Jen: What t’is to love

Yes, that’s Shakespeare. And it’s the line that anthropologist Dr Helen Fisher used to preface her fantastic TED talk on the concept of romantic love.

Last year we, the Beau Hunters, launched Beau Dacious with the ambition to entertain whoever cared to read it, and sustain those of us in it. “This will be fun” we all cried, “we’ll have them in stitches” we agreed, all we needed to do was share with the blogisphere our tales of less than salubrious dating. Because, let’s face it, dating can be an entertaining exercise. But it is an exercise in the true sense of the word – what else can just as readily pump you full of endorphins as leave you buckled over gasping for breath? But here’s the thing: dating is not the same as love. Which is why, for those of you who’ve been paying attention may have noticed, we’ve gone a little quiet over recent months.

Yes, dear readers, in dating, our intrepid beau hunters found love and somehow, writing about that became a little trickier, a little too personal. Especially since it hasn’t all been plain sailing. I watched Fisher’s talk yesterday as someone who has just lost out in love. (Before you ask, yes I am fine but yes, I am exceptionally disappointed.) One of the things I found particularly interesting was the notion that romantic love is not an emotion, it is a drive, It comes from the motor of the mind, the wanting part of the mind, the craving part of the mind. From my own experience, this makes perfect sense – who hasn’t, after all, felt a near addiction to another person and called that love? Yet I’ve always still referred to love as an emotion.

Love as a brain system

She also talks about love as a brain system: “People live for love. They kill for love. They die for love. They have songs, poems, novels, sculptures, paintings, myths, legends. It’s one of the most powerful brain systems on Earth for both great joy and great sorrow.”

One of the most powerful brain systems on Earth, ey – no wonder it can drive us crazy! And yet as Fisher also says, “A world without love is a deadly place.”

T’is better to have loved and lost…

And in the midst of pondering all this and nursing my own wounded heart, something happened that reminded me in an almost visceral way just how central a role love plays in our lives, regardless of whether it is an emotion, a drive or an addiction. I learned of a friend who lost her husband today. They were young and in love. They’d only been married 11 months. Perhaps because my heart is so sensitive at the moment I know that I can’t even begin to understand the pain, loss and injustice she must be feeling – and will over the months and probably even years to come. And yet I doubt she would give up the years she spent with the man she loved.

And that, dear reader, is why we date. Why we subject ourselves to the ‘exercise’ of dating. Because as challenging, painful and utterly depleting as love can be, it is also the most beautiful form of sustenance ever. And we all strive for sustenance.

“Why love if losing hurts so much? I have no answers any more. Only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I’ve been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.” – CS Lewis


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