Against “Love”

By Jonathan Roseland

Yesterday someone reminded me of a thing I once said...

"I don’t believe in love."

Which might sound terrible. Or ridiculously nihilistic. Sometimes I intellectually have a deer in the headlights moment when confronted with how my opinions and outlook on life have changed over time. We were slightly different people a year ago and we certainly were five or ten years ago. In the last year, I’ve experienced greater depths of and previously unknown dimensions of love, yet I resisted the temptation to just respond:

I was wrong. I now believe in love.

When I said that I didn’t believe in love I was grasping at a more nuanced point which is that “love” is a poor word to describe a very complicated aspect of human psychology and motivation that has both light and dark sides.

Fundamentally, love is a phenomenon of evolutionary psychology. It’s easy to think of how love is evolutionarily useful and would result in one’s genes thriving and surviving…

  • Love motivates us to invest heavily in our offspring; spending sleepless nights and the majority of our income and precious resources on these cantankerous, greedy little human beings that are so often a totally unintentional side effect of an inglorious, sweaty moment of adult hedonism.
  • Love motivates us to invest heavily in our offspring; spending sleepless nights and the majority of our income and precious resources on these cantankerous, greedy little human beings that are so often a totally unintentional side effect of an inglorious, sweaty moment of adult hedonism.
  • Love inspires us to serve one another in a selfless and not clearly beneficial way to serve a purpose greater than ourselves. To uplift our community. To build something that will outlast us.
  • Love seems to tame the unruliness of youth. Love for one’s child or spouse transforms juvenile, self-centered, and impetuous young men into socialized and productive members of society.
  • Love inspires soldiers to live a life of arduous sacrifices leading up to and maybe including the ultimate sacrifice for their nation, their people, their leader, or their cause.

Love is an expression of what V.P. Skulachev called Phenoptosis, our selfish genes are not chiefly concerned with our well-being. They want us to reproduce as early and often as possible. But they ultimately want us to get out of the way of genetic progress, they seem to intentionally poison us with various diseases of aging and they have programmed us with an unwavering martyr complex that motivates us to suicidally give up our own lives for the greater good of our tribe.

Love as a concept is a spectrum; it’s an umbrella concept that motivates a very wide range of human behavior, not all good. In fact, a feeling of love can result in some incredibly selfish and destructive behavior.

The problem I have with love is that it’s universally held in very high esteem and universally thought of as good. In fact, most people regard love as the most good thing. I blame pop culture mostly for this. The lyrics of most of the songs that we listen to and the themes of most of the movies that play on the silver screen reinforce this idiotic idea that doing whatever feels right in the moment results in true love and love always results in a happy and meaningful life.

In the fictional Star Wars universe, the characters respect the power of The Force yet they understand that the force has a light side and a dark side. The Force is also not something to be toyed with — it’s a skill that should be learned from a master and practiced with discipline.
I think that’s more of how we should see love. A force for great good but also a dangerous force of destruction.


Barcelona, Spain

I had just arrived in Barcelona. I was tired from a day of traveling and I didn’t know anybody in Barcelona BUT it was my first night in Barcelona so, of course, I wasn’t going to waste it lying in bed. I ventured out into the Gothic district and visited a few bars and made a few friends. As I strolled over the cobblestones through the darkened streets a scantily (and skankily) clad black Spanish woman grabbed my elbow rather firmly (If you like black women, you might be surprised that you can find quite sexy black Spanish women on the southeastern side of Spain) she held onto me and repeated insistently…

Bebe, te amo! Te quiero! Te amo! Vamos…

Not particularly interested in hiring a hooker I responded

No. Gracias.

Rejected, she stormed off into the night and called me a maricón.

Isn’t it something that this working girl began her very indecent proposal by telling me Baby I love you…?

You might say…

That’s not real love! That’s just VERY transactional sex! To her, you’re just a walking dollar sign (or euro sign) with a penis attached to it!

But who are you to define love? Or prostitution?
Are sex and love not extricable intertwined?
Isn’t love subjective?
Don’t we all ultimately pay one way or another for love and sex? Why not make things uncomplicated and just pay directly for it?
The hooker uses the word love when she seduces a lonely, desperate man because she knows that it invokes a deeper longing for companionship.

Hopefully, not a lot of us would be fooled into believing that a prostitute loves us BUT how many close friends and loved ones have you known who made idiotic, self-destructive, and expensive decisions because they were in love?

The four-letter L-word is a language/psychology/persuasion hack, the player or womanizer uses it when he promises a naive girl that they have a future together after just a couple of dates.

There sure are a lot of songs and movies about how love makes us crazy and silly BUT very few prescribe a disciplined and respectful approach to yielding this powerful force.

The Dancing Couple

Sarajevo Bosnia graveyard

I’ll share another story about love that I’ve been contemplating for the last few weeks, you might not want to read this if you’ve just eaten…

It comes from a well-educated Croatian man who lived through the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
The educated Croatian man was serving as an English interpreter between the UN monitors of the conflict and the Croatian militia. At a particularly hot point in the conflict, the guy has to choose between a helicopter ride back to a safe zone and marching off into the woods with a tough bunch of his fellow Croatians. He goes with his countrymen.

After a long hike, they come to a clearing in the forest where the Croatians are holding three Bosnian Muslim prisoners — a father and his two sons.
The Croatians had found the Bosnian brothers guilty beyond the shadow of a doubt of a heinous war crime. Apparently, the two brothers slaughtered a number of their catholic neighbors in their town with AK-47s and stole their valuables.

The Bosnians are badly beaten. Then the Croatian commander turns to the father and informs him that the last thing he’s ever going to see is his sons dying.

The sons’ two wrists are tied together. Then they are doused with gasoline and set on fire and the brothers, bound together, writhe in the flames for a few horrific moments. The father is forced to watch. Apparently, this is a very old Balkan punishment for a pair of criminals that do something really bad — it’s called the dancing couple.

After the father has just witnessed the worst thing a father can witness the Croatian commander blames him for leading his sons astray. Then he burns out the father’s eyes with a butane torch and they leave him in a very private living hell there in the clearing in the woods with the charred remains of his sons.

The educated Croatian man, years later explains this morbid episode to an American. He muses philosophically and prophetically…

“The problem with my people is that they are still too romantic to know the difference between proper justice and a punishment but that is also the reason why we will still be around when your people are but a distant memory…”

  • So the Muslim prisoners received a romantic punishment?
  • Proper civilized justice would be to just shoot the Muslims or try them in court for war crimes?
  • So the raw emotions of vengeance and self-preservation are why Croatians will outlast us?
  • He’s implying that this tortuous execution is romantic

I heard this story a while ago and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Drop me a line letting me know what you think it means…

If you had the opportunity to interview a warlord or dictator who presided over an atrocious genocide I’m sure they’d tell you that they didn’t prosecute the genocide out of hatred for the other, they did it out of love and devotion to their own people or cause.

Interestingly, the neurotransmitter that floods our brain when we orgasm with a partner during sex, and that makes us fall in love, Oxytocin, is the same neurotransmitter that makes us racist or reinforces out-group preference.

From my book review of Think and Grow Rich

Love, Romance, and Sex are all emotions capable of driving men to heights of super achievement. Love is the emotion which serves as a safety valve, and insures balance, poise, and constructive effort. (p. 136)

Napoleon Hill talks about love quite a bit in the book and it should be noted that the popular definition of love has changed a lot since this book was written. In the past love was a word that signified an intense emotional commitment to something greater than oneself expressed through acts of service. Now love just means this intoxicated feeling, that you fall into and fall out of randomly, that makes you act stupid. It’s this insatiable desire for someone or something that makes you irrational. It’s this thing that people say to each other for our own emotional validation. I think modern-day love, does more harm than good.

I wish we could replace this dumb word with the six Greek words for different types of love…

Eros — Sexual passion
Philia — Deep friendship
Ludus — Playful, youthful love
Agape — Love for everyone in the whole world
Pragma — Longstanding, mature love
Philautia — Love of the self

So is there a smarter way to love?

I think so and a very politically incorrect chapter of my book, I was Promised a Sex Slave, explores some ancient wisdom written in some old books and gets practical about loving smarter. More about my book...

How to Be Cross Eyed [Second Edition]
Category: Book

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