True Love is Artificial: A Skeptics Perspective

A true love story goes something like this:
"I was in Hallmark buying my mother a Happy Birthday card when I noticed this old man standing in front of the Valentines card section contemplating which one to get. I decide to go over and I ask him “Are you getting a Valentine’s Day for your wife?” in which he replies 'No my wife died three years ago from breast cancer but I still buy her roses and a card and bring them to her grave to prove to her that she was the only one that will ever have my heart'" "Wow, now that's TRUE LOVE."

I hate this story for two reasons. First, contrary to the narrator's opinion, it is the opposite of a happy story. This man is hurting. He cannot let go of the memory of his dead wife. Instead he is caught in the perpetual cycle of heartache, and although he honors her memory in a sweet and tender hearted way, this is not love--it is love lost--and it is tragic. But what, other than convention, is to say this old man couldn't find someone else to love? What is preventing him from finding a new happiness in the love of someone else?

I ask this question because my own grandmother lost a love but, years later, found another man who, unlike her first husband truly, genuinely, loved her back. Looking at my grandmother's experience, losing her first true love was for the better. What's to say it wouldn't be for the better if this old man stopped living in the past and moved on with his life? Wouldn't that be what his wife wanted for him--to be happy in return? Instead, the man has given up on trying to find someone else. At his age, why bother? He has destined himself to live in the memory of the ghost of a deceased loved one, forever haunted. That's not happy, it's sad. It is sweet in the way he honors his dead wife's memory, but my point is this, he could still do that even if he found someone else to love! He wouldn't be loving someone else more--he'd merely be loving someone new--which would be a love all unto itself.

This brings me to the second reason I don't like sappy one-true-love stories like this--it's entirely artificial. The narrator of the story has been duped by the romantic ideal of love sold to them in the form of romantic Hollywood love stories and sappy Hallmark cards. They think the misery of a love lost is somehow beautiful. Sanguine perhaps, but it in no way requires this man to be destined to live out the rest of his life sad and alone... only to die still clutching the photo of his long lost love desperately hoping he might be reunited with her someday.

What a meloncholly existence!

So, my question is this, why can't he find a new love and love again? I believe a person is capable of loving more than just one person. I do not believe there is a restriction or limit to such a love. In order to believe in true love, or one true love, or something like a soul-mate, one has to limit love and bind it to one person and one person only.

This is unrealistic for numerous reasons. I'll list three.

1. Love is unlimited. Chances are you have not met but more than a few hundred people in your entire lifetime. Maybe more, maybe less. Yet the truth is there are millions, upon million, into the billions and billions of people with whom you may be able to share an intimate connection with. Unless you have met all (approximately) seven billion of them, how do you know there is just one perfect for you? The fact of the matter is, you don't. People who are in love rarely realize this, due to the chemicals making their brains stupid, but people who fall out of love who eventually find someone else know this truth quite well. There is nearly an unlimited pool of so-called soul-mates to choose from. There is never just one.

2. Love isn't forever. Love even between people in love is not so simple as a matter of being in love, because so often people who fall in love can just as easily fall out of love. The romantic ideal of fidelity, chivalry, and star-crossed lover's promises sounds wonderful to the naive hopeless romantic in all of us, but it is largely a fantasy. The truth is, such love only exists in the movies and in fairy tales. ever focuses on the good but never looks at the trials and tribulations one must endure in order to simply make a basic relationship work. That is to say, love is no walk in the park--it takes damn hard work to sustain a loving relationship let alone make it grow and flourish. Sometimes, however, the people we love aren't compatible enough and we slowly grow apart. Sometimes people separate, divorce, or struggle through unhappy relationships. But given number one (above) the question is why should they? They struggle because they have been duped by the PR image of romantic, idealized, the prince and the princess lived happily ever after love stories which make love out to be a many splendid thing. In other words, they are in love with the concept of love, so when love fails them, they keep wanting to give it a fighting chance. In reality all they are doing is flogging themselves with the dead corpse of a failed relationship until they are miserable. Sometimes it's better just to enjoy what you had and then realize love doesn't always last--and there rarely ever is anything like a happily ever after. Be content knowing that you shared a few good experiences and memories of someone who was special to you. But don't let your obsession with love ruin your chances of ever finding happiness.

3. Love is transitory. Love, as a real biological, behavioral, phenomenon is not so simple after all. Love is nuanced. It's complex. Recent research has shown that there are almost an unlimited series of factors to consider which contribute to the development of the emotional attachment and feelings of love. It's partially how our brains our wired, but at the same time, love can be influenced by various external stimuli and experiences which, ultimately, shape the path our love will take. There is no such thing as true love for the very reason love is not a fixed point. Love stretches across and entire spectrum of different types, kinds, and forms. Like a Techno-color kaleidoscopic, however, with the slightest nudge from an outside influence our love can take a on a drastically new shape. Love is not permanent. It was never intended to be, except as a marketing gimmick by movie producers and Hallmark card makers and as a fixture of religion to get its adherents to make babies so that it could take them into its bosom--whereby it would continue to seek to control every aspect of their lives and dictate exactly how they should love and when and with what parts of the body to do it with. But that's the infantile view of love. Once you can accept love for something impermanent, ever changing, like an ocean of colors we move along, an entire spectrum of love-wavelengths so to speak, instead of lingering on a single ray of love--the entire sea expands before you in all its infinite glory. Once you can accept this, then its easy to accept the fact that love is fickle--it comes and goes, it's temperamental, it's never the same twice, but it's always able to take us to new highs as well as sink us to new lows. But try not to be naive and think that love will always stay true to you. No, love is a promiscuous thing.

Although I enjoy a good love story--I enjoy them for the fact that I know it is fantasy. Reality is quite different--and in real life it is better not to bind ourselves to the rules of fantasy--because we'll only be gravely dissapointed if we do.


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