Friday, March 7, 2014

To Love

I remember my fifth grade teacher, Lois Walker, telling the class of an article she had read about an infant's need for love. The article said scientists had concluded that a baby left in a room without human touch would die. Though the child may be given food, water, and basic care, without love it would die, leading to the theory that humans do indeed need love to live. Why this lesson from Mrs. Walker stuck in my ten-year-old mind and is still with me today, I do not know. Perhaps the haunting image of a child raised by scientists and robots is just too disturbing to forget. It does make me wonder how those scientists tested their theory, though I believe I would rather stay in the dark on the details.

For years I held the memory of this article in my mind, and over time added my twist on the theory. While it is true that humans need to receive positive interaction from other humans to survive (i.e. love), I believe we also need to love. While receiving love is not always within our control, the act of showing love is, and the act can be equally as rewarding and life sustaining. This is, of course, my opinion and not based on scientific experiments with isolated people in cold rooms. No, this one is from my mind and based only on my experience, but it is a theory I have held for decades. And it has proven itself to be true time and time again.

Likely we need to define 'survive.' Sure we can live and breathe, eat and drink, walk and sleep all without a companion. That speaks to survival of the body, but survival of the spirit -- the mind -- the heart -- this is survival of another level. Maintaining the functions of the human body in scientific form is necessary to keep breathing, but why do we need to keep breathing? What makes it worthwhile? What makes it worth waking up another day and moving the body through its courses again? Love.

I speak not of romantic love, but love on a much broader scale, to include comfort, care, concern, compassion, empathy, appreciation, gratitude, and admiration. While receiving this broad scope of love from another is indeed wonderful, perhaps more so is in the giving of this kind of love. When we do for others, while expecting nothing in return, we forget about our needs and are able to focus on the other, fully and completely. We give selflessly, and in that giving, we surrender to the beauty that is in this theory of mine: the act of loving another -- without expectation of reciprocity -- actually fills the giver with life.

Now, before you go off willy-nilly doing good deeds for people for the purpose of generating good stuff for yourself, let me stop you now. It doesn't work that way. Only when we give unselfishly does the life-giving water flow back to us. Give only for selfish reasons, and you are going thirsty for a while. Believe me, the universe has you figured out so don't even try fooling it with the "Oh, I will help this elderly man with his grocery cart so I can get something good from the universe tomorrow." Uh-uh.

What the giver experiences is a meaning to life -- a reason to wake every day -- not a winning lottery ticket stuffed in the pocket of a winter coat. The giver is not rewarded with things, we are rewarded with the energy of life, the survival of the spirit. We give because we like seeing how it affects others. We give because we want another to smile. We give because we want another to have it just a bit easier. We give because we want another to experience happiness.

So my amendment to the scientific theory of 1977 is the simple addition of a preposition. 'Humans need love to survive' becomes 'humans need to love to survive.' I cannot imagine the scientists of the initial article would be too thrilled with my addition, but then again, they put a baby in a room alone, so I don't think they have much room to criticize. Whether my theory is proven or not makes no difference to me. Wouldn't it be great just accepting it as true and seeing all the good that would come out of it?

Love (we're talking the broad definition) can be in many forms, all equally as important. Each act of love has the potential to change a moment or a life. The great mystery is that we do not know which it will be, but tossing numerous acts of love to the winds increases the effect on the world. The key is to do something -- something without thought of how it will benefit us, only with the thought of how it would benefit the world. Broaden the traditional definition of love, broaden the definition of that which can be love. The survival of the spirit is in loving, not being loved, and when we are devoid of loving, we are devoid of life. Whether two-legged or four-legged, family or friend, human or pet, the most important thing is to love. Love something. Love someone. And do it completely.

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