A General Theory of Love

A General Theory of Love

Symmetrical facial features, lustrous hair, and abs you can bounce a quarter on notwithstanding, there’s more to amour than sexual attraction. At least that’s the supposition put forth in A General Theory of Love. Written by the psychiatrists Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon, this is a purely biological examination of love. But rather than regurgitating the now-overdone studies of waist-to-hip ratios and promiscuous peacocks, the good doctors explain not the outward indicators of physical attraction but the less-explored ”biological” development of emotional bonds.

The heart of their theory is this: People are not closed, self-contained creatures that interact with other similarly isolated beings; instead their bodily functions are interconnected and physically altered by their relationships with others. That is why, they contend, if one half of a couple leaves on a trip, the partner left behind may suffer a cold that would have been staved off had the pair (and their immune systems) been together. As the authors point out: ”Who we are and who we become depends, in part, on whom we love.”

In elegant prose that keeps the dry scientific jargon to a blessed minimum, they argue why certain widely held societal beliefs (career success equals happiness; being ”in love” means the ”sparks” never disappear) clash with biological reality — and why we need a culture attuned to the ways of the heart.