Often when I leave comments on a blog posts that moved me, I write “I love this post” or “I love the way you do [this]” or “I love that quotation.” Lately I’ve been wondering if I’m overusing the word “love”.
Am I really feeling this strong emotional attachment, or am I just being lazy, unwilling to take the time to precisely articulate what strikes me about a particular piece?
After reading an article in The Atlantic on the science behind love, I’m inclined to believe that, more often than not, I use the word “love” because that’s what I’m actually feeling– a “micro-moment of positivity resonance.” That’s how Barbara Fredrickson defines love in her new book Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do.
In The Atlantic article “There’s No Such Thing as Everlasting Love (According to Science), author Emily Esfahani Smith writes:
Fredrickson, a leading researcher of positive emotions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, presents scientific evidence to argue that love is not what we think it is. It is not a long-lasting, continually present emotion that sustains a marriage; it is not the yearning and passion that characterizes young love; and it is not the blood-tie of kinship.
Rather, it is what she calls a “micro-moment of positivity resonance.” She means that love is a connection, characterized by a flood of positive emotions, which you share with another person—any other person—whom you happen to connect with in the course of your day. You can experience these micro-moments with your romantic partner, child, or close friend. But you can also fall in love, however momentarily, with less likely candidates, like a stranger on the street, a colleague at work, or an attendant at a grocery store. Louis Armstrong put it best in “It’s a Wonderful World” when he sang, “I see friends shaking hands, sayin ‘how do you do?’ / They’re really sayin’, ‘I love you.”
So when I say I “love” Louis Armstrong’s song, now I know why—because I feel such a strong positive connection to what he’s saying, as well as with how he says it, and the music he says it with, that I experience a triple love-whammy!
What I feel when reading things by fellow bloggers, or see the images they’ve created, is similar—a deeply-felt resonating connection, often on several levels.
In “Tao and Creativity” Chang Chung-yuan describes this connection between poet and reader as a “spiritual rhythm.” It is the means by which the reader participates in the inner experience of the poet. He writes:
In other words, the reader is carried into the rhythmic flux and is brought to the depth of original indeterminacy from which the poetic pattern emerges. The reader is directly confronted with the objective reality which the poet originally faced. The subjectivity of the reader and the objective reality of the poem interfuse . . . .
This is very interesting because Fredrickson discovers a similar phenomenon when she compares the brainwaves of a storyteller and listeners. Smith describes this in her article:
What they found was remarkable. In some cases, the brain patterns of the listener mirrored those of the storyteller after a short time gap. The listener needed time to process the story after all. In other cases, the brain activity was almost perfectly synchronized; there was no time lag at all between the speaker and the listener. But in some rare cases, if the listener was particularly tuned in to the story—if he was hanging on to every word of the story and really got it—his brain activity actually anticipated the story-teller’s in some cortical areas.
“The mutual understanding and shared emotions, especially in that third category of listener, generated a micro-moment of love, which ‘is a single act, performed by two brains,’” as Fredrickson writes in her book.
Fredrickson also discovered that the capacity to experience these daily love connections in our lives can be increased through simple loving-kindness meditations, where, as Smith describes, “you sit in silence for a period of time and cultivate feelings of tenderness, warmth, and compassion for another person by repeating a series of phrases to yourself wishing them love, peace, strength, and general well-being.”
“Fredrickson likes to call love a nutrient,” Smith writes. “If you are getting enough of the nutrient, then the health benefits of love can dramatically alter your biochemistry in ways that perpetuate more micro-moments of love in your life, and which ultimately contribute to your health, well-being, and longevity.”
So remember, fellow readers, as you go meandering from one blog site to another like busy little bees, making those “micro-moment” connections with people whose work you admire, that you are engaged in a kind of virtual love-making. You are distributing a pollen-like “nutrient” that nurtures others, as well as yourself.
As Louis says, “what a wonderful world” we live in!
This essay was first posted in a slightly altered version in 2013.