When I was a teenager I wrote a lot of poems, mostly about love. It is interesting to look back on those poems now and witness the roller coaster of emotions I felt at that time in my life. On one day I would write about being madly in love, the next day my poem was about heartbreak. There was a pattern to my writing: Joy. Reward. Pain. Struggle. Comfort. Joy. Reward… and so forth.
The evolution of love in my life has been profound. In hindsight, I’m sure I didn’t even know “real” love until I was pregnant with my son. That is when I began the journey towards a more mature and selfless understanding of love, a journey that, had I been writing then, would likely have produced poems just as profoundly different from day to day as the ones I wrote as a teen, but with a broader view.
In the course of 30 years of marriage, if I were writing poems about love, they too would have been full of ups and downs, from day to day. Through friendships, ministry, and with animal companions I have known love in many forms, again feeling the highs and the lows of the experience of connection. Time has offered perspective, but the patterns persist.
Although love brings with it great joy and great sorrow, over the course of time I have come to see so many facets of love that I’m quite sure it is not a thing in and of itself. Regardless of the context, whether between humans, humans and other beings, or humans and their Gods, love seems to be a complex web of need, yearning, generosity, trust, forgiveness, safety, security, protection, hope, joy, attraction, and companionship.
In Unitarian Universalism we teach that love is a basic human need. From an evolutionary perspective, it is an important element of human survival. In a blogpost on Huffpost Healthy Living, psychologist Rick Hanson talks about the evolution of love*. He suggests that as our brains have evolved in the course of our 2.5 million year journey, childhood became longer and the bonds between parents and children, as well as between mates and with extended family groups, grew stronger, creating “the village it takes to raise a child.” He continues with descriptions of how dopamine and oxytocin play important roles in our formation of love bonds as they stimulate parts of the brain that give us sensations such as reward, peace, and comfort.
Today is the day Unitarian Universalists celebrate Standing on the Side of Love Day. On this day we are asked to recommit ourselves to building the global village, the Beloved Community, in which the bonds of love reach across all boundaries and barriers to create a more peaceful, fair, and free world for all beings. However love is showing up in your life, for better or worse in this moment, I invite you to seek ways to generate deeper connections in your life, and in the lives of those around you. What barriers can you break down? What boundaries can you cross?