Pop Theory 11: How to Love
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[Editor's Note: In keeping with the schedule, here is the sequential Pop Theory piece—about Valentine's Day—posted 8 Feb 2012. Yes, this actual Hallmarkiday is months away, but love is always in the air, or, to quote my favorite movie Love Actually, "love is all around you."]
It’s that time of the year again, my fellow AE’ers. That’s right. Valentine’s Day. And no one is immune or indifferent to this day of foules (or “fools,” as Chaucer, in the poem first credited with associating St. Valentine as a lovers holiday, would have us believe).
While I am fascinated by studies that document the physiological aspects of love and of failing in love— a little over a year ago, a meta-analysis study conducted by a Syracuse University professor found that “failing in love only takes about a fifth of a second” and “failing in love can elicit not only the same euphoric feeling as using cocaine, but also affects intellectual areas of the brain”—I want to talk about how to love. Yes, Lil Wayne fans, the ethics of how to love.
In this column, then, I’m going to cull together some key components from various female thinkers about what I believe comprises an ethics of how to love. I’ll toss in my own thoughts occasionally, as I myself am in the process of working through my own ethics of how to love, something I’ve begun to think about specifically after the relationship that I thought was going to last forever (well, until I died) abruptly ended Valentine’s Day weekend two years ago. (Apparently, breakups are common during this time of the year —go figure.) After that debilitating breakup, I began to think more acutely about how I need to relate to myself before I relate to an other (in an intimate, sexual relationship kind of way). What I’ve come to discover is that this relation to my self must be grounded in self-love, compassion, and, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, a willingness to move beyond the survival instinct of self-preservation by embracing the gamut of emotions fluctuating between pain and pleasure.
"[W]e must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is....