Love is such an overused word and underrated subject, and my thesis aims to explore love in a unique and thoughtful way that makes it have meaning again in a raw way. This thesis has been a very long time coming. Over three years ago I considered making an analysis on love and for my first writing week project, and I thought that’s what I would create. I was told that my writing week project cannot be 40 pages long, much to my dismay. Then two years ago, I started working on my thesis that I titled, let all that you do be done in love: an analysis of love. Finally, I could write about what I had planned so long ago with the personal message that it was better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. First I drew a chart on giant white cardboard, with sections. I remember bringing the chart in to my first reader and going over it with him. Over time many of the sections were written and when I got to the first semester of my senior year, I had huge plans for my thesis. While love itself was not taking off in my personal life, writing my thesis helped me to discover that it wasn’t about that, that wasn’t why I was writing this. It was so much bigger than that.
During the workshop in my IS5 class, I asked Adam about page length; specifically I asked if I could write a 100 pages and everyone in class had a horrified look I remember well. Adam did one of his classic facial expressions, and said no. There was a page limit. See, I had a tutorial with Stuart where I worked on the science section of my love thesis where I focused on pheromones and oxytocin and I learned so much! However, I kept getting more and more ideas, more thoughts of how my exploration of love and how I could direct it. After a while, JD had to have me focus it on what I already had planned: An analysis of the four loves by C.S. Lewis, a Science explaining love section, love changing over time, a personal story, and connecting my personal story to C.S. Lewis’ work by analyzing my failed love as a case study. That’s what I will be talking about today.
C.S. Lewis’ book was really my jumping off point for my thesis. By reading about affection, friendship, eros, and charity, it made my thinking for the rest of the thesis sharper. I was finally focusing on the sections and making everything flow. Writing about friendship and affection wasn’t hard for me. I wrote about both of those according to Lewis with my own critique. It was eros and charity that I took more time on. I wanted to find a way to talk about eros that was meaningful and also explained it the author’s way, but with my voice too. And after taking a break from the thesis, I was able to do that. Charity was a section that I had a hard time explaining so I met with my thesis advisor to discuss how I could better understand this section so I could continue.
Writing about pheromones and oxytocin was a part of my thesis that I found the easiest. I found that studying and reporting on facts was easier than analyzing an author’s philosophy and far easier than trying to decode my own thoughts and feelings. Not to say science is easy, because it’s not. And the science behind why we have certain powerful feelings that could be love was harder still to learn about. It was useful to add science to my thesis (It was not my initial plan to) in order to help not only my reader but myself understand love more with science behind it, rather than just observations and speculation. One of the things I learned is that while giving a massage both the giver and the receiver have oxytocin released inside their brain. I also learned that pheromones are odorless, but very present and can help explain why we are attracted to one person and literally repulsed by another.
Writing the introduction and conclusion to my thesis were probably the most challenging parts (in addition to a bunch of books for research that I read that I didn’t use). I really wanted to start off strong and I wanted the conclusion to capture how complicated love really is. So I went through four revisions of my intro, before I found one that I felt suited the thesis best. The conclusion I left for last. Somehow, after all the writing and furthermore all the thinking about love I did, I was able to write just one meaningful conclusion.
The Conclusion: Contemplating, what kind of love is out there for me?
Walking down the streets of Chicago I am overwhelmed with beautiful scenes and my mind wanders, as the mind of a passionate woman often does. I think about love often as I find it a deeply wonderful concept. I think about a long distance connection I have made and if it could ever turn into the kind of love I seek. Surprisingly, loss hasn’t turned me away from the notion of love. It has taught me that I am capable of loving deeply and has me excited for how elevated that feeling will get when the love is mutual. Considering the science of love I examined and combining it with C.S. Lewis, I have gained a great depth to my view on love, and know more about the science of pheromones and oxytocin and their role in fueling a love connection between two people. They are two complex scientific ideas that allowed me to consider more than philosophy and personal struggle. I now watch many romantic movies with this smile on my face and read these romantic books, enthralled by the deep love the characters share, while being critical of overdone love stories that don’t seem organic or genuine.
In my life I have my amazing parents as a living example I constantly am around of how much love perseveres and how pure and remarkable love can be. They always manage to think of the other and never bicker. The little moments are where I can witness their enduring love, an organic and simple love, or perhaps their years of experience is what makes their love look so effortless. Always, I see them share a cup of coffee and talk about their intense days of work and how stressed they are. Never really complaining, this ritual of having coffee is how they enjoy spending time together. This is where the distinction between the books I read and real life come into the light for me. Love and the relationships that come with it take a lot of work and commitment to keep that love flickering. It is not as simple and quick as a text of literature or film tries to prove to me. Movies often make love seem so easy, something I find irritating and I challenge now when watching movies. I actively call out how unbelievably perfect these movies are and prefer movies that involve some suffering or tragedy as those movies show a compassion developed that feels organic. Sometimes they demonstrate love as tragic and I find it very sad but more believable. Love isn’t easy to find or keep once one has the great fortune of locating it on this enormous Earth. The difficult fact to understand is we don’t choose who we love or who loves us back. We must hold on tight and fight for love sometimes. The walk I continue is disrupted by honking of car horns.
When I arrive at home, I think about and consider how I became so fascinated by love. I come to recognize that there is such beauty in love’s sacrifice. Actions speak louder than words and often people do things in real life that are a symbol of their love for one another. It can be something like shoveling the snow off your partner’s car before they go to work to make their life easier. You aren’t doing this to get anything in return. It is for them to have an easier day and to know you are thinking about them. The action propels forward the idea of not just helping someone out. Perhaps you did it absentmindedly. Thinking, oh I will clear their car also. Maybe it is as simple as putting a blanket on them as they have fallen asleep on the couch. Gestures are things they will appreciate and not forget. When you are both 90, they will remember all the little things you did to show how much you cared. In the end, it will be all the things you did, gestures big and small that make up your relationship, but that reminder that you care will endure. The idea of “we are in this together” will help in bad times. When things get tough, you remember all that you shared and lean on each other for support. That won’t be forgotten either. Love is the strongest force on Earth, beating even gravity. Love accomplishes things gravity never could. It breaks us, or causes us great joy. Sometimes, it is somewhere in between. We don’t always have control of the love as we saw with Tom, the married man having romantic feelings for another woman. All we can do is our very best if we desire love, to work honestly towards that goal. To not force things, but just let them happen. Because after all, love is that – love. To love at all is to be vulnerable (Lewis 121). It is that vulnerability that allows love in. If only we could all find a way to allow ourselves to break and burst open our walls. If only then, we could let love in.
A special thanks to JD, David Shiner and Stuart for all working on my thesis with me. A thanks to the Shimer community for pushing me and believing in me. And finally to Shimer community for showing me what it means to love something so much. And knowing how much you are going to miss it. While my thesis focuses on romantic love between two people, Shimer College and all the wonderful people that are a part of it taught me about a greater personal inner love for myself, the people around me, and for pursuing my passion. I hope to add a section on that kind of love to my thesis when I get around to publishing it.