That Thing Called Love: Is it Science or is it Romance?

FIVE THôT editor and columist Nick Baber is a lover of film, design, futurism, and his cat Boba Fett. Check out his other articles here.

A man named Nestor Haddaway once asked the age old question, “what is love?” And like most people he didn’t want to be hurt, yet almost everyone experiences an unbearable heart break at some point in their life. So what is love? If you’re looking for it, it’s probably in the wrong places, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. And alternatively, if you’re oblivious to it, it’s a force that can take hold of you so strongly without you ever realizing that you’ve become a slave to it’s intoxicating emotional pull.

Intoxicating. Hmm.

In the ever-long quest to understand and define love, scientists have come to find that our brains respond to love in a similar manner as hunger or thirst strikes us. There is an inherent biological reaction to this phenomenon we call love and like the chemical dependence on drugs like heroin and methamphetamine, it’s all too easy to lose the love of your life and feel an overwhelming sense of pain, both physical and mental.

This is called withdrawal. And boy, does it suck.

The Beatles famously said, “All you need is love.” And as science continues to examine the invisible force, we’ve quickly discovered that babies require physical contact with other humans in order for healthy development and can actually die from a lack of physical touch. But if love is something unseen and intangible, how can we be so utterly dependent upon it?

When we meet someone new we immediately, and I mean immediately, within seconds, make preconceived judgments on whether or not we are attracted to that individual. Is it physical attraction alone? Is it the sense of the familiar? Or sociological conditioning that began far before you were even aware of it? I’m just going to postulate that physics plays a role and yes, this is just my hypothesis, and no, I’m not an actual Physicist, however, lets think about the apparently random acts of subatomic particles; some flipping this way, the others that way, and a small percentage doing something different entirely. What if somewhere deep in our brains, neurons and synapses are firing in ways that are probabilistic to who we are attracted to? Will Physicists at CERN discover the Love particle along with the God particle? I doubt it. But someday, maybe.

Of course before love there’s sex. Yes, I said before, because let’s all be honest and acknowledge the fact that testosterone and estrogen and even adrenaline play key roles in meeting and identifying people you may or may not want to procreate with.

Is that it? Is love simply nature’s way of tricking us into perpetuating our species?


It is, after all, a fantastic survival mechanism. We’ve survived this long because we care for one another and actively look after each other. But we also manage to destroy each other, don’t we?

And what of romance? That elusive and long sought after feeling that is supposed to be eternal. But feelings aren’t eternal. I change my mind about things all the time. So do you.

Does that make romance as non-existent as Kristin Stuart’s ability to emote? I think so. It is just a feeling. When I haven’t eaten in a while my brain tells me that I’m hungry so I eat an apple. But what do you do when you’re in need of some love? Cuddle your cat? Order a hooker? Hopefully the former.

The thing is, it’s Valentine’s Day. And for those who don’t have a lover to love unconditionally, to take out to a disgustingly overpriced dinner and shower with gifts of admiration; it can be a difficult day to hold a smile together. If you’re in this position remember that love is basically a chemical reaction in your brain and nothing more. Yes, you might crave it and it may hurt more than anything you’ve ever known, but it’s still just a feeling. 

Feel this on for size; most people in relationships wish they were single anyways, so enjoy the freedom you have this Valentine’s day. And if you are lucky enough to experience something called love with someone, make it count, and do it right. 

Love image courtesy of Shutterstock

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