What is love - a question that seems to have existed since the creation of the world and has not yet been answered unequivocally. Millions of pages are devoted to this fundamental problem: the concept of love is found both in art and in philosophical texts, religious treatises and scientific research. We asked experts in several areas - cultural studies, philosophical anthropology, religious studies and psychology - to tell when this concept first appeared, how and under the influence of what factors it changed, as well as what and why we mean by love now.
Love is the word we use to describe a complex emotion and the practice of dealing with that emotion. In the novel Ninety-Nine, translated into Russian by the writer James Hines, the main character is an advanced modern anthropologist who fearfully avoids using this word in relation to his own feelings: "A manifestation of bourgeois pretentiousness is undoubtedly an attempt to reduce a complex ideology to this kind of epithet." Nevertheless, in everyday life, we not only reduce the diversity of feelings and their manifestations to one word, but also periodically organize a kind of "wars of naturalization" - disputes about what true love is. Baptist marriage and relationship consultant Gary Chapman wrote his popular book about the variation of possible interpretations even within the same time frame in the nineties. He identifies five possible understandings of love, or rather, its practices (pleasant words, special pastime, gifts, touching and acts of service). But this is not enough, so Chapman complicates the picture by adding a distinction between love and being in love.
In fact, a special feeling in relation to another person, apparently, existed and still exists in all societies, but the variety of practices associated with it allows us to speak about different understandings of love. In antiquity, for example, the texts that have come down to us show several different views: the sexual sensuality of Ovid in the Science of Love, the love-friendship of Achilles and Patroclus in Homer's Iliad, the cosmic attraction to reproduction and immortality in Plato's Feast … in all cases, we are talking about male sensuality, since a woman was not perceived as a full-fledged person and did not have the right of citizenship.
It is customary to associate romantic love with courtly love sung by the troubadours
Following the philosopher Denis de Rougemont and the sociologist Norbert Elias, it is customary to associate close to modern romantic love with courtly love sung by troubadours in Christian Europe of the 12th century. The main feature in this case was the geographical or social distance between the lover or the lover and the beloved or beloved (the corresponding texts were also written by women). The idea of the uniqueness of courtly love ignores the presence of similar verses in Ancient Egypt, in China in the 9th-6th centuries BC. e., in Japan of the Heian period, in the Islamic love poetry of medieval Andalusia. Nevertheless, the subtleties of the social context fill love with a specific content.
Today's view, inherited from medieval courtly love (according to de Rougemont and Elias) or romantic love of the late 17th century (according to sociologist Anthony Giddens), still includes the concept of sexual fidelity and overcoming obstacles to the happy union of lovers. This entails many problems - for example, love is difficult to show and maintain in a long-term relationship, since most sources (books, films, articles in magazines) are devoted to the experiences that accompany people before starting a permanent relationship and, in particular, cohabitation.Patterns of love practices are set by the social context and dominant ideas, and a fruitful work in this direction would be to increase the diversity of ideas about how to relate to this feeling.
To define love, we must first agree that when we say the word "love", we all understand it more or less the same, even if we decide that we are talking about the so-called romantic love, and not, for example, about the love of truth or homeland. Problems begin already here, because we are not talking about a phenomenon about which there is any acceptable consensus at the level of "we all observe the same thing, let's now figure out what it is and how it works." No, we all observe different things, each calls something of his own as love, and it is necessary, as they say, to agree on terms. Then the question "is love a sociocultural, biological or some other phenomenon?" turned inside out. Conventionally, one researcher can say: "Here we have a phenomenon, it is basically sociocultural, and let's agree to call it love." Another says: "Here we have a phenomenon, it is basically biological, and let's agree to call it love."
Suppose we have come to the conclusion that we are interested in the socio-cultural component of romantic love. Until recently, a very popular position among anthropologists (we are talking about social and cultural anthropology) was the position that romantic love is a socio-cultural construct, invented by Europeans somewhere in the Middle Ages, and spread around the world relatively recently. That is, all these ahs, sighs, idealization of the beloved and so on were invented by the authors of medieval novels. It would seem to be a rather vulnerable point of view, if we give examples of love stories from the literature of other cultures, but, firstly, we perceive this literature through the prism of our ideas, and secondly, as supporters of this position object, what is described in the literary monuments concerns only local elites, and what anthropologists observe on the ground has nothing to do with this. And in general, love can be declared a redundant concept that duplicates others used to describe the relationship between individuals in society. But since love has appeared, even if it was invented by European novelists (or, it is reasonable then to continue, the ancient Greeks), and worries contemporaries, then you still have to deal with it.
Recently, at one of the festivals, the film "Sleepless in New York" was shown about how people experience and live through a break in love relationships. The main speaker in this film is the anthropologist Helen Fisher, who deals with the phenomenon of love and comes to the conclusion that romantic love is an addiction, like a drug. In general, about romantic love, all the more assuming focus on a single object, many critical (and just) words have been said and written. But if we assume that a person is a being endowed not only with self-consciousness, but also with the ability to rebuild himself (philosophical anthropology in this sense allows much greater freedom than social), including at the socio-cultural level, there is an opportunity to abandon the "bad" love and come up with a new one - better. That is, for example, to formulate the concept of harmonious relationships and declare that from now on it is precisely such relationships that should be considered true love. In principle, this is done regularly, but it seems without much practical success. And in general, returning to the opinion about the purely European character of the concept of "love", it is worth noting that, no matter how the ideas about love change, whenever it seems that something new has appeared, one should open the "Feast" dialogue of Plato and make sure - it has already been said there.
religious scholar, journalist
The most ancient example of love in religion is the love of man and God.Ishtar and Gilgamesh in Mesopotamia, Selene and Endymion in Greece, Sigurd and Brunhilde among the Scandinavians - these stories of varying degrees of tragedy are known to many. Later, as paganism remained in the past, love in its romantic and even erotic aspect still continued to be used to describe the relationship of a person with a deity. Throughout the world, mystics, Christians and Muslims have used images and language to describe love to express their own relationship with God.
In the practice of Hindu bhaktas, people who dedicated their lives to one single deity, most often Vishnu in the guise of Krishna, this went even further: believers perceived themselves as actual partners of the deity in love games during his stay on earth. Echoes of such ideas can be found in Judaism, where all of Israel is perceived as "the bride of God", and in other traditions. Does this mean that the content of all religions is love? Of course not. But it is important to note that it is love that is so often found in many different religions as the most successful way to express the emotions that the mystic experiences towards the object of his worship. To what extent is this manifested in practice? At first glance, not much: this kind of revelation was the lot of enlightened mystics, and not ordinary believers. But they became possible thanks to the most important change in our culture, which is associated with the spread of Christianity: a turn from external to internal, from actions and material reality to thoughts, feelings and intention.
Christianity offered Western civilization the view that what happens in a person's mind may be more important than what happens around him. Purely psychological, ideal processes suddenly became capable of actually changing the material world. Similar ideas spread in other parts of the world, although for us, as people of Western culture, the history of Christianity is clearer and more important. These are the ideas that allowed Sufis, bhaktas and hermits to "meet" with God. Brunhilde could appear before Siegfried on the battlefield in the flesh, but Jesus, Allah or Krishna can appear only in the mind's eye of a person, which, however, does not diminish the importance of such a meeting. And it is precisely this purely religious idea of the presence of feelings of their own inner strength and value that is the main thing that religion gave to love, as we know it. This is the origin of the idea that love, if it is "real" and "sincere", conquers everything, justifies any sacrifice and is capable of breaking any laws, stories about which we meet in romances of chivalry and in Hollywood films.
I know, probably, about twenty theories "about love". Perhaps more is a burning topic. In hindsight, these theories can explain why the relationship started or why it didn't. But looking for a partner, none of these theories help. Why did the spark run through here? Why did it flare up here, but not in ten other places? This is the magic. The choice of an object in love always happens unconsciously. You can, of course, then self-confidently say: “I chose her because she was the most beautiful at the party,” but the truth is that she chooses that “I” that we almost or do not know in ourselves. It decides, it provides the right hormonal balance, and you can usually rely on it. And the consciousness remains somehow to explain this choice: "cute", "he has a good job", "loves animals" and so on.
Love runs on two fuels: hormones and projection. Usually we have some kind of internal plot in which the partner is assigned an important role, and this plot is formed in childhood, and sometimes several generations before us. It is a ridiculous delusion to think that we are simply “looking for someone who looks like daddy”.Sometimes for dad, sometimes for mom, sometimes for some part of mom, and sometimes for some split off, unrecognized part of ourselves. Brothers and sisters also need not be discounted. When we meet the right person who is perfect for our interior scene, the projections spin up instantly, like chemical reactions.
Someone else from the medieval thinkers said that "love does not require the past." Unfortunately, these stories are not always about a happy family and a quiet old age hand in hand. Although at the level of consciousness, pictures are almost always exactly like that. And on a deeper level, it can be about betrayal, betrayal or lonely motherhood, and about sacrifices and torment (when it is necessary to suffer for the sake of someone, and as much as possible), and about some long-ago inflicted insults, pay off for which the partner will also have. Which, of course, is neither a dream nor a spirit. A lot of love is involved in regression - it has long been noticed that lovers behave and react like little children. Alas, if in childhood we were rejected, did not hear, did not notice, if we were lonely and scared, this will manifest itself in a love relationship. Required. But the good news is that all parenting scripts and our inner plays are not a sentence. Two adults are capable of rewriting almost any story so that it contains joy, sexuality, and a quiet old age hand in hand.