Messages in mass media today give love a bad name. Switching on the radio, you’ll hear songs of either bitterness in regards to love or of heartbreak, which give off the impression that love is a scarring experience as opposed to an essential component for survival, sanity, and growth. Common sentiments about not needing love, primarily in this age, have turned us away from the free-spirited lovers of the 60’s flower child era singing The Beatles’ hit song “All You Need Is Love” (1967) to the jaded individuals who choose success, independence, and capital over love. Could this new impression of love be a reaction to ignorance of the idea’s actual definition? What is love, anyway?
American psychiatrist and notable author, M. Scott Peck, defines love in his 1978 novel The Road Less Traveled, as “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth”. In this sense, love is a selfless act. In her novel Paradise (1997), literary laureate Toni Morrison proclaims, “Love is not a gift. It is a diploma,” asserting that love is something to be earned, a benefit reaped as a result of hard work and dedication. These are two interpretations of love we rarely hear about anymore. Instead, love is commonly associated with acts of possessiveness, jealousy, obsession, and straight up emotional instability. Misconceptions of loves true meaning have led to the current demonization of this concept. In ignorance, lovelessness has become normalized in our day-to-day interactions with one another.
Believe it or not, we need love. Without care/nurturance, one of the several components that make love, we can die, whether in a metaphorical, spiritual sense, or a very literal, physical death. According to PsychologyToday.com researchers have discovered infant mortality rates are 30%-40% higher among babies in orphanages who lack nurturance during infancy. Those who don’t perish grow into persons who struggle with empathy, fearing physical touch and having trouble establishing connections with other people.. As a species who is dependent on one another to navigate through the world, this is a prime example of how necessary it is to have love at one’s foundation. Also, love is literally in the mind. Recent studies haves mapped out about 12 areas of the brain that function to convey our expression of love. Some of these areas release various chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, commonly known as “the love hormone,” proving, for the skeptics, that love is not a myth.
Earlier I mentioned care as one aspect of love. Amongst care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust are all components that function to create love, according to bell hooks in her radical book All About Love: New Visions (1999). We typically think of love as being just one of the aforementioned, when love is the work of using all in conjunction in order to add to your own and/or another’s growth & development. By these different definitions it’s safe to see love as enrichment, a safe space for us as humans to freely develop into the empathetic, sentient beings we were meant to be. Put simply, love is a tool of freedom not an excuse to seek ownership over another person. Being controlling hinders growth, which is in the way of love’s goal.
In conclusion, we could all use a little more love in our lives, especially now with the many crises occurring globally. As these innovative author’s and psychiatrist have clearly stated, love is an act of selflessness, extending parts of you for the benefit another person and in turn, becoming, also, a benefactor. We are losing fellow beings, brothers, sisters, and friends, whether literally by physical death, or spiritually via a diminishment of sanity and feelings of loneliness in a fully occupied world because of love’s lack. I propose a rerouting of the newly popular lovelessness through a mass reteaching of love’s true meaning in a world that seems to have forgotten the benefits of what it means to bathe in the richness of love.