attempting to define love in the context of strange, sublime, mystical speculation, leaving that rather to poets and preachers because such definitions cannot be subjected to experimental verification. Neither can I adopt the definition of Love offered by materialists based on medical research such as the biochemical meeting of perfectly opposite pheromones. After all, sometimes people fall in love at first sight, even in the winter when they are wearing thick clothes impervious to pheromones! People can even fall in love through a movie screen! Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor or Vladimir Vysotsky and Marina Vlady are prime examples of this. And how are we to understand one-sided, unrequited love? For that too is love, oh and what love it is! This type of love occurs more frequently than mutual love, it is just that we hear of it less often and sadly, only when there is a tragic outcome.
Attempts to explain the concept of love based solely on the striving to protect and pass on one’s genes hold no water at all. The ideal solution and best means of protecting and passing on one’s genes is found in the classical form of monogamous marriage based on mutual attraction and shared interests and views on life. As we know, marriages which are not based on passionate love are fragile and undermined by the hyper-critical attitude of the lovers to each other, the virulent need to squash their partner’s Freedom of Choice and desire to have possession of the soul of the object of their love. Marriages of this kind will only last if over the years passionate love is transformed into mutual affection.
Neither can love be explained exclusively by Freedom of Choice. Has anyone really ever chosen with whom they will fall in love? In many languages the Russian word ‘vlyubitsa’ is literally expressed as ‘falling and tumbling into love’. For example, in English the equivalent expression is ‘fall in love’ and in French ‘tomber amoureux’. How on earth can one speak of choice, moreover of free choice. I had a friend who lived to the age of forty something and all his short life he saw no meaning to life without love. He was always ‘tumbling into love’, spending the night in the entrance hall to the flat of his beloved so that in the morning he could meet his ‘goddess’ with a bunch of flowers. When he came into easy money he would hire restaurants and the orchestra would sing and play especially for his love. I have to say, that very few objects of his passion were able to resist such an onslaught of attention, even in the case of married women from respectable families who had wealthy, influential husbands. In contrast I have known both men and women who have loved no-one but themselves their entire lives. There is nothing interesting I can say about them.
With that, we may have excluded various erroneous attempts to explain what love is but have made no progress in our own search for an answer to this question. Perhaps this is why we have lyrics of love to feed poetry, music, paintings, literature, film and theatre which make up such a large and important part of human life. Any form of art related to amorous poetry represents the conscious or unconscious striving to answer to the question: “Why does love exist?” And the day that a rational explanation of love is found, lyrics of love will breathe their last. Something tells me though, that we will not be seeing this day for a long time to come.
One thought on “On the mystery of Love”
In my opinion everything is very straightforward and can be easily explained by Gene Preservation.
It is because of the large size of the human brain and complex social system, that offspring must be parented for twenty years before they reach the stage of full independence.
For this reason, evolution has created the right hormone combination to suppress individual Freedom of Choice and prepare the body so that it preserves its genes with one partner only. This in turn maximises the chances of Gene Preservation because both parents are happy to devote all their time to the development and education of their offspring.
A shock dose of hormones (mind-blowing love) is enough to motivate a couple to marry and have children. With time, the shock dose is replaced by the ‘cuddle hormone’ (oxytocin if I am not mistaken).
It should also be noted that married men who have children often have reduced testosterone levels which decreases the likelihood of infidelity and promotes Gene Preservation.