Thursday, September 20, 2007

What is True Love?

What I'm reading: Candy Apple Red, by Nancy Bush

What I'm writing: Chapter 18

I'm on a friend's "quote du jour" list and this offering made me think. What's your take?

"What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?"

This was the question posed to scientists, futurists and other creative thinkers by John Brockman, a literary agent and publisher of Edge, a Web site devoted to science. The question is different each year, this one was from 2005.

David Buss
Psychologist, University of Texas; author, "The Evolution of Desire" :

True love.

I've spent two decades of my professional life studying human mating. In that time, I've documented phenomena ranging from what men and women desire in a mate to the most diabolical forms of sexual treachery. I've discovered the astonishingly creative ways in which men and women deceive and manipulate each other. I've studied mate poachers, obsessed stalkers, sexual predators and spouse murderers. But throughout this exploration of the dark dimensions of human mating, I've remained unwavering in my belief in true love.

While love is common, true love is rare, and I believe that few people are fortunate enough to experience it. The roads of regular love are well traveled and their markers are well understood by many - the mesmerizing attraction, the ideational obsession, the sexual afterglow, profound self-sacrifice and the desire to combine DNA. But true love takes its own course through uncharted territory. It knows no fences, has no barriers or boundaries. It's difficult to define, eludes modern measurement and seems scientifically woolly. But I know true love exists. I just can't prove it.


Edita A. Petrick said...

He's right, Terry - in his comment that true love is rare, he can't prove it but it exists. He's using his 'spiritual feelings' to drive his statement, rather than scientific objectivity. That's somewhat unusual for a scientist to do. In scientific community, that kind of statement would be taken as invalid to support any theory. Science is not about love. Even those disciplines that deal with feelings are not about feelings but rather their use and application, usually incorrect - I'm talking here psychologists and psychiatrists and other behavioral scientists.

I'm a scientist - engineer, with more than twenty five years of experience in the field -- research and practical. One thing that I noticed in David Buss' reply is that he doesn't try to define sources of true love - he does talk about 'men-and-women' in terms of what he studied and observed but then he does NOT directly -- explicitly -- connect the final statement where he talks about true love to mean true love in man-woman relationships. That made me smile.

Here is his quote: "But true love takes its own course through uncharted territory. It knows no fences, has no barriers or boundaries. It's difficult to define, eludes modern measurement and seems scientifically woolly. But I know true love exists. I just can't prove it."

True love can be ANY love ANY individual feels for another or even love felt for one's ideals - mother/child, brother/sister/, husband/wife, partner-to-partner,and even man-to-God. What he doesn't discuss as well is whether this 'true love' phenomenon is point-form-experience or lasting experience.

He studied human mating - there is really no connection between 'true love' and mating impulses of any species. Two individuals can experience 'true love' - for a moment or a lifetime - in purely platonic relationships. Desire is also not connected to 'true love' in any form. Desire is just an upscale word defining lust and lust is driven by hormones - that which drives mating in species.

David Buss didn't study 'true love' or searched for it. He studied mating patterns in humans as driven by desire - from hormonal point of view. What made him conclude there is true love in this kind of study is a mystery to me. To study true love one would have to take a step higher - into spirituality and that's not a scientifically recognized field. Or it is but only to theologists.

It's a fascinating question you chose to pose in your blog. It's also fascinating that the author includes in the same reply deviant human sexual behavior (so-called treachery and deception) and true love. The two are a huge moat apart.

For me, true love, invariably has roots in man's spirituality (and I mean man as mankind) rather than sexuality. Thanks for a fascinating question, Terry. It was a pleasure and privilege to comment on the article. Thank you. Edita.

Terry said...

Thanks for your enlightening comment, Edita. Being married to a scientist, and having a scientific background myself, I find it fascinating to deal with the intangibles.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

Love, like gravity, has to be taken on faith :)

Koko Brown said...

I agree with Edita. The author never really gave a true tangible definition of true love. He just tried to use his own experiences not any real scientific study.

Terry said...

Thanks, Koko -- although I don't think he was trying to define it. I think he was saying that even though he couldn't define it, or prove it existed, he believes it does exist. The question posed by the survey wasn't the one I headed my post with -- that might have been misleading.