Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Logic of Love

Sometimes love feels like a moral obligation. I'm supposed to love because God told me to, and I'll feel guilty if I don't. At other times love feels like a drug. I need that emotional high to get me through a trying time. Occasionally love can even feel like something I do because I can't choose not to, a hardwired trait that I can't refuse. Skeptics and cynics might say that I love because I'm whipped, I'm weak, or I'm brainwashed. But that's not the whole story. Love is also a logical—it's a choice that makes sense even in a Darwinian world. I don't simply love because I can't help it; I love because I recognize that it's a good choice.

Love is what allows true teamwork to exist. When I join with the people I love, I am stronger than I could ever be alone. These people help me carry burdens (physical and emotional) that are too heavy for me to carry alone. We are sounding boards for each other, and we become smarter together than we would be alone. Some may say that teams can be put together with money or intimidation, but nothing inspires loyalty like love. The people on my team will do their very best for me because they love me, and they won't abandon me when things get hard to look for a better deal. The people on my team aren't just looking out for number one—because we all care about each other, all of our interests are better served. By loving others and accepting their love, I am providing the best possible allies for myself. Being an ally for these people in return is a perfectly reasonable price to pay. Everybody wins.

Some people try to reject love because it comes with risks—the people we love can disappoint or betray us. They might not love us back the same way we love them. They might not want the same kind of relationship we want. They might not be able to help us in the ways we need or want. But those types of risks are unavoidable, whether we love or not. As a flawed human, I cannot succeed at every task I set for myself. Even if I live as a hermit in a cave, I'm going to be disappointed sometimes. Even if I don't have any friends to hurt me, I'll probably get all jaded about the meaning of life as a byproduct of being alone. I don't think the mental anguish of loneliness could be preferable to the pain of heartbreak. Love isn't perfect, but that's because life isn't perfect. If we reject love because it hurts, we'll end up having to reject everything in life for the same reason. We're going to get hurt anyway, so we might as well enjoy the benefits of love.

I think that the benefits of love always outweigh the cost. Even when I love a friend who can't trust me, an acquaintance who doesn't have the time or inclination to be my friend, or struggling individuals who drain me of my energy but can't contribute much in return. Loving them doesn't necessarily mean that I can do everything they want of me or that I can get everything I want from them. It just means that when there is tension in the relationship, I don't have to squelch that love, even if it feels hopeless. There's always some benefit, some character-building payoff that makes it worth it, even if I have trouble finding it at the time. My choice to love is logical, even if I can't prove all the reasons why. I don't love because I'm incapable of making a better choice. I love because I truly believe it is the best and smartest choice out there.

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