In his one-man show titled ‘Industry of Love’, the Dutch comedian Hans Teeuwen vividly depicted love as “always the same mistakes, always the same pain, almost as horrible as being all alone”. This description reveals that his personal experiences with love at the time had few positive outcomes.
However, it accurately captures the emotions associated with a shattered love, including the bitter aftertaste and the gut-wrenching feeling that arises when a romantic connection comes to an end. It’s a feeling that resonates with all of us, and denying its existence would be futile.
Almost all songs are about love (ahem, sex)
Hans Teeuwen wasn’t the only one to recognize the prevalence of love as a recurring theme. Numerous songs also revolve around the subject of love. In fact, a study conducted by the University at Albany, State University of New York, examined songs as a means of conveying sexual messages and found that approximately 92 percent of the 174 songs that reached the Top Ten in 2009 contained some form of sexual innuendo.
Is love all we need? Do we need love at all?
Although love is often praised and sought after, it raises questions about why we have such a strong desire for it. Is it driven by lust or the desire to have children? Is romance a necessary component for procreation? Strangely enough, the act of creating children does not necessarily require romance. So, what is the underlying purpose? Why do we find love so appealing?
We perceive love as either the most beautiful thing in existence or the worst of all, depending on when you ask. But what motivates us to pursue it? Why do we experience the phenomenon of falling in love? Science continues to grapple with these questions, and psychology has yet to provide definitive answers. Philosophy, on the other hand, offers speculative theories, although they remain unproven.
Philosopher and author Skye C. Cleary, in her book ‘Existentialism and Romantic Love’, presents five distinct philosophical viewpoints that are effectively illustrated in the accompanying TedEd video.
A brief summary of the five philosophies mentioned
For those who prefer a concise overview of the five philosophies without watching the video, here’s a brief summary:
- Plato: Love reunites us and makes us whole. According to Plato’s theory, humans were originally complete beings with four arms, four legs, and two faces – a rather peculiar image. However, they angered the Gods, and as a punishment, Zeus divided each person into two halves. Since then, every individual has longed for their missing other half.
- Schopenhauer: Love is a deceptive mechanism for procreation. According to German philosopher Schopenhauer, our desires lead us to believe that having another person, namely a baby, in our lives will bring us happiness. In this theory, the continuous cycle of procreation is driven by this illusion of fulfillment.
- Bertrand Russell: Love is an escape from loneliness. According to Nobel Prize winner Bertrand Russell, our inherent purpose is to procreate. However, without love, the act of sex would be devoid of satisfaction. Love serves as a shield against the harsh and isolating world, reigniting our inner warmth and alleviating the pangs of loneliness.
- Buddha: Love is an illusionary emotion driven by our fundamental needs, and romantic love is a significant source of suffering. According to Buddha’s teachings, our attachment to others is primarily motivated by the pursuit of fulfilling our own basic needs. However, this attachment, particularly in the context of romantic love, ultimately leads to immense suffering.
- Simone de Beauvoir: Love expands our perspective beyond self-interest. Philosopher Simone de Beauvoir asserted that love instills within us a deep longing to be connected with another person, which ultimately gives meaning to our lives. Rather than dwelling on the reasons behind love, Beauvoir was more interested in exploring how we can improve our capacity for supreme love.