Monday, June 23, 2008


Love is one of the most basic, powerful, and admirable traits of our species…though humans cannot claim exclusivity on it, as anyone who has ever had a dog or a cat can attest. Like so many things in life, love has an infinite number of shadings and varieties and intensities, as does its balance between the two individuals involved..

The love between parents and children is quite different than the love between friends, and that indescribably unique love between two people which includes and transcends the others.

Love feeds us and sustains us, and without it we wither and die. It is essential for our survival and our emotional development, and we seem able to store it up, like some animals store up body fat for use during periods of deprivation. Science has shown babies need to be touched and held and fondled as much as they need physical nourishment. Deprivation of love and attention warps the individual forever. (I have seen experiments conducted on baby monkeys denied of any contact with their mothers, and it horrified and devastated me. Such experiments may further science, but their effect on the individual monkeys is unconscionable.

As we grow older, our sources of love grow fewer. Our parents die as do, over the years, our partners and our friends, until we find ourselves like newborns once again, desperately needing love and attention and touch, and receiving less and less of it.

I am comfortable in my life. I am blessed with supportive, caring friends who provide emotional nourishment the human soul requires, and I try to reciprocate it, though I am far less adept at it than they. I still have some family left, and they remain my anchors to the past. I am fortunate, too, to have friends I’ve never met but who know and seem to appreciate me through my writing..

But what I do not have, and miss with a true sense of longing, is a romantic-love partner with whom to share my life. I used to joke that the one thing that separates friend from lovers is sex and, at the risk of eliciting a scrinched-face “eeeeee-eeewwww!!” from those under 40, I can assure you that probably most people, sex remains a strong factor even after one’s sexual appeal is totally lost on others.

For the most part, people tend to be pretty selfish when it comes to any form of love. They want it, need it, and even expect it as their due, though they are…like me…somewhat loath to express it as frequently as they should.

I have never met or even heard of a single person who, claiming with or without justification, that they are unloved, ever claims they are happy. It is a tragic fact that far, far too many people in our increasingly self-isolated world, are deprived of love, of affection, of kindness, of the even casual genuine touch on the arm from someone who cares about them.

Our society, unfortunately, even the most innocent and casual physical contact with anyone other than one’s own immediate family is discouraged, and we are rapidly becoming a nation of paranoids. That teachers are forbidden to hug a troubled student for fear of official reprimand or dismissal is a sign of just how far down the path of dehumanization we have traveled. That a kind, well-intentioned stranger cannot reach out and casually touch a child without being suspected of being a child molester is disgusting.

As elemental as it sounds, the fact remains: the best way to get positive attention is to give it without really expecting it to be returned; the best way to make a friend is to be a friend. The best way to be loved is to love unconditionally.

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