We can all see patterns of behavior, but that is not to say that behavior follows patterns. This paper is to define a pattern that I have found in the ideas and actions which mankind has used the word love to describe. Any axioms and assumptions I make must be accepted as true for the majority of society.
This paper is most certainly not a rigorous proof, however I still want to follow a logical flow, so I need a solid foundation to work from. My chosen axioms are based on what would seem to me, as traits shared by our society as a whole. Traits so common, I’d say they’re ubiquitous and can support the rest of my contention. To state this axiom I must stereotype our culture, as must be done to discuss any large collection of things as a whole. Thus my coming argument can only be valid for the stereotyped portion of society which this axiom applies to.
With that said, I will use this as my pedestal…
Axiom 1 - People want what they do not have.
Seems pretty straight forward. It’s a very widely used phrase which has given birth to many idioms and philosophical quotes – “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”, “Have one’s cake and eat it too”, etc.
I’m using this declaration in more of a metaphysical sense however. The word ‘have’ in my usage refers to a sense of intellectual ownership. To completely and thoroughly ‘understand’ a given topic (if that is even possible) instills a sense of possession, a custody of the intellectual property. Let’s say I have been taking derivatives since I was a fetus and now I ‘understand’ everything there is to know about derivatives and rates of change. Then in my mind I feel I can do with derivatives anything I please, just as I can do anything I please with this dead fish I’m holding in my hands. I ‘understand’ derivatives, just as much as I ‘have’ this fish.
So from here on I’m replacing the word ‘have’ with the word ‘understand’. I know this next claim may ruffle some feathers initially, but give me a moment to justify it.
Axiom 2 - People want what they do not understand
This may seem off the wall at first, but it’s true. A colloquy might go as follows…
hooplehead - "A lot of people don't understand physics, and the lot of them hate it!" mathnathan - "What do they hate?" hooplehead - "Well, all of it! It's just confusing math, and Greek symbols." mathnathan - "Do they hate televisions, and airplanes, and satellites?" hooplehead - "Well no, of course not. But those aren't physics." mathnathan - "Then what are they?" hooplehead - "It's just technology, stuff that we use. Physics is the math and the equations behind it." mathnathan - "Would you disagree with me if I said everything comes from something?" hooplehead - "Well no. I see where you're going with this though, you think that because this technology came from physics, it is physics?" mathnathan - "Not at all. I'm sure you'd agree however, that just as in religions and in our families, the creator, or those which make things possible deserve high reverence and respect, no?" hooplehead - "Yes, that is true. Religions promote worship of their gods for giving them life, and children are taught to respect their parents and elders for making their lives possible as well. I see what you mean." mathnathan - "Then you'd agree that people at least respect physics." hooplehead - "Hmmm... Yes, this I agree with." mathnathan - "Why do you suppose that is?" hooplehead - "They respect what it can do." mathnathan - "Physics has made a lot of things possible, it's quite powerful is it not?" hooplehead - "It is..." mathnathan - "Would you disagree that people as a whole, yearn for power? Whether for selfish, or righteous gains?" hooplehead - "Hmmm, that may be debatable." mathnathan - "Power brings possibility, and that can bring necessities. Even if indirectly or on a small scale people yearn for power to make things happen, for the betterment of society, or for the betterment of themselves. Either way, people do yearn for power." hooplehead - "Okay, I'll give you that one." mathnathan - "So if people want power, and physics is power, then people want to have physics." hooplehead - "Well you can't have physics." mathnathan - "Then they would want to be able to use it's power, so they would want to understand physics." hooplehead - "I suppose they would..."
What happens if people do understand something then? (2) has a truth value so I can apply some laws of propositional logic to it.
Since (2) is actually an implication, or the “if-then” logic structure it can be written as follows…
Axiom 2 - If people do not understand it, then they want it.
Notice this says nothing about what happens if people do understand something. This states if they don’t understand it, they want it. That is all it says. so I need another axiom.
Again I chose to look at the world around me to find another trait riddled in our personalities, and characters.
Music… Everyone has a favorite song. We’ll listen to the song over and over and over. Eventually though, we know every word. We can hum every chord progression. We know the life story of the musicians. We heard the song performed live… And eventually we move onto a new song.
Books… Stories are an excellent example. There is so much mystery in the plot twists, or there is so much drama in the love triangles that we can’t put the books down. However, after reading the book 5 times, the appeal begins to die. We know exactly what is going to happen to the Sally if she opens that door…
Movies… Plays… Art… After it is wholesomely digested we move on to something else.
Once we know something entirely, inside and out, then our desire to ‘have’, or ‘understand’ it dies. Which lead me to my 3rd axiom.
Axiom 3 - If people do understand it, then they do not want it.
I hope all of my pure mathematicians reading this noticed that (3) is the inverse implication of (2). Of course the irrational behavior of humans would satisfy this…
There are occasions which may look like exceptions. Humphrey likes this painting so much, that no matter how many times he looks at it, it fills him with euphoria. No matter how many times Gretchen listens to this song it still gives her chills. My theory can explain these anomalies, and I’ll touch on them again at the end.
Why did our interest in these physical things die? Their existence, and their complexities are finite. A book is a book is a book. We see a new book that intrigues us, and by (2) we’ve got to have that book. The book can not change though, and once our minds have mastered it’s existence, by (3) we move on to another book. Our desires for things in the physical world follow a cyclical path. Our cycle from (2) -> (3) -> (2) -> (3) continues to spin, we just introduce new infatuations from the physical world to accommodate it.
People are not books… Nor are they songs, or movies, or sculptures. Though some people may look like they were sculpted out of stone, fortunately for us they were not. People have a constant ability to grow and learn and their inner complexities can become more and more complex with experience and knowledge. So let’s say we see a person who looks as if they were sculpted from stone and they appeal to us. Just as in finding an intriguing book, by (2) we want this person! We get close to this person, and begin to learn about them. The more we learn about them, the more they learn about us. They become more and more sophisticated with what we’ve contributed to them, and our contributions become more and more sophisticated with that they contribute to us. THIS cycle breaks our previous cycle, and (3) is never reached.
From the perspective of an entire planet the life of a living thing lasts no longer than the blink of an eye, and this cycle throughout our history has claimed the majority of many lives. We are no longer interested in trying to understand anything else. This struggle to understand someone matches the ideas and actions that our culture defines with the word love.
Which brings me to my definition of love.
Theorem 1 - Love is the unending attempt to understand someone.
What about when people say they ‘love’ things, or ideas? This theorem leads to an intuitive corollary which can answer those as well.
Corollary 1 - To love something unchanging is the self-reflection of your changes due to that thing, leading to the unending attempt to understand yourself.
Corollary 1 encapsulates the idea of loving yourself. If you were in a moment wildly memorable, and a particular song was played, that song will stick with you for a long time. You’ll listen to it later on and remember the moment and the feelings that came along with it. Let’s say however that this moment was so impacting that it changed your life. This is like a semi-circle of the cycle of love. This moment contributed to the growth and development of you, so when reliving the moment, over and over, the change that this moment brought to you meets who you are now. So you can “relive” the change and this song will constantly be changing you. With that foundation, I say that through this self reflection you’re constantly trying to understand yourself.