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Love is Selfish


“There’s no such thing as true love – only a conditional expression of affection.”

Xenocrates

Love is ancientThis one is dedicated to Aporia, and the naive little person I used to be 5 years ago. It’s about Love; the single most powerful emotional expression humans are capable of.  People just love to talk about love. That’s why they keep inventing these inane stories about it. Relationships between human beings have gotten so much attention from pop culture. In fact, even though every single “chick flick” from the 1940’s right back to the 21st century shares exactly the same plot, studios keep churning them out and updating them as though there’s some kind of cookie cutter production line designed explicitly for such. Love is the subject of gossip columns, television, interactive entertainment, magazines, toys – you name it. We’re all obsessed with it. But why are people so fascinated by love? The answer is pretty simple. What most people fail to realise is that they’re not so much enraptured about love as much as they are about themselves. Love is the single most subtle form of self interest, and the only reason why people love is because people are intrinsically selfish. Love is selfish, and if you read on, I will clearly demonstrate how.

Love is the ultimate expression of humanity because it is the only human emotion that renders every other possible human emotion within the same context. Because of love, one can feel bravery, fear, happiness, sadness, exhuberance, anger, patience, jealousy, loyalty, treachery and every possible emotion in between. If you know the story of the Trojan war, then you’ll also note that love has also been the cause of bloodshed. As opposed to the mythical trojan war, men have fought and died for the love of a woman and women have betrayed decade long friendships for the love of a single man between them. Love brings out the best and worst in humanity, and we love it.

That’s part of the reason why we’re so obsessed with it. In my observations of our frail human existence, I’ve had some of my most profound epiphanies about the types of relationships we celebrate among ourselves. Love is such a contextually dependent idea that the Greek have five words to describe it. Listed in order of intensity, they are:

  1. Agapē – General well regard and respect for your fellow men.
  2. Philia – As is found in friendships. It describes love in the form of loyalty.
  3. Storge – As expressed by a family, especially parents for offspring.
  4. Thelema – Describes an intense preoccupation, as is found in most romantic relationships.
  5. Eros – Sexual love.

Of Social Regard (Agapē)

We're friends... for now.Humans are social animals, and Agapē love facilitates social cohesion. This general purpose love is what is keeping people from ultimately destroying each other. Let’s face it, without that very basic, very primal social instinct that would cause us to wish for the general good of each member of society, the weak among us would be slain by those who are so selfish that they don’t believe in exchange. They would just take what they want, irrespective of who is in their way. But this type of love is the easiest to provoke, since it is only manifested because the results of withdrawal are almost certain. To make sure this manifestation remains consistent, every society employs the use of a form of negative re-enforcement known as “law and order“.

The law of civil society forces everyone of us to manifest agapē love towards each other whether or not we want to. Those who don’t, are fined, sued, arrested, shot at, tazered, hit with a baton, mobbed, carted off to prison, and made some monstrous large black man’s bitch. In fact, without law enforcement agapē love is instantaneously exposed for what it really is: providential conformity. God forbid that the police should strike over pay, or OJ Simpson should kill another white woman, or a black man is pounced upon by five white policemen, or a monser hurricane pummel a city into oblivion, or an earthquake level the skyline, then we will see an instantaneous degregation of social order as agapē love goes right out the window. It doesn’t take much for people to go crazy, since people are crazy by default.

The only reason why people manifest agapē love (for the most part) is because order is kept into play by the threat of punishment. But nay, you say, There are good people in the world! Oh Really?! Ask yourself this question: Are you a good person? You think so? Then ask yourself these questions:

  1. Has anyone ever made you so mad that you wanted to kill them?
  2. Why didn’t you just go ahead and kill them? What was stopping you?

Now that you realise that you are not a good person, I will prove something else to you: If your answer to question 1 was “No”, then you’re a liar. If you’ve been found to lie under oath in court, you can be found in contempt and arrested. The only reason you lied here is because you know there’s no certain consequence. The only reason why you don’t enact 99% of the evil thoughts you’ve ever had is simply because of the fear of punishment or retribution. There’s no such thing as agapē love – except to say that we only love when other people love us back, by not expressing how they truly feel about us in their actions.

Of Loyalty (Philia)

Girlfriends for lifeHumans are social animals, and virtually everyone has friends. Even if you don’t have real living breathing friends, there is the propensity to have imaginary ones. The need for friendship is one of our primal desires. But you don’t desire friends for the reasons you think. Friendship isn’t defined by general purpose social respect and well regard. It’s defined by loyalty. So philia love actually describes that sense of loyalty you feel towards another individual. It is in this context that the true nature of friendship expresses itself.

But why are you loyal to your friends? Do you even know? Loyalty is nothing more than a sense of obligation you feel towards someone because of what they do for you. Think of every friend that you have now. Think of the circumstances that led to you being friends. Every single friend you have is based on some symbiotically shared desire. Whether it is companionship, affection, enterainment, lust, money, power – every friend you have was acquired based on something insubstantial. Some people based their loyalty on other contexts: race, gender, opinion, religion, etc. It really doesn’t matter. The fact of the matter is that loyalty is meaningless, since the basis on which it is developed is not something that can truly stand every possible trial. Don’t believe me? Let’s examine a few scenarios:

  1. Religion – If your friendship is based on religious beliefs, then that friendship is only valid once you continue to believe the same things. Once you deviate from that path, every religion has some method of excommunication which is intended to explicitly declare that you are no longer welcome to the herd. Your friends at church will drop you like a hot potato and you will be treated like a criminal heathen. The deeply religious are not particularly tolerant of mavericks as they perceive all out-the-box thinkers as being dangerous to their way of life.
  2. Circumstance – Ever struck up a friendship because of the situation you shared with another stranger? It happens all the time. I’ve discovered recently that social networking sites like Hi5 and Facebook were designed primarily to get people with similar interests to do just that. However, time and distance tends to do away with such friendships. Humans are such frail minded creatures that we need a constant resurgence of symbiotic interest to keep even the most emotionally bonded friendships alive.
  3. Lust – A bootycall is nothing more than an spontaneous celebration of the animal instinct. The fact that people are still able to have one night stands fascinates me – especially with good stuff like genital herpes and HIV going around. Many people go as far as to create relationships based on powerful incitements of lust. Women are especially vulnerable as they’re preyed upon by “bad boys”. However, a little growing up, a little teenage pregnancy here, a little STD there, a little broken heart there, always tends to clear the senses as the two idiots involved realise the immensely profound nature of their folly.
  4. Money – When people form friendships based on business relationships, the success of such friendships (irrespective of the amounts of time spent at the golf course together or at the local christmas party invite) is wholly contingent on the continued success of the business relationship. The second the stock values drop, or a scandal ensues, or one of the parties doesn’t win a bidding contract, the gloves come off, the wine grows old in the cellar, and the christmas party invitations go missing in the mail.
  5. Gender – Two girls can be friends from pre-school days to their swinging 30’s. Two boys can remain friends for life. However, once a man comes between those women, or a woman comes between those men, you’ll be surprised at how fast the last 25 years goes down the drain. In fact, I’ve discovered that the best of friends that have the least conflict tend to share the most dissimilar tastes in all of the things that matter to them most (like money and sex).
  6. Race – They say that if a man was kidnapped by aliens and he saw a monkey on the space ship, he’s more likley to bond with the monkey than his alien captors (even if they spoke english) – simply because the mand and the monkey are from the same planet. We see the same type of behaviour with races. In any country, racial minorities flock together. This is nothing more than “herd logic” – a genetically hard-wired survival instinct that kicks in once we realise that we’re the odd one out. However, races turn on each other all the time (black people know this better than anyone else). They say familiarity breeds contempt and this proves to be the case more often than not.
  7. Politics – Even though politicians from two sides of the fence offer the pretence of civility once they meet in person, the gloves come off during the campaign trail. This long drawn out fist fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is evident of such (even though they are actually on the same side of the fence!). But it is not limited to American Politics or even to politicians. Two people who’ve become friends from being on the same side will readily throw the baby out with the bath water once one of them has a change of heart and defects to the other side. Every major war has such divides where friends become enemies. Such was the case most recently when long time friends Steve Rogers and Tony Stark were caught up in a bitter conflict over their difference of opinion when a new US legislation took away the civil freedoms of those who fought to defend the helpless.

The point here is pretty simple: Philia love is based on loyalty. Loyalty is predicated on sharing similar values. Once those values change, the strength of passion between two friends will remain, even though the love is not. Hatred is merely an absence of love. If the loyalty is broken, the trust is broken, the love is lost, and all that is left is a gut wrenching feeling for vengeance.

Of Family (Storge)

A family unit on a stroll.A lot of people are of the opinion that family bonds are neigh impossible to break – that true love manifests itself here first. What rubbish. The same contextual flaw in love manifests itself here as well. We are all mostly of the opinion that love inside families are genuinely altruistic. But that’s not true either. Families are just people bound to each other by the implied loyalty of genetic relation. At the end of the day, they’re still people – and people are still selfish. Family does not make any difference to this deep set psycholgical trait. In fact, examine the evidence in the following scenarios:

  1. Marriage – Countless families have been ripped apart by an offspring marrying an unapproved lover. This becomes especially caustic if that intended lover is of a different race, class, religion or some other social demarcation. I’ve seen heirs cut out of their fortune simply because the patriarch doesn’t wish to have the spouse having a dime of the family fortune. Royal marriages have caused internal divisions when offspring marry someone outside of the aristocratic elite. But this holds true even outside of royalty. Then there are those marriages that cause insatiable friction between the in-laws, either because of jealousy, insecurity or personality incompatibilities. Even when it comes to expanding a family, every human involved (particularly the third party members of the family) feel they have a vested input in who their relatives marry because they feel the need to acquiesce some level of gratification in the intended family extension.
  2. Children – One would think that the bond between parent and child is exempt from this principle. It is not. Mothers are well known to become hyper defensive of their sons and fathers of their daughters. Mothers have been known to cut off their daughters if they perceive them to be poor reflections of themselves and fathers if their sons turn out to be a detrimental reflection of their own masculinity (as is the case when sons turn out to be gay). Some parents exhibit tough love to bring their wayward children around – but let’s face it: everybody has a breaking point. You see, every parent wants to be proud of their children. That’s one of the primary desires of having them in the first place. Their children are their ticket to immortality. When that plan fails, and depending on the severity of that failure, it is not uncommon to have parent/child divisions as is typical of stage parents when their talented children fail to aspire to greatness. Every parent perceives their children as a measure of their own success in that role.
  3. Money – A friend of mine once said that sex is the only thing devalued by money. I disagree. Money devalues everything, because it gives everything a discreet value. When relatives start to involve each other in family business affairs, money can turn the best family relationships into vicious rivalries. This is especially true when money is owed, expected or lost (inadvertently or otherwise). Blood battles are especially intense when money is involved (especially between siblings) and has led to long standing vendettas and even murder. This is because money puts a cap on the value of love between everyone, irrespective of the nature of the relationship.

We have to understand that human behaviour is driven by the desire to satisfy self first. Every action, even inside family lines, irrespective of its selfless appearance, still manifests itself as such. There’s no real altruism here:

  • Mothers create impressive family dinners to be rewarded by the appreciation of the family feast.
  • Fathers provide for their families to be rewarded with a sense of masculine pride as the family thrives.
  • Young children only behave because of positive or negative reinforcement.
  • Teens are driven by an almost narcissistic need to define themselves.

Even potent manifestations of “love” within families are nothing more than a human trait designed to sustain emotional bonds we each enjoy.

Of Obsession (Thelema)

I don't have enough...It doesn’t matter what we become obsessed with, thelema describes what is probably the most conspicuous example of where love is expressed as a potent desire for selfish gratification. Most people are of the opinion that obsession is not the same as love, since obsession is often destructive. However, where we are inclined to say that there’s a thin line between love and hate, what we should really be saying is:

There’s a thin line between symbiotic affection and obsession.

The only difference between those two is that obsession is a constant pre-occupation with the object of affection – usually where that affection is unmanaged or unrequited. Obsession is just a manifestation of addiction and addiction is a manifestation of insatiable gratification. People don’t become obsessed with things that don’t interest them and people aren’t interested in things that don’t produce a positive emotional reward. What we can say for sure, is that obsession can exist in lieu of any of the other conditions that would facilitate “love” as we understand it. So someone obsessed with a lover will exhibit affection even when that affection is unrequited. Many people tend to confuse this with “True Love”.

In fact, “True Love” is nothing more than Eros love tainted with a dash of obsession (Thelema). Obsession is what keeps people in relationships that have long gone sour. It is the fear of feeling lonely or rejected that creates obsession in relationships. To be fair however, obsession actually has its useful purposes. It can allow people to see beyond the faults of others and it is also the source of fierce (albeit, undeserved) loyalty (philia).

Of Sexual Desire (Eros)

Lovers basking in the afterglowLove borne out of sexual attraction (meaning everything from physical attraction to emotional attachment ) is highly conditional. We are more strict on our requirements for eros love than for any other kind, because it involves the giving of the whole self. Human beings are exponentially more complex than their animal counterparts and thus a significantly larger matrix of variables is at work when it comes to sexual attraction. However, irrespective of this complexity, the basic principles remain the same here as they are for all other forms of love. Attraction between two people depends heavily upon conditions set in each person’s mind of an ideal mate, predicated by social engineering. Attraction only occurs once these conditions are met, thus fulfilling the desire in each party. There are two very broad categories in which these conditions can be classified:

  1. Physical Attraction – Even though physical preferences add virtually nothing to the sexual experience, we are genetically hard wired to prefer mates which appear healthy, since by design that’s nature’s way of passing on only the best genes to offspring. Consequently, everybody has a physical preference. These physical preferences act only as a psychological placebo to begin the process of courtship, culminating in intercourse. Where these physical traits are not present or otherwise lost, the desire for sexual acitivity is often likewise diminished or non-existent – even though the basis is flawed.
  2. Emotional Attraction – While nowhere near as potent as physical attraction, it does play an important role in developing the strong emotional bonds we like to call “love”. Emotional attraction is usually only manifested after physical attraction allows courtship to take place in the first place. However, with the advancement of communication technology, emotional attraction is finding its way into the hearts of many who would otherwise not have become physically attracted to each other in the first place. Now even unattractive people are getting laid. The anonymous nature of our most popular internet communication mediums actually forces people to spend more time developing emotional bonds. In fact, if physicality is introduced too soon, it tends to truncate the potential for further development.

If you take away either of those two components, Eros will simply cease to exist. Relationships based on physical attraction are the easiest to dissipate, since the height of those relationships primarily culminate in sexual intercourse. After that, boredom will set in and through a short chain of cause and effect, the relationship ends.

Relationships based on emotional attraction tend to last a bit longer – depending heavily on the strength of the emotional attachment. If the attachment is strong enough, the physical attraction tends to become immaterial as both parties derive genuine pleasure from each other’s company. What most people don’t realise is that to truly enjoy sex, there has to be a powerful emotional component. Physical attraction doesn’t play much of a role during intercourse. Psychologically, sex will feel more or less the same with virtually anybody. Emotional attraction is what gives it that extra edge of excitement. Just ask the countless number of attractive people who’ve had really bad sex with each other – as well as those who’ve slept with unattractive people while stone drunk.

The bottom line is that irrespective of which of the two components sparked the relationship in the first place, attraction is a symbiotic idea. It gets its power from two people expressing characteristics that are mutually enjoyed. If those characteristics were to disappear, the mutual gratification we would get will die, then the attraction dies and ultimately, the very basis upon which we say we are in “love” will become undermined, and the love will eventually cease to exist.

In fact, the ridiculous idea of “love at first sight” is actually “physical attraction at first sight” that is coincidentally met with emotional attraction shortly there after. Most people tend to think of love as “emotional attraction” or contextually, as Eros love. People who say they are “in love” are experiencing both physical and emotional attraction simultaneously, with healthy doses of loyalty (philia) and a dash of obsession (thelema).

Conclusion (Omega)

Every manifestation of that thing we call love, irrespective of it’s application, context or chosen definition is nothing more than reflexive self gratification. If we are not gratified in our expression of the same, then the expression will be withdrawn. It is that simple. It doesn’t matter how strong the emotional ties are, or how deeply one’s loyalty runs; everybody loves to be loved in return. People are only loyal to themselves and will always be that way.

Even those who put themselves in the face of danger to save another life, or those who make a self sacrifice to benefit another, only seek after the joy of knowing they made a difference. That sense of honour that is derived can be a very powerful motivator. It is commonly known as the “Hero Complex” and is so desireable in some cases that it has caused people to do really stupid things – often removing themselves from the gene pool in the process. The pursuit for that “fuzzy” feeling inside has been known to turn on the stupid gene in a lot of people – like those crazy missionaries who go to war torn parts of the world without military support.

Even when the Biblical Jesus taught that one is to love their enemies, it is nothing more than a powerful manipulation of reverse psychology to achieve the same. The logic is pretty simple actually. Hate breeds violence and violence breeds more violence. If you can find the strength to reward violence with love, there’s a very good chance that only love will be returned, and that is beneficial for both parties. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all want to be loved. It is the desire to be loved that is the cause of all love. And that my dear friends, is why I say, Love is selfish.

Flame on.

Spider-Man-loves-Mary-Jane

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  1. luis
    January 19, 2013 at 12:54 am

    wonderful sad inspiring and totally truthful. made me look at life in a whole new light.

  2. September 30, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    I quite agree. Great post

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