There are more songs written about love than about any other notion or emotion. That makes sense because love, like poetry which song lyrics essentially are, is non-rational. They—love, poetry, and music—are thus not processes of the intellect but of something other, something felt intrinsically not extrinsically like a hot stove.
Emotions arise from the influx of peptides, amino acids the body secretes and floods the system. Thus, chemical reactions triggered by thought. So, I understand. I’ll leave it to scientists and medical experts among you readers to clarify that.
But why does one literally feel the warmth and ache of love in the heart, which is, after all, a muscle? Why not in the liver, kidneys, or brain? Animals feel love. I assume they feel the emotion in their hearts as well.
It’s curious the evolution of Valentine’s Day in western culture. Its origination is traced to the Roman holiday Lupercalia, a ribald frat party on steroids, celebrated on the Ides of February in which young Roman males raced naked through the streets striking young women with the hides from goats they had sacrificed. That’s one way to win a woman’s heart, eh? Women today are likely wondering what their ancient sisters were thinking. Like, you’re kidding me, right?
In the third century, Emperor Claudius II ordered the execution of a young Roman named Valentinus for not marrying. Ostensibly, Valentinus resisted the emperor’s order so to preserve his chastity as proscribed by his Christian faith. But who knows? Maybe Valentinus wasn’t into women in the first place and, instead, a fine gay lad. Such are the bases for legends and myths.
In time, Pope Galasius I canonized Valentinus and combined his feast day with Lupercalia, thus neatly satisfying the Christian ideals of chastity and modesty in dress.
It’s quite a journey from then to now. Poets, authors, and musicians, cardiologists, psychologists, and psychotherapists have explored love over the millennia. You can decide if we know anything more about it than the Romans.
It’s fascinating to note how the symbol for the heart evolved to be shaped like a V given how the heart is a more-rounded, albeit with a sag, plump pulsing pumper (I love alliteration, by the way). Nathaniel Hawthorne indirectly symbolizes it with an A, which literally stands for adulteress. A deep reading of The Scarlet Letter, though, reminds us Hester Prynne was the sole personification of love in that sterile, harsh Puritan community. Besides, flip the A and you got a V.
Still, none of this answer our primary question: Why is love felt in that P-to-the-third-power muscle?
Perhaps if we move in a different direction and consider it from the fourth chakra, the energy center enveloping the upper torso in which the heart is the center, we can find our answer. From that perspective, love is not a product of a chemical reaction but something beyond observable science.
We might be able to safely predict what will cause another to be angry, sad, or upset, but love in its deepest sense, as opposed to “She will love this dress”, is beyond a confident wager. As we know, love is unpredictable; it defies a certain rule of science that goes something like, “If this and that conjoin with whichever, the outcome will be…” Like predicting the weather and other forces of nature when certain conditions are met. Psychotherapists might be able to unpack the reasons why one fell in love, but they don’t have the foresight to predict who will fall for whom.
There’s also the craving for love. Despite the hardest hard-ass insisting he doesn’t need or desire love, the truth is he does. Denying that universal human need is a way to mask his vulnerability.
Finally, there’s this bizarre notion that Valentine’s Day is only for couples, resulting in SAD, Singles Awareness Day, for those unattached. As one pundit describes it, “dining alone and binging on self-gifted chocolates.”
Well, if that’s the case, I suggest we subtitle Valentine’s Day as “Significant Other Day” or SOD. That will keep you grounded. (I love puns too, by the way.)