True love:
True love is the thing that defines human beings.  Love itself is a broader emotion.  We can love family, other we know, our God, our pleasures, our own abilities and many other things.  Animals can love us unless I am quite deluded.  But true love is romantic love, the love of a suitable partner for creating and rearing a family.  It is the only other thing as powerful as our need to believe ourselves to be good. 

There are animals that mate for life.  I am not sure how much choice they may have in the matter.  Humans mate for life, and it is more than a choice.  It is a commitment that reaches to the deepest part of our being.  Love of our mate forever, for everything, in spite of everything, love freely given and intensely felt, deliberately guarded, extending to the loved one, to the children to the children’s children, to the children’s children’s children and beyond.  Only we humans are capable of it, and having undertaken it, we have become far more than we ever could have become otherwise. 

I can prove it with the coldest logic.

We have descended from apes that were not human.  If you have a problem with evolution, grit your teeth.  I said this was going to be cold.  And it may well be that your problem is not with the phenomenon of evolution itself but with false interpretations that have been laid on it, behavior it has been used to excuse, ideas attached to it that are simply wrong.  So bear with.  If you have no problem with it, tally ho. 

The first thing that happened when we learned to love is that we learned to be faithful.  Apes are promiscuous.  Those humans who have not been promiscuous have been the ones that produced us.  The fact that we have a slimmed down immune system is the proof that we are among the monogamous primates.  Monogamy dismissed sexually transmitted disease from the harrowing array of dangers that have always threatened us.  And in the absence of sexually transmitted disease, we streamlined our immune system and ceased to loose members of our population when the genes that provided the bulked up immune system our ancestors once had, when those genes fell apart.  That meant we could now support new genes, since the number we could have was effectively finite and we were, as almost all life must be, close to the limit.

Those new genes let us develop our skilled hands, our efficient walking gate, our running, our swimming, our facility with speech, our vaunted brains, our stunning beauty and surely other things we have not even noticed we have.  We are truly remarkable creatures of love. 

The next gift of true love was the knowledge of right and wrong.  It required clinging to a rule.  It required doing the right thing by that rule despite all fears and distractions.  It required discipline.  It required knowing the difference between breaking the rule and not breaking the rule.  This is knowledge we all share, whatever our choices might actually be.

This brought us more.  We could love our children more than other animals could.  We could better and more consistently protect their vulnerable youth from the hazards in wait or those not yet physically developed nor mentally experienced.  Our children did better, could develop in more ways because of the protection we offered.

There was a study done a few years back in which they tried to find out what factors affected the way a child was.  They looked at a series of things.  Was the child happy?  Were people who knew the child happy with the child?  Did the child do well in school?  Did the child avoid taking drugs or doing other self destructive thing?  They found that all of these things correlated with each other so consistently, that it was in effect a single outcome.  For a happy child, all of these things tended to be true together. 

Then they looked at a number of things that might effect how the child had developed.  They found only two that were important.  If the child was loved, the child was happier.  But more important than love was discipline.  If the child grew up with clear and consistent rules, regularly enforced, then the child was happier.  The combination was the best of all.  Children need love and disciple.  We learned about them both because we had the capacity for true love. 

True love gave us our humanity and our joy.

True love also gave us occasion to be very, very unhappy.  Some time things just don’t work out.  There are two horrors.  The first is that we may fall in love with the wrong person.  That ought to need no further comment.  The second is that the right person might not fall in love with us.  And that is a worse problem than you may believe.

There are very few appropriate mates in the world.

Think of the numbers.  The size of a social pool that can survive indefinitely may only be about 200.  Call it 180.  A human generation is probably about 30 years in the absence of the kind of rich diet, artificial light and intense entertainment moderns grow up with, even in poor places.  That means in a stable population only 6 people are born a year.  If you are one of those, then you have 5 possible mates, half of them your own sex.  That brings you down two 2 or 3 if you are lucky, one of which may be your twin or first or second cousin.  Even second cousins are not distributed randomly across the generation, but are going to be more likely to be born the same year as yourself.  And first and second cousins are too closely related to be good mates.  So there may be 2 to choose between or may not. 

That is at equilibrium with 2 children per couple.  If the population is growing, there may be more choices, but population growth is only possible for a brief period of time.  It just can’t go on. 

When the parent tells the misty eyed adolescent not to worry, that lost love is not the end, that there are many more out there, it just is not the case.  The teenager is right.  There is only one true love. 

At one time it was only by good fortune or the guidance of wise elders that a person would fall in love with an appropriate mate.  Now for rich societies it is nearly impossible.  And if by some miracle a person falls in love with one of the slim handful of authentically good potential mates, and if that love is not returned, then the future is very bleak indeed.

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