Map: All the Love in the World

It goes without saying that love is complicated no matter you go. But the degree to which it is difficult to find or feel love varies from country to country, as the following map from The Atlantic shows:

The map represents one of the most comprehensive assessments on love ever compiled thus far. Here’s more on it:

In 2006 and 2007, Gallup asked people in 136 countries whether they had experienced love the previous day. The researchers found that on a typical day, roughly 70 percent of the world’s population reports feeling love. The world leader in love turned out to be the Philippines, where more than 90 percent said they had experienced love, and the world’s laggard Armenia, where only 29 percent of respondents did. In the United States, 81 percent replied in the affirmative. 

Love appears to be flourishing in the Americas, achieving mixed results in Africa, and languishing in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. But [economist Justin] Wolfers cautions against reading too much into the data. “[D]ifferences between countries may be due to how cultures define ‘love’ and not in actual day-to-day experiences,” he writes. “For example, in some countries, the idea of ‘love’ is restricted to a romantic partner, while in others it extends to one’s family members and friends.”

Yes, so let’s not jump the gun and assume that the former Soviet Union and parts of Africa are dour and curmudgeon places: they might just have a more narrow or specific understanding of love (indeed, this is the issue with any global index that tries to measure complex attitudes and concepts across a range of different linguistic and cultural groups). 

Here are some other interesting conclusion pulled from this study:

Wolfers and his wife, the economist Betsey Stevenson, crunched the global data and arrived at some fascinating conclusions, including that feeling loved peaks when people are in their mid-30s or mid-40s, and that unmarried couples who live together report getting more love than married spouses. But perhaps their most interesting findings involved the complex relationship between money and love:

“What’s perhaps more striking is how little money matters on a global level. True, the populations of richer countries are, on average, slightly more likely to feel loved than those of poorer countries. But love is still abundant in the poorer countries: People in Rwanda and the Philippines enjoyed the highest love ratios, with more than nine in ten people providing positive responses. Armenia, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, with economic output per person in the middle of the range, all had love ratios of less than four in ten.

Pretty interesting stuff. What do you think?

Love and Relationships in the 21st Century

In her fascinating Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage, [Stephanie Coontz] surveys 5,000 years of human habits, from our days as hunters and gatherers up until the present, showing our social arrangements to be more complex and varied than could ever seem possible. She’d long known that the Leave It to Beaver–style family model popular in the 1950s and ’60s had been a flash in the pan, and like a lot of historians, she couldn’t understand how people had become so attached to an idea that had developed so late and been so short-lived.

For thousands of years, marriage had been a primarily economic and political contract between two people, negotiated and policed by their families, church, and community. It took more than one person to make a farm or business thrive, and so a potential mate’s skills, resources, thrift, and industriousness were valued as highly as personality and attractiveness. This held true for all classes. In the American colonies, wealthy merchants entrusted business matters to their landlocked wives while off at sea, just as sailors, vulnerable to the unpredictability of seasonal employment, relied on their wives’ steady income as domestics in elite households. Two-income families were the norm.

Not until the 18th century did labor begin to be divided along a sharp line: wage-earning for the men and unpaid maintenance of household and children for the women. Coontz notes that as recently as the late 17th century, women’s contributions to the family economy were openly recognized, and advice books urged husbands and wives to share domestic tasks. But as labor became separated, so did our spheres of experience—the marketplace versus the home—one founded on reason and action, the other on compassion and comfort. Not until the post-war gains of the 1950s, however, were a majority of American families able to actually afford living off a single breadwinner.

– An excerpt from “All the Single Ladies” by Kate Bolick. It’s a long but interesting read.

Hat tip to my friend Colette for sharing this with me.

Labor of Love

The following photo, Dr. Zbigniew Religa, a Polish cardiac surgeon who was one of the best in the field, monitors his patient after a successful 23-hour successful lung and heart transplant (his assistant is sleeping in the corner). The photo was among National Geographic’s 100 Best Pictures.

The procedure took place in 1987 Communist Poland, with the technology of the time requiring constant monitoring — which Religa was willing to do even after nearly 24 hours of difficult surgery. The following is an interview with the photographer, James L. Stanfield:

He’d captured the anxious eyes of Dr. Zbigniew Religa tracking the vital signs of a heart-transplant patient. “I never let him out of my sight, never turned my back on him,” he says. “This was the payoff.”

It was 1987, in an outmoded operating room in post-Soviet Poland. Stanfield was looking for an image that would portray the critical state of the country’s free health-care system—and that’s exactly what he got.

His lens not only focuses on a dedicated surgeon’s eyes, but also on a patient hooked up to technologically outdated equipment. Stanfield also includes a weary staff member (far right) sleeping after assisting Religa with two transplants during an all-night session. “Each of these elements,” says Stanfield, “gives dimension and drama to the photograph, while helping tell a story.

Here is a touching photo of the patient:

 

Dr. Religa passed away in 2009, two years after serving as the Minister of Health of Poland.

Love and Vulnerability

The following comic is from a website called Zen Pencils, the brainchild of Australian cartoonist Gavin Aung Than, who creates illustrated adaptations of inspirational quotes by famous luminaries. I highly recommend paying the site a visit, as it offers a nice dose of wisdom in a palatable format.

In any case, I’ll likely be sharing more of these in the future. The following is one of my favorites.

Love and Vulnerability

If you put up walls to keep the bad out, you might prevent the good from coming in. To love someone is make yourself vulnerable, which is why love is so valuable in the first place.If you put up walls to keep the bad out, you might prevent the good from coming in. To love someone is make yourself vulnerable, which is why love is so valuable in the first place.

Unquenchable Love

Isidor and Ida Straus were a Jewish German-American couple who died together during the sinking of the Titanic. They were last seen seen standing near a lifeboat in the company of their maid. Despite being allowed to board the lifeboat, Isidor Straus refused to go as long as there were women and children still needing to escape.

However, he nonetheless urged his wife to board, though she refused, responding that “We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go.” Her words were heard by several eyewitness. The couple were last seen standing arm in arm on the deck; they had been married 41 years and were survived by six children.

News of the their sacrifice and loyalty spread shortly after the disaster, including in Yiddish and German newspapers. There was even a popular song featuring the story of called “The Titanic’s Disaster”, which became popular among Jewish-Americans.

Although Isidor’s body was recovered, Ida’s body was not. A memorial dedicated to the couple can be found in their family mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. Its inscription, quoted from the Bible, reads: “Many waters cannot quench love — neither can the floods drown it.”

Those who have seen James Cameron’s Titanic, might recall the following scene, which is allegedly based on the couple:

How Does a Polyamorous Relationship Work?

Polyamory, a term which entered the Oxford English Dictionary seven years ago describes the practice of having simultaneous intimate relationships with more than one person at a time, notably with the knowledge and consent of all partners. Unlike “swinging,” the intimacy isn’t merely temporary or recreational, but a full-blown romantic and sexual relationship. (Polygamy, which is much better known, is a kind of polyamorous relationships involving more than one spouse.)

Needless to say, while the practice has become comparatively more common — an estimated 500,000 such relationships are said to exist in the US alone — it can be very difficult wrap one’s head around it. After all,  isn’t sexual and relational exclusivity the cornerstone for deep, committed, long-term and truly loving relationships? How does one get around the jealousy and possessiveness  that seem intrinsic to intimate relationships?

Well, aside from trying to do more research yourselves — including seeking out polyamorous people  to engage with — the BBC offers a very good inside look at a polyamorous relationship involving four people. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to comment on it or explore the topic further, but it did certainly raise a lot of interesting reflection on the nation of human relationships, love, sex, boundaries, and the like. It’s important to note that just as with “conventional” romantic pairings, no two polyamorous relationships are alike.

It’s even more vital not to generalize or caricature what most of us immediately assume to be a degenerate or “lesser” kind of love. As with everything — especially interpersonal relationships — it’s a lot more complicated.

Please share your own thoughts, comments, or experiences. I’m hardly an expert on the subject and have only recently begun to explore it academically-speaking.

Human Nature and Apathy

Many people, myself included, lament the fact that our species is so apathetic to the widespread suffering that is plentifully around us. However tragic, such indifference is both natural and expected. Our minds were not evolved for absorbing the sheer amount of stimulus that exists in the world.

Only very recently have most humans become regularly exposed to the overwhelming amount of people, events, and information that exists and multiplies all around us. There is a limit to how much we can think about or emotionally react to, and that’s why our immediate suffering — our trivial “first world problems” — is felt far more strongly that the more horrible but distant misery that exists out there. Telling someone that others have it worse is admirable but futile because our brains feel the personal circumstances more substantively and intimately than abstract ones.

It’s for this reason that society will obsess more about individual negative events highlighted in news versus the bigger but nameless and faceless statistics of human poverty. In fact, this is the same reason you’re more likely to donate to an individual suffering person than to broader charitable in general — look up Paul Slovik’s “psychic numbing” phenomenon. In some sense, this may even be a merciful defense mechanism — imagine if all the tremendous suffering in the world was equally impactful. We’d likely succumb to severe depression and misanthropy, or become very withdrawn.

Of course, I’m not saying this excuses callousness or apathy. We can still love and care for one another beyond our closest loved ones. We don’t need to be deeply affected by all the human suffering in the world in order to be troubled by it and seek to alleviate it. Empathy and social responsibility are intrinsic to our species. We must simply adapt to the existence of this new global community and expand our circle of compassion and consideration to be far wider. It’s difficult but not impossible, in my opinion.

What are your thoughts?

Video

Homeless Man Donates Handouts to Fellow Homeless

This exemplary human being has given away over $9,000 he’s collected through panhandling to a fellow homeless mother and child. When many better off people can’t be bothered with giving the less fortunate the time of day, a man who is scarcely getting by still find the means and the love to give to others. This is a very inspiring story. I especially like the news anchors statement towards the end.

Hat tip to my friend Ray for sharing this with me.

Reaffirming My Faith in Humanity

There was food left over from a luncheon at my job. I decided to take about a dozen bagels to give to some homeless people I often see while walking back to the metro. I came across a woman who was clearly malnourished. I offered to give her the whole supply, but she politely (and strangely) refused, and only with my insistence did she bother to take at least one. She did not want any more than that.

When I asked her why, she replied that there are other homeless folks that could you that food. That sort of altruism even in the face of desperation is Earth shattering. Would I have done the same in her position?

Love and Hate, By Ogden Nash

Love is a word
That is constantly heard.
Hate is a word
That is not.
Love, I am told
Is more precious than gold.
Love, I have heard
Is hot.
But hate is the verb
That to me is superb.
And love, just a drug
On the mart.
For any kiddie from school
Can love like a fool.
But hating, my boy
Is an art .

-Ogden Nash, “Love and Hate”