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Paul's Extra Point: What is love?

What is love? Is it just a chemical reaction? Is it a bond between people or more of a state of mind? Good luck defining the most human of emotions.

Roses are red, violets are blue, my brain produces norepinephrine when I’m around you. That’s not much of a love poem, is it? But what is “love,” anyway? Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe it’s nothing more than a chemical reaction: a cocktail of dopamine, estrogen, testosterone and the aforementioned norepinephrine, making us feel some kind of way and encouraging the survival of the species… You know, when the stork comes.

But love is also so much more than that! Take lust out of the equation, and you’re left with an even purer collection of emotions that define us as humans. A desire to enrich a world outside of ourselves, a willingness to protect, a longing to share experiences, an ability to overlook imperfections- even loving someone for them rather than in spite of them.

Society places pressure upon us to find our perfect match (as if such a thing could possibly be quantified) and we sure love to try. Dating apps, singles cruises, matchmaking services; a venture capitalist even devised a formula for finding love! Before you laugh- he has been married 18 years, which is more than most of us can say. The divorce rate in this country still hovers around 50%.

But love isn’t limited to our relationships with significant others. We love our parents, our children, our pets. We profess love to our friends- our professors, our professions. Some of us love sports, or sunsets, or Saturday Night Live.

It is futile to put a limit on love- what it is and what it can be. Those who try, fail. We are a stubborn lot. We’ll love people who are wrong for us, things that could harm us, and ideas that have long fallen out of favor. We’ll continue to love long after logic dictates we should. We love programs that aren’t on TV anymore, we love experiences we can never relive, and we continue to love those who have passed.

So perhaps “love” is less of a bond between people and more of a state of mind after all- neurons firing back and forth across a three-pound lump of tissue telling our nervous system that we’d like more of whatever it is we’re experiencing. There’s nothing romantic about that, but there doesn’t have to be. We don’t have to define love to appreciate the way it binds us all together.

I can respect the fact that you love something or somebody, even if I don’t feel the same way. And this world needs more love, not less, so don’t let your signs of affection be limited to some Hallmark holiday. As publisher Thomas P. Jones once wrote: “Love doesn’t make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” So share that norepinephrine the next time Cupid strikes.