Romantic love has been one the minds of poets, novelists, artists, scientists and psychologists for as long as such disciplines have existed.
Many have been able to put into words, images or scientific journals just how intoxicating romantic union feels, what happens to us when we fall headlong into love, and how our hearts break and our souls crush when such love fails us. But none have been able to categorically answer the question: exactly why do we love?
That hasn’t stopped them trying though. And in this short animation by renowned illustrator Avi Ofer, the history of such thinking is explored in fascinating, sometimes depressing, but ultimately beautiful and thought-provoking detail.
“Does love make our lives meaningful? Or is it a trick of biology to make us procreate?” asks the narrator of the film (watch below).
Ideas explored include those of early philosopher Plato, who believed that love makes us whole again; German man of letters Arthur Schopenhauer, who dismissed love as nothing but nature’s way of tricking us into procreating; Gautama Buddha, the founding father of Buddhism, who saw the pursuit of love as a human need to satisfy base desires which leads only to suffering; and ultimately to the far more optimistic French author Simone de Beauvoir. “Love lets us reach beyond ourselves,” she believed. “[Love is] the desire to integrate with another [in a way] which infuses our lives with meaning.”
Rather than ask why we require this meaning in our lives, Beauvoir turned the question on its head, asking: “How can we love better? The problem with traditional romantic love is that we make it our whole reason for living [which can lead to] boredom and power games.”
But when we love authentically as one would in a great friendship, she believed that such a romance can enable the kind of mutual support and understanding that truly enriches lives.
That’s our kind of romantic love.