A Book About Love by Jonah Lehrer

English psychiatrist Colin Murray Parkes noted that grief is the price we pay for love. (Colin Murray Parkes – Oxford Reference). Most would agree it’s a price worth paying. It must be a sad human indeed who has never known love. Without some such redeeming experience the world can look pretty bleak, like the ‘sterile promontory’ expressed in Hamlet Act II, Scene 2:

“I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition; that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o’er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire: why, it appeareth no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust?”

Jonah Lehrer’s main argument is that love hold us together, when everything else falls apart. The kind of love he praises is not the ‘fickle desire’ of Romeo and Juliet but the steady bond that endures over time. ‘Love is the ultimate source of lasting pleasure’ he writes. It also takes determination and hard work.

The author looks into research about love. George Vaillant, for example, interviewed subjects of the Harvard Study of Adult Development (Harvard Second Generation Study (adultdevelopmentstudy.org)), a decades long examination of men who attended Harvard. It sought to establish what might lead to happiness and fulfilment in life.

Lehrer also covers the experiments of early 20th-century psychologists John Watson and John Bowlby. He scans the novels of Jane Austen for their insights. In general, the author comes to the conclusion that the ability to love is based on attachments formed with parents in infancy and early childhood. Love for one’s parents, one’s spouse, one’s children, and God are each examined in turn.

To pursue an interest in the science of love, turn to ‘An Anatomy of Love’ (WW Norton & Co; revised and updated edition, 5 Feb. 2016) by Helen Fisher (Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray: Amazon.co.uk: Helen E. Fisher: 9780393285222: Books)

Follow up with ‘The Science of Love’ (John Wiley & Sons, 1 Nov. 2012) by Robin Dunbar (The Science of Love by Dunbar, Robin (amazon.co.uk))

Those interested in the sort of love with procreative potential should reach for Geoffrey Miller’s book ‘The Mating Mind’ (1 May 2000) (The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice… by Miller, Geoffrey (amazon.co.uk))

Check if these non fiction works for the general reader are in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at Home | South Lanarkshire Libraries (sllclibrary.co.uk)

304 pages in Simon & Schuster

First published 2016

ISBN  978-1476761398

Jonah Lehrer

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