A Natural History of Love

I finished another book!!  This is a decently long book, but I also read only a tiny bit here and there, even though I would LOVE to devote most of my time to reading, especially books about love. 🙂

So this book, for me, was the most perfect book ever.  Literally.  Now, you may be different than me, but if you’re the same as me, it’s the best non-fiction book in the world.  Everything I could possibly want to know about love in an informational sense was covered in this book.  Therefore, I can’t really give you any summaries/tidbits, because, as a highly detail-oriented person, my summary would be a book itself.  I can, however, list off some of the different topics that were listed.  The book covers history (starting with my 3 favorite ancient cultures; Egypt, Greece, and Rome), religions, philosophy, psychology, science (i.e chemistry, biology), erotics, customs, and variations.  It’s just plain wonderful.  I could not have asked for more.  Diane Ackerman is also an excellent writer, to top it off.

So basically, the only thing I can tell you, is that if you have any interest in any of those topics, you should probably read it.  I can’t begin to discuss any of it here, so just READ IT!! 🙂 There are also way too many amazing quotes, so I will just leave you with the last paragraph of the book:

In that sense, the heart is just such a museum, filled with the exhibits of a lifetime’s loves.  We remember them frozen in time, illuminated by distance, rinsed in the most unnatural light at times, the better to reveal their finer points.  Can they breathe and embrace us?  No.  But neither can they threaten and wound us, if they’re restrained by glass.  They are commemorative.  The heart issues them like emotional stamps.  They are emblematic.  Ransack the museum of your heart for love-sappiness, and you’ll find it for sure, just the right example.  My mother once told me how, when she was a teenager, she was so in love with a certain boy that she secretly picked up the Popsicle sticks he tossed away and kept them under her pillow, kissing them at night.  To this day, she remembers that as a perfect specimen of girlish infatuation.  That same boy, now in his late seventies, bumped into her brother recently and asked tenderly about her.  He hasn’t forgotten her, either.  The heart is a living museum.  In each of its galleries, no matter how narrow or dimly lit, preserved forever like wondrous diatoms, are our moments of loving and being loved.


The Five Love Languages

Many people have heard of this book already, and possibly read it, but for those that haven’t I think it’s excellent.  This one, which is the original, is geared toward married couples, but the principles are also applicable to singles.  He has different versions (which I have not read) for men, singles, parents, etc.  The website is also helpful if you don’t want to read the whole book, and it has a quiz you can take to find out what your love languages are, which I had already done a couple times before reading this book. 🙂  The link to the website is here.

The main premise of this book, of course, is that everyone speaks a primary love language, and there are 5 of them, which can be expressed in different dialects.  The 5 love languages are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.  Each of us has a primary one that we NEED to feel like we are loved, but we can also communicate in the others.  There may be some that you don’t need, but you can potentially express them to others.  Gary Chapman states that everyone has a love tank, and when you are receiving love in your love language, your love tank gets filled up.  If someone loves you but communicates their love in a different love language than your own, your love tank remains empty, and you are unhappy.

The book goes through each love language and tells stories of couples, and also goes into how to communicate in the love language of your spouse.  It’s really interesting and inspiring to read the stories, but at minimum I would recommend checking out the website and even taking the quiz.  The important point is that if you and your significant other have different love languages, you can think that you are showing them that you love them, when in reality they are not feeling it, because you are basically speaking a foreign language.  You could both have empty love tanks, and be miserable.  You can figure out what each other’s love language is, and learn to communicate in it, and turn your relationship around.  Gary believes that during the initial attraction phase, this isn’t usually an issue, but after couples are married, if they are not speaking each other’s love languages, it’s likely that their marriage is not going well.  He has counseled many couples and has seen some incredible success stories.

I highly recommend the book (also, I haven’t read the version for singles but it sounds like it would be good), but go take the quiz online now, if you haven’t already! 🙂


The Year of Yes

the year of yesOk, I am finally writing the review for this book that I finished a couple months ago.  It took me barely any time at all to finish the book, and I actually was almost done with it by the time I wrote the last book review.  I could barely put it down.  I highly recommend this book, although I have to give the disclaimer that if it were a movie, it would probably be rated R.  If you’re comfortable with that, it’s amazing.

The Year of Yes is the author’s story of a year in her life during which she decided to say yes to ANY guy that asked her out, since she was becoming discouraged with the guys she was drawn towards, and thought if she opened up more, she might find someone unexpected.

I was excited.  I was ready.  I was going to force open my heart and make myself willing.  It wasn’t that I was lowering my standards.  Just the opposite.  I was expanding my faith in humanity.  I was going to say yes, not just to a different kind of man, but to a different kind of life.

Since she lived in New York, this decision led to many interesting/funny/depressing/unique experiences.  The book is very amusing for the most part, but also poignant.  At one point near the end, I was straight up sobbing, upon the realization that we had some similarities, and her story at that point was quite depressing.

I don’t really want to tell you anything at all about the story, especially how it ends, because I really think it’s worth a read (again, if you’re comfortable with the content).  However, here’s a quote from the end:

Love is hard to pin down.  There is no language for it.  A glorious sparking inside you, an alchemy.  All your hurt suddenly turned into joy.  Love is inexplicable.  Of Dante’s Divine Comedy the Inferno is the half that gets read.  The Paradiso is ignored, because it repeats those same, trite descriptions of bliss.  Love is too enormous to diagram, too complex to re-create on the page.  Even if, as Dante did, you glimpse your beloved only a couple of times.  Historically, he met Beatrice once, when he was about eight, and again, when he was a teenager, and she, married to someone else, smiled at him.  That was it for Dante.  He was blown away.  They never even touched.  She died young, and Dante ended up married to someone else.  And still, his love for her was so large that, in the Paradiso, Beatrice leads him out through the solar system.  The Earth isn’t enough to contain them.  It’s like that with love.  Nothing could have prepared me for it.  All I could do was open my heart.  I didn’t understand everything that I was holding.  I only knew that it was right.


The Four Loves

I finally finished another book…The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis.  It’s not that long, I just don’t make time to read often enough…

First off, C.S. Lewis is amazing.  If you haven’t read anything by him (most likely would be the Chronicles of Narnia), you probably should.  That said, I find him difficult to read because the language is a little outdated (or maybe just British, I wouldn’t know 🙂 ), and he writes at a pretty high level.

So, I can’t do him very much justice.  Therefore, I will just do a tiny bit of summary, and you should read this book. 🙂

In this book, C.S. Lewis breaks love down into “Need-love” vs. “Gift-love”, and then divides the “natural loves” into categories; Affection, Friendship, and Eros.  Each category can be expressed in both Need-love and Gift-love.  He talks about the best versions of each of these loves, and the perversions.  I will only summarize his distinctions between the loves.  Affection is basically a love caused by familiarity and nearness; common examples are the love you have for your family members, or the love you have for a pet.  Friendship is what you think it is, but C.S. Lewis states that it arises from people having common interests and sharing those things together.  Eros is romantic love, and happens for no good reason, but it happens nonetheless.  You can, of course, feel more than one of the loves for the same person.

The fourth love is Charity, which he states is not a human love but a Divine love, because it doesn’t come naturally to us.  However, it is what holds the other loves together.  C.S. Lewis notes that we tend to make Love into a god, and can do terrible things for the sake of “love”.  The easiest example is Eros, because we generally make that love into a god more often than the others.  We will sacrifice anything for Eros.  So, if we are with someone who we once felt Eros for, but currently do not feel it, but we find someone else who we feel Eros for at the time, we have a tendency to say “But I’m in love!” and leave the first for the second.  In this instance, Charity would be what would make us still love the first even when they seem unlovable, and stay with them.  That is what Charity is, loving someone even when they do not deserve to be loved, which is why it is a Divine love.

I can’t really go into any more detail, because I would go into way too much detail, so you should just read it for yourself.  But one thing I do want to include is an excerpt from the chapter on Eros (as that is what this blog is about), for contemplation and/or discussion.  C.S. Lewis is discussing Eros vs. Venus, which he is calling sex, and how they are connected.  I find it interesting and, as he is addressing how men feel specifically, I am wondering if it is true, because my impression was that it was not.  But maybe partially at least…?

To the evolutionist Eros (the human variation) will be something that grows out of Venus, a late complication and development of the immemorial biological impulse. We must not assume, however, that this is necessarily what happens within the consciousness of the individual.  There may be those who have first felt mere sexual appetite for a woman and then gone on at a later stage to “fall in love with her.”  But I doubt if this is at all common.  Very often what comes first is simply a delighted pre-occupation with the Beloved – a general, unspecified pre-occupation with her in her totality.  A man in this state really hasn’t leisure to think of sex.  He is too busy thinking of a person.  The fact that she is a woman is far less important than the fact that she is herself.  He is full of desire, but the desire may not be sexually toned.  If you asked him what he wanted, the true reply would often be, “To go on thinking of her.”  He is love’s contemplative.  And when at a later stage the explicitly sexual element awakes, he will not feel (unless scientific theories are influencing him) that this has all along been the root of the whole matter.  He is more likely to feel that the incoming tide of Eros, having demolished many sand-castles and made islands of many rocks, has now at last with a triumphant seventh wave flooded this part of his nature also – the little pool of ordinary sexuality which was there on his beach before the tide came in.  Eros enters him like an invader, taking over and reorganising, one by one, the institutions of a conquered county.  It may have taken over many others before it reaches the sex in him; and it will reorganise that too.


Hector and the Secrets of Love

Just finished a book…I started it before I decided to do this blog, but I have always loved reading about love.  It’s a super cute book, not really a heavy read at all, but some good insights and fun at the same time.  It’s about this psychiatrist, Hector, who is trying to find his scientist friend that has been doing research and development on a drug that can make people fall in love, but has disappeared.  So Hector’s journey is on both the scientific side of love, and his own personal experiences.  As he goes along, he keeps a journal, and I wanted to compile the “seedlings” that he writes, as well as list his five components of heartache (since he writes a lot about them, and you would get bored if I included all of it, so read the book), which then also lead to the five components of love.

I would, however, definitely recommend you read the book. 🙂

Seedling no. 1: Perfect love would be never having arguments.

Seedling no. 2: Sometimes we argue most with the people we love the most.

Seedling no. 3: You cannot win someone’s love without a fight.

Seedling no. 4: True love is not wanting to be unfaithful.

Seedling no. 5: True love is not being unfaithful (even when you want to be).

Seedling no. 6: True love is always sensing what the other wants.

Seedling no. 7: Love can be wonderful when the other senses what we want, but we must also be able to help them by expressing our desires.

Seedling no. 8: Sexual desire is essential to love.

Seedling no. 9: Needing the other is a sign of love.

Seedling no. 10: Men’s sexual desire can create many hells.

Seedling no. 11: Love and jealousy go hand in hand.

Seedling no. 12: Passion fades after two or three years of living together.

Seedling no. 13: Passion in love can be terribly unfair.

Seedling no. 14: Women always like to dream of love even when they are already in love with someone.

Seedling no. 15: In love, if we really knew what the other person was saying maybe we wouldn’t understand them at all.

Seedling no. 16: Jealousy is inseparable from desire.

Seedling no. 17: Jealousy is a sign of attachment.

Seedling no. 18: Love means sensing immediately when the other is unhappy.

Seedling no. 19: Could love be a combination of self-interest and emotions?

Seedling no. 20: Love means still seeing the other’s beauty when nobody else does anymore.

Seedling no. 21: Love proves itself when put to the test.

Seedling no. 22: Love is, smiling the moment you see one another.

Seedling no. 23: Love is like a revolving door; you go round and round, but you never manage to catch up with one another.

Seedling no. 24: Nothing eases the pain of love better than focusing on a task.

Seedling no. 25: Love is the ability to dream and to know when to stop dreaming.

Seedling no. 26: Love is resisting temptation.

Seedling no. 27: You can only have one love at a time.

The five components of heartache:

Neediness, Guilt, Anger, Loss of self-esteem, Fear

The five components of love:

First component of love: fulfilment (the other side of neediness), the simple happiness of being with the loved one, the feeling of calm when the loved one laughs, sleeps, thinks, the incomparable happiness of simply being in each other’s arms.

Second component: the joy of giving (the other side of guilt), feeling happy because we make others happy, saying to ourselves that with us the loved one has experienced joys they would not have experienced without us, that we have brought new light into their life, in the same way they have brought new light into ours.

Third component: gratitude (the other side of anger), being amazed by what we owe the loved one, the joy they have given us, the way they have helped us mature, the way they have been able to comfort and understand us, and to share our pleasures and sorrows.

Fourth component: self-confidence (the other side of low self-esteem), feeling happy to be who we are simply because the loved one loves us for who we are, with all our strengths and weaknesses.  Despite our ordeals and setbacks, the criticism of others, and the cruelty of life, feeling a measure of self-confidence thanks to what really matters to us: being loved by the loved one.

Fifth component: serenity (the other side of fear), knowing that, despite life’s ups and downs and its inevitable tragic end, the loved one will be with us on this journey.  The tests of time, illness, all of this will be bearable with the loved one by our side, for better or for worse, in happiness as in adversity.

And a quote from the very last sentence: “Love is indeed complicated, difficult, sometimes painful, but it is also the only time that our dream becomes reality”.