Love, lust and liberty
Are we free to live according to our hearts and desires? Or do expectations inhibit us from loving more than one person at a time? Perhaps we are mere slaves to our hormones.
One heart, one mind and two deserving loves
In Milan Kundera’s novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Tereza and Sabina share Tomas’ affections. Tomas is intensely passionate with both his loves. As 19th Century novelist Francis Smedley wrote, ‘All is fair in love and war.’ So is Tomas simply exercising his just right to sexual freedom?
What of our dual lover’s responsibility to Tereza and Sabina? Tomas continues his intimacies with Sabina once he’s committed to Tereza. But the fervour and innate instability of the love triangle cannot endure. So is Tomas bound by his lustful passions? Or is he living his truth regardless of consequence? Kundera leaves us to meditate on the fragility of life and ongoing human connection in a context of rising communism – a regime that sort to control the physical and intellectual freedoms of the individual.
Driven by dopamine
According to anthropologist, Helen Fisher our experience of love and lust has biochemical foundations. The feel good hormone, dopamine is released when we love. Both lust and love increase neural activity in distinct brain regions. Let’s look at the types of love she describes • lust • romantic love • attachment or long term love.
Mate or bust
Lust is our animal desire for sex, fulfilling our purpose to mate and procreate. It gets us looking for a range of partners … Ah, our dual lover, shopping around.
Like cocaine and chocolate
Hmmm…With the right chemistry and timing, romantic love arrives – a deep yearning, from the kind of mind when you’re reaching for a piece of chocolate, the addictive ‘part that becomes active with the rush of cocaine.’
‘Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides.’
Louis de Bernieres, Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Then the long term love, ah…
While romantic love focuses our mating energies on one person, conserving time and energy, deep attachment to a long term partner is coupled with a sense of calm and security. Finally. It’s evolved so we can tolerate each other long enough to raise children. Really.
‘Love is what’s left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.’Captain Corelli again
Why then the love triangles?
We don’t always centre these three loves on one person. We can dream about many – like there’s ‘a committee meeting of lovers’ in our heads. Aha! So acting on the committee meeting triggers a love triangle. Well, as with our dual lovers, we become attached to a new love – hormones – and whammo! Trapped. Two deserving loves. Trouble brewing however as lovers soon become possessive. Try taking a toy away from a toddler. And in a democracy? Ah, our actions still affect others.
So then it becomes a question of … ethics. Oh! To watch Helen Fisher, Why we love, why we cheat, go to Ted talks <http://www.ted.com/talks/helen_fisher_tells_us_why_we_love_cheat.html>