I’m still generally staying as far away from politics as possible, because basically I think that civilization is over and I wish it would just hurry up and collapse already, and you don’t want to hear me whine about that. However I have been doing something really fun, which is writing fiction! This involves some historical research, and sometimes I come across something really cool while browsing through a book.
Today’s cool find is a paragraph on love from The Companion to Medieval Society by Franco Cardini, translated by Corrado Federici. I was innocently reading along hoping to find information about foods eaten at the time, and I came across this startling declaration:
“Love was invented in the twelfth century, according to Denis de Rougemont, a scholar who devoted a great deal of research to the subject.” (p177)
Holy-fucken-moly! What a claim to make! Love was invented in the twelfth century!
The paragraph goes on to describe a relationship between a philosophy teacher and one of his students, who were married in 1120, and who were then separated, and who wrote each other passionate letters during their separation.
“Abelard is undoubtedly one of the fundamental figures not only of the twelfth century but of western culture as a whole. His love for Héloïse was not merely a historical event; we can say that the two “invented” love as it would come to be understood in modern times—as passion and complete devotion on the part of two human beings for each other.” (p179)
Wow! Imagine being the couple who invented love!
Now, I’m not a historian, and I’ve never researched the history or philosophy of love, so the information you see here is the sum total of everything I know about the subject. But this raises some fascinating questions, such as:
- Is love a social construct, and can we actually pinpoint when it was constructed?
- If love is a social construct, have different cultures and time periods constructed it to suit their purposes? (Probably yes).
- Does the concept of love taught by our culture influence the way we behave and interpret our feelings? (Maybe).
- Were primitive humans unable to feel love as we understand it today, and if not, was there a point in human evolution where love became possible?
- If we did evolve a capacity to feel love, and if capitalism doesn’t kill us all in the near future, will we eventually evolve to a point where we are capable of some even greater thing than love? What will it be like?
- Are homophobic people working from some Medieval idea of relationships, where passionate love is either nonexistent or morally wrong, and unions between men and women should be only for practical purposes? (I think the answer here is yes. Some of them actually state this out loud, don’t they? Honestly, homophobic people are several hundred years behind in human development.)
This is such a beautiful topic for a writer to come across. Imagine writing from a prompt such as “Write the story of the couple who invented love” or “Write a futuristic piece imagining what the next evolutionary stage of love will be?” How enchanting!
I shall not be writing on these topics, because there are only so many hours in a day, but dear readers, if you have any answers, please share!