Love is for dopes

One of the great questions of mankind through the centuries has been, “How can I get my mind to shut up?” Another good one is, “How can I feed myself without having to get a job?” And another that echoes incessantly through our collective head is “Where does love go?”

When we humanoids wail and moan and beat our heads on the nearest cinder block about love, we’re almost always referring to Romantic Love. In the February issue of National Geographic, some interesting light gets shed on what could be definitive and chemically based answers.

First question: Is love a kind of madness? Anybody who’s been to “Loveland” knows that answer—a three letter word, beginning with D, ending in H, with about seven exclamation points. You want clinical proof from people in white coats? In a study by the University of Pisa in Italy, researchers found that people in love and people with obsessive-compulsive disorders had similar profiles involving serotonin. Both the lovers and these mentally ill types had levels of this important neurotransmitter 40 percent lower than folks who were not in love or mentally disturbed. Translation—those in the throes of love could well be, in their own starry-eyed way, sort of, you know, not quite right.

As for the delicious intoxication of Love, that much sought-after blast of euphoria that positively giddifies new lovers, it’s no surprise researchers have now found the endogenous chemical responsible. It’s been discovered that couples in the light-headed, flame-hearted and lambada-loined first stages of love are able to effortlessly lighten up a part of the brain known as the caudate nucleus, which results in lovers getting loaded to the gills with dopamine, another powerful neurotransmitter capable of providing “intense energy, exhilaration and motivation to win rewards.” So now we know—90 percent of all songs on the radio are written by dopamine-sotted love cadets, who are (1) desperate to get together with Babykins tonight to whip up a fresh supply of “D” (2) desperate to have Babykins stay with him/her so they can enjoy the glories of mutual dopamine forever and ever, or (3) desperate to shame, maim or kill the fiend who wants to steal Babykins, thereby robbing our hero of his now precious dopamine trigger.

But, sooner or later, this wondrous dopamine-drenched state fades away. Which leads back to the opening question: Why does this mighty love ever have to end? Why can’t I eternally be driven utterly swoonville by the mere thought of Babykins squeezing my lemon until the juice runs down my leg? It appears I have inadequate space for the answer. That’s next week. In the meantime, if you’re in the middle of an affair that’s currently gushing with hot, juicy neurotransmitters, enjoy it. Savor it. Relish it. Chances are good that it ain’t gonna last until “the mountains tumble into the sea.”