‘True love is like ghosts, which everybody talks about and few have seen.’ -La Rochefoucauld
Throughout human existence, the concept of love has yielded from its sufferers, a rich array of visionary cultural masterpieces in the form of literature, art and music, which are said to become a medium for channelling the toxic emotional unrest brought on by such a sensation. From Joni Mitchell to Judy Garland, Picasso to Bessie Smith, Shakespeare to Schiller, thousands have declared themselves as being in the clutches of an all-consuming amorous desire, but with each individual perception of reality differing to such great lengths- why is it that we as a species claim to still so unanimously agree that each of us may undergo the exact same emotional process, that one word suffices to describe the essence of human relationships?
Biologically we are programmed for reproduction just like any other animal, yet as the melancholic swan waits suicidally beside his now deathly frozen mate on the icy lake until he meets his own ice-cold end and the monogamous Burrowing Parrot loyally returns each morning to revisit his lifeless partner on the roadside, it seems relationship patterns of lovers are more than just social constructions of the human world with even instances of homosexuality occurring among the animal kingdom.
For long scientists have studied the chemical pathways associated with romantic relationships, concluding that the emotional power of romantic love is linked to Oxytocin – the hormone promoting pair bonding that is also released across the synapses of prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) – and Dopamine – the same neurotransmitter that is released in the brain when under the influence of cocaine. So it seems, love is a biological drug as addictive and hard to part with as any other; passionately proclaiming ‘I’m in love’ perhaps then simply equates to declaring ‘I’m under the influence of chemical neurotransmitters Oxytocin and Dopamine‘- to a certain extent we are nothing more than biological drug addicts bound by our own hedonistic addiction.
Can love truly be analysed scientifically, or is there more to it than simply neuroscience? To what extent can animals exhibit emotions & undergo the process known as love as we can? Is love a definable concept or just as each relationship is individual and distinguishable from another, is love merely a blanket term changing meaning as it passes from person to person? Are artists and writers more able to create innovative works that are apparently able to touch the human heart with their poetic beauty simply because they are ‘in love’?
‘Let me speak let me spit out my bitterness,
Born of grief and nights without sleep and festering flesh.’ – Joni Mitchell