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  1. Quote

    | 22 notes

    It is a given that people should be able to love whom and how they want and if pairing off for any length of time is what appeals, then that’s fine. But it’s time that coupledom stopped being touted as the best option, an idea reinforced not just by state approval and resource allocation, but also by religion, the market, popular culture, assorted therapists and our own anxieties.

    Resisting the consolidation of invidious forms of social exclusion, it’s time to get beyond the notion that yoking together love, coupling, marriage and reproduction is the only way to achieve happiness. The scare stories about single people dying earlier or loneliness becoming a pandemic must be seen in the larger context of a social order that is hostile to non-couples and an economic order to which the collective good seems to be anathema. Our own imaginations – and hearts – can come up with better.

    Priyamvada Gopal, on love and coupledom

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    | 21 notes
    What is love?
It’s the most popular search on Google – but what’s the answer? We asked experts in fields from science to fiction share their thoughts

"What is love" was the most searched phrase on Google in 2012, according to the company. In an attempt to get to the bottom of the question once and for all, the Guardian has gathered writers from the fields of science, psychotherapy, literature, religion and philosophy to give their definition of the much-pondered word.
The physicist: ‘Love is chemistry’
  
Biologically, love is a powerful neurological condition like hunger or thirst, only more permanent. We talk about love being blind or unconditional, in the sense that we have no control over it. But then, that is not so surprising since love is basically chemistry. While lust is a temporary passionate sexual desire involving the increased release of chemicals such as testosterone and oestrogen, in true love, or attachment and bonding, the brain can release a whole set of chemicals: pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin. However, from an evolutionary perspective, love can be viewed as a survival tool – a mechanism we have evolved to promote long-term relationships, mutual defence and parental support of children and to promote feelings of safety and security.
• Jim Al-Khalili is a theoretical physicist and science writer
The psychotherapist: ‘Love has many guises’
  
Unlike us, the ancients did not lump all the various emotions that we label “love” under the one word. They had several variations, including:
Philia which they saw as a deep but usually non-sexual intimacy between close friends and family members or as a deep bond forged by soldiers as they fought alongside each other in battle. Ludus describes a more playful affection found in fooling around or flirting. Pragma is the mature love that develops over a long period of time between long-term couples and involves actively practising goodwill, commitment, compromise and understanding. Agape is a more generalised love, it’s not about exclusivity but about love for all of humanity. Philautia is self love, which isn’t as selfish as it sounds. As Aristotle discovered and as any psychotherapist will tell you, in order to care for others you need to be able to care about yourself. Last, and probably least even though it causes the most trouble, eros is about sexual passion and desire. Unless it morphs into philia and/or pragma, eros will burn itself out.
Love is all of the above. But is it possibly unrealistic to expect to experience all six types with only one person. This is why family and community are important.
• Philippa Perry is a psychotherapist and author of Couch Fiction
The philosopher: ‘Love is a passionate commitment’
  
The answer remains elusive in part because love is not one thing. Love for parents, partners, children, country, neighbour, God and so on all have different qualities. Each has its variants – blind, one-sided, tragic, steadfast, fickle, reciprocated, misguided, unconditional. At its best, however, all love is a kind a passionate commitment that we nurture and develop, even though it usually arrives in our lives unbidden. That’s why it is more than just a powerful feeling. Without the commitment, it is mere infatuation. Without the passion, it is mere dedication. Without nurturing, even the best can wither and die.
• Julian Baggini is a philosopher and writer
The romantic novelist: ‘Love drives all great stories’
   
What love is depends on where you are in relation to it. Secure in it, it can feel as mundane and necessary as air – you exist within it, almost unnoticing. Deprived of it, it can feel like an obsession; all consuming, a physical pain. Love is the driver for all great stories: not just romantic love, but the love of parent for child, for family, for country. It is the point before consummation of it that fascinates: what separates you from love, the obstacles that stand in its way. It is usually at those points that love is everything.
• Jojo Moyes is a two-time winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year award
The nun: ‘Love is free yet binds us’
    
Love is more easily experienced than defined. As a theological virtue, by which we love God above all things and our neighbours as ourselves for his sake, it seems remote until we encounter it enfleshed, so to say, in the life of another – in acts of kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice. Love’s the one thing that can never hurt anyone, although it may cost dearly. The paradox of love is that it is supremely free yet attaches us with bonds stronger than death. It cannot be bought or sold; there is nothing it cannot face; love is life’s greatest blessing.
• Catherine Wybourne is a Benedictine nun
Photograph: Valentina Petrova/AFP/Getty Images

    What is love?

    It’s the most popular search on Google – but what’s the answer? We asked experts in fields from science to fiction share their thoughts

    "What is love" was the most searched phrase on Google in 2012, according to the company. In an attempt to get to the bottom of the question once and for all, the Guardian has gathered writers from the fields of science, psychotherapy, literature, religion and philosophy to give their definition of the much-pondered word.

    The physicist: ‘Love is chemistry’

    Jim Al-Khalili
Jim Al-Khalili

    Biologically, love is a powerful neurological condition like hunger or thirst, only more permanent. We talk about love being blind or unconditional, in the sense that we have no control over it. But then, that is not so surprising since love is basically chemistry. While lust is a temporary passionate sexual desire involving the increased release of chemicals such as testosterone and oestrogen, in true love, or attachment and bonding, the brain can release a whole set of chemicals: pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin. However, from an evolutionary perspective, love can be viewed as a survival tool – a mechanism we have evolved to promote long-term relationships, mutual defence and parental support of children and to promote feelings of safety and security.

    • Jim Al-Khalili is a theoretical physicist and science writer

    The psychotherapist: ‘Love has many guises’

    Philippa Perry

    Unlike us, the ancients did not lump all the various emotions that we label “love” under the one word. They had several variations, including:

    Philia which they saw as a deep but usually non-sexual intimacy between close friends and family members or as a deep bond forged by soldiers as they fought alongside each other in battle. Ludus describes a more playful affection found in fooling around or flirting. Pragma is the mature love that develops over a long period of time between long-term couples and involves actively practising goodwill, commitment, compromise and understanding. Agape is a more generalised love, it’s not about exclusivity but about love for all of humanity. Philautia is self love, which isn’t as selfish as it sounds. As Aristotle discovered and as any psychotherapist will tell you, in order to care for others you need to be able to care about yourself. Last, and probably least even though it causes the most trouble, eros is about sexual passion and desire. Unless it morphs into philia and/or pragma, eros will burn itself out.

    Love is all of the above. But is it possibly unrealistic to expect to experience all six types with only one person. This is why family and community are important.

    • Philippa Perry is a psychotherapist and author of Couch Fiction

    The philosopher: ‘Love is a passionate commitment’

    Julian Baggini

    The answer remains elusive in part because love is not one thing. Love for parents, partners, children, country, neighbour, God and so on all have different qualities. Each has its variants – blind, one-sided, tragic, steadfast, fickle, reciprocated, misguided, unconditional. At its best, however, all love is a kind a passionate commitment that we nurture and develop, even though it usually arrives in our lives unbidden. That’s why it is more than just a powerful feeling. Without the commitment, it is mere infatuation. Without the passion, it is mere dedication. Without nurturing, even the best can wither and die.

    • Julian Baggini is a philosopher and writer

    The romantic novelist: ‘Love drives all great stories’

    Jojo 

    What love is depends on where you are in relation to it. Secure in it, it can feel as mundane and necessary as air – you exist within it, almost unnoticing. Deprived of it, it can feel like an obsession; all consuming, a physical pain. Love is the driver for all great stories: not just romantic love, but the love of parent for child, for family, for country. It is the point before consummation of it that fascinates: what separates you from love, the obstacles that stand in its way. It is usually at those points that love is everything.

    • Jojo Moyes is a two-time winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year award

    The nun: ‘Love is free yet binds us’

    Catherine Wybourne 

    Love is more easily experienced than defined. As a theological virtue, by which we love God above all things and our neighbours as ourselves for his sake, it seems remote until we encounter it enfleshed, so to say, in the life of another – in acts of kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice. Love’s the one thing that can never hurt anyone, although it may cost dearly. The paradox of love is that it is supremely free yet attaches us with bonds stronger than death. It cannot be bought or sold; there is nothing it cannot face; love is life’s greatest blessing.

    • Catherine Wybourne is a Benedictine nun

    Photograph: Valentina Petrova/AFP/Getty Images

  3. Quote

    | 94 notes

    Anthropologists have studied brain scans of couples in love. The ones in the early throes of romantic love virtually dribble dopamine. Their brains, according to Dr Helen Fisher, behave exactly like someone on crack cocaine. They are obsessed and infatuated. Thankfully – for the sanity of society – couples who’ve been together for a bit calm down. Their brains bathe in oxytocin: they feel attached and secure and want to pack each other’s lunch boxes but alas, they’re unlikely to want to snog in the back of a taxi.

    People only started to marry for love in the late 18th century. Marriage was a strategy to form business partnerships, expand family networks, craft political ties, strengthen a labour force or pass on wealth. In aristocratic societies of the 12th century, adultery was considered a higher form of love. True love was thought impossible with a spouse. In the 16th century, the essayist Montaigne wrote that any man in love with his wife was “a man so dull no one else could love him”. It’s therefore ironic that people moralise about the demise of “old-fashioned family values” or “traditional marriage”. The true “traditional” approach to marital commitment had nothing to do with either everlasting love or exclusivity.

    Helen Croydon writes: Monogamy is a fairytale ideal - affairs won’t go away
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    Ladies! The president of the Philipines is openly looking for love (it’s true). We thought we would help and so we asked a talented writer to pen him a suitable online dating profile. Leo  Benedictus came to the rescue:


Name: Benigno_Aquino_III
Motto: Elect me into your heart
Age: 52
Country: Manila, the Philippines
Height: 5ft 10ins (Definitely not 5ft 6ins)
Hair: Black
Eyes: Brown
Body type: Slim
Relationship status: Single
Relationship sought: A fling; Let’s see what happens; Long-term relationship; Dynastic union
Have children: No
Want children: Yes
• About me
What  are you supposed to write in these things? It’s a humid Saturday night  in Manila. I should be out at a party like all the other single guys,  but instead I’m stuck here in the Bahay Pangarap with a pile of draft  amendments to the tax reform bill, which I’m avoiding by playing on the  internet. Maybe you’re reading this and doing the same thing?
Anyway,  what do you need to know about me? Well, I’m the scion of the  Philippines’ most powerful political family and was elected president in  2010 on a wave of popular support (you’re meant to show off in these  profiles, right?!) I admit I’m kind of middle class – my dad was a  senator, my mum was president too – but I’m definitely one of the  pro-democracy good guys. Oh, and everybody calls me Noynoy. You can too.
The  truth is I’ve been pretty much completely focused on the work thing for  a long time now (although I’ve had plenty of girlfriends. I’m not a  total weirdo!!) It’s just that, like I told some journalists the other day, “If there were someone you could confide in, someone you  could talk to, someone who would tell you, ‘You’re still doing OK,’  then of course that would be a key to your inspiration… I’ve just been  unlucky.” And of course I’ve been hurt a few times. No really. I’ve  still got a bullet lodged in my neck from a failed assassination attempt  in 1987. I’ll show you the scar.
But let’s forget the  past. I want to think about the future. I need someone special who can  join me on what remains of this adventure – and who knows, maybe one day  make a little Benigno IV and V.
• What I’m looking for
People  say I’m pretty easygoing, but you’ll find this job does make life quite  crazy. You’ll need to be a patient person, very understanding when I’m  working for long periods, and relaxed about having bodyguards around you  all the time. You’ll enjoy foreign travel, good food and bilateral  trade summits, and you won’t have any embarrassing secrets in your past –  like being a closet Marcos supporter (just kidding!) Also, if we’re  going to perpetuate the Aquino dynasty, then you’ll probably be under  35. Oh, and you’ll DEFINITELY need a good-sense-of-humour. Everybody  needs one of those, right?
• Personality
My sense of humour is: Neglected
At a party you’d call me: Sir
For me the happy life is: Not being assassinated
I describe my pace of life: As crazy
My ideal place to live would be: With a family, in the Malacañang Palace
• Education and career
The level of education I have achieved is: Undergraduate degree
My occupation: Head of state
The amount of time I spend at work: All of it
I want to spend my retirement: Finally writing that novel
• Interests
Strengthening  the regulatory power of the Department for Trade and Industry; creating  Congressional Oversight Committees; billiards


Photograph: Erik De Castro/Reuters

    Ladies! The president of the Philipines is openly looking for love (it’s true). We thought we would help and so we asked a talented writer to pen him a suitable online dating profile. Leo Benedictus came to the rescue:

    Name: Benigno_Aquino_III

    Motto: Elect me into your heart

    Age: 52

    Country: Manila, the Philippines

    Height: 5ft 10ins (Definitely not 5ft 6ins)

    Hair: Black

    Eyes: Brown

    Body type: Slim

    Relationship status: Single

    Relationship sought: A fling; Let’s see what happens; Long-term relationship; Dynastic union

    Have children: No

    Want children: Yes

    • About me

    What are you supposed to write in these things? It’s a humid Saturday night in Manila. I should be out at a party like all the other single guys, but instead I’m stuck here in the Bahay Pangarap with a pile of draft amendments to the tax reform bill, which I’m avoiding by playing on the internet. Maybe you’re reading this and doing the same thing?

    Anyway, what do you need to know about me? Well, I’m the scion of the Philippines’ most powerful political family and was elected president in 2010 on a wave of popular support (you’re meant to show off in these profiles, right?!) I admit I’m kind of middle class – my dad was a senator, my mum was president too – but I’m definitely one of the pro-democracy good guys. Oh, and everybody calls me Noynoy. You can too.

    The truth is I’ve been pretty much completely focused on the work thing for a long time now (although I’ve had plenty of girlfriends. I’m not a total weirdo!!) It’s just that, like I told some journalists the other day, “If there were someone you could confide in, someone you could talk to, someone who would tell you, ‘You’re still doing OK,’ then of course that would be a key to your inspiration… I’ve just been unlucky.” And of course I’ve been hurt a few times. No really. I’ve still got a bullet lodged in my neck from a failed assassination attempt in 1987. I’ll show you the scar.

    But let’s forget the past. I want to think about the future. I need someone special who can join me on what remains of this adventure – and who knows, maybe one day make a little Benigno IV and V.

    • What I’m looking for

    People say I’m pretty easygoing, but you’ll find this job does make life quite crazy. You’ll need to be a patient person, very understanding when I’m working for long periods, and relaxed about having bodyguards around you all the time. You’ll enjoy foreign travel, good food and bilateral trade summits, and you won’t have any embarrassing secrets in your past – like being a closet Marcos supporter (just kidding!) Also, if we’re going to perpetuate the Aquino dynasty, then you’ll probably be under 35. Oh, and you’ll DEFINITELY need a good-sense-of-humour. Everybody needs one of those, right?

    • Personality

    My sense of humour is: Neglected

    At a party you’d call me: Sir

    For me the happy life is: Not being assassinated

    I describe my pace of life: As crazy

    My ideal place to live would be: With a family, in the Malacañang Palace

    • Education and career

    The level of education I have achieved is: Undergraduate degree

    My occupation: Head of state

    The amount of time I spend at work: All of it

    I want to spend my retirement: Finally writing that novel

    • Interests

    Strengthening the regulatory power of the Department for Trade and Industry; creating Congressional Oversight Committees; billiards

    Photograph: Erik De Castro/Reuters

  5. Photo

    | 5 notes
    (… Okay, okay, one more V-day themed post and then I’ll stop.)
We asked readers to submit their best love stories. This is my favourite one. Really, if I am to spend my 60s wrinkled and alone, I hope this happens to me - Jess

Katherine Wallis
 

I was 60 and had been single for many years.  I was very happy on my own, and friends remarked on my serenity and  contentment – life was good. Then I got a call out of the blue from an  old schoolfriend. He had been the best-looking guy in school and like a  silly teenager my heart skipped a beat when I heard his voice. We talked  every night, exchanged innumerable texts and eventually admitted that  we had each thought the other way out of our league when we were young.  He’d been too scared to kiss me at a school dance and remembered  incredible details of the encounter – I remembered my disappointment  that he didn’t kiss me. As we now live several hundred miles apart, we  didn’t meet until about three weeks after his first call – and we  haven’t looked back. Forty odd years after that initial attraction, love  finally blossomed. And while I’d never confuse love and lust, the sex  is amazing too!
Has it made me a better person? No. But it has  made me feel so much more alive. I feel about 25 years younger,  energised and I feel like a woman again – not just another old person.  While I wasn’t concerned about facing old age alone, it is so much nicer  to be looking to share the future with a man I love. I’m now older and  wiser and know that true love is not selfish nor possessive, but  something given without condition. Only then do you know the value of  the love you receive.

• Also read our editorial: In praise of … praising the one you love
Photograph: Rex Features

    (… Okay, okay, one more V-day themed post and then I’ll stop.)

    We asked readers to submit their best love stories. This is my favourite one. Really, if I am to spend my 60s wrinkled and alone, I hope this happens to me - Jess

    Katherine Wallis

    avatar purple

    I was 60 and had been single for many years. I was very happy on my own, and friends remarked on my serenity and contentment – life was good. Then I got a call out of the blue from an old schoolfriend. He had been the best-looking guy in school and like a silly teenager my heart skipped a beat when I heard his voice. We talked every night, exchanged innumerable texts and eventually admitted that we had each thought the other way out of our league when we were young. He’d been too scared to kiss me at a school dance and remembered incredible details of the encounter – I remembered my disappointment that he didn’t kiss me. As we now live several hundred miles apart, we didn’t meet until about three weeks after his first call – and we haven’t looked back. Forty odd years after that initial attraction, love finally blossomed. And while I’d never confuse love and lust, the sex is amazing too!

    Has it made me a better person? No. But it has made me feel so much more alive. I feel about 25 years younger, energised and I feel like a woman again – not just another old person. While I wasn’t concerned about facing old age alone, it is so much nicer to be looking to share the future with a man I love. I’m now older and wiser and know that true love is not selfish nor possessive, but something given without condition. Only then do you know the value of the love you receive.

    • Also read our editorial: In praise of … praising the one you love

    Photograph: Rex Features

  6. Photo

    | 4 notes
    To mark Valentine’s Day, we want readers to email us their love stories and how it can change people for the better - for publication in The Guardian. Yay!

What’s your best love story? Do you think that the definition of love has changed since your  childhood? Is love undervalued in these commercial times, or does it  remain the most important thing in a human being’s life? Is it harder to  find “the one” these days than it was 50 years ago?

• Email jessica.reed@guardian.co.uk with 300 words. 
• More details here
Photograph: Image Source/Rex Features

    To mark Valentine’s Day, we want readers to email us their love stories and how it can change people for the better - for publication in The Guardian. Yay!

    What’s your best love story? Do you think that the definition of love has changed since your childhood? Is love undervalued in these commercial times, or does it remain the most important thing in a human being’s life? Is it harder to find “the one” these days than it was 50 years ago?

    Email jessica.reed@guardian.co.uk with 300 words.

    More details here

    Photograph: Image Source/Rex Features

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