Recently, someone online pointed to the writings about love by Francesco Alberoni, an Italian sociologist who has this to say on the matter:
No one can fall in love if he is even partially satisfied with what he has or who he is.The experience of falling in love originates in an extreme depression, an inability to find something that has value in everyday life. The "symptom" of the predisposition to fall in love is not the conscious desire to do so,the intense desire to enrich our lives; it is the profound sense of being worthless and of having nothing that is valuable and the shame of not having it. [...] For this reason, falling in love occurs more frequently among young people, since they are profoundly uncertain, unsure of their worth,and often ashamed of themselves. The same thing applies to people of other ages when they lose something in their lives-—when their youth ends or when they start to grow old.
Now, I am not a sociologist, but when I read this, I rolled my eyes so hard I feared they would fall from my head onto my keyboard.
I am a deeply, profoundly happy person. My normal baseline emotional state is almost overwhelming joy almost all the time. I am constantly awestruck by the wonder and beauty of the natural world, as I've blogged about here.
In other words, I am about as far from "the profound sense of being worthless and of having nothing that is valuable and the shame of not having it" as it's possible to be.
I fall in love deeply, unhesitantly, and with abandon, without fear or reservation. Love is an amazing thing. It is the profound sharing of myself with those I love, and through it, the sharing of joy. Life is filled with wonder and beauty, all of which is amplified by love. I create with the people I love. I explore with the people I love. Love is a fantastic thing, a process for multiplying joy and dividing sorrow.
It's easy to be cynical about love, because love is not for the cowardly. It lets us share ourselves with those around us, and that makes us vulnerable. Like anything worth doing, love carries risks. It's easy to get tangled up in our own egos and fears--what if we get hurt? What if the person we love doesn't love us back?--and so to believe, mistakenly, that those we love owe us something simply because we love them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Love cannot be coerced. It exists only when it is given freely. It's not for wimps. To risk loving is to risk exposing yourself in the most profound way possible. Love requires courage.
But that is precisely what makes it so valuable.
I do not entirely understand the depth of cynicism that would lead Mr. Alberoni to the conclusions he has reached. But I am very, very happy he's wrong.