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Love is as eternal as spring — whether we like it or not


Dr. Doug Aoki believes love truly is as perennial as the grass, and we don’t really have a choice in the matter.

"Love will grab a hold of you one way or the other, whether it’s romantic love, brotherly love, self love, love for a pet, whatever. Good or bad, we can’t get out of it," says Aoki, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta.

Aoki has just published the third in a series of articles called True Love Stories in the journal Cultural Studies/Critical Methodologies. He develops his theories based on references to love he finds in literature, philosophy, popular culture, and even everyday conversations. He is writing a book on love that he plans to publish next year.

We are compelled to love, he says, because it is the simultaneous admission and defiance of futility.

"There is a classic comedy set up in which a wife asks a husband a question and the husband knows the wife is expecting a certain answer, so he searches his brain to come up with the answer he knows she wants to hear. But underlying this is the fact that he usually doesn’t even think of saying what he really thinks is true because that might hurt her--it’s hilarious and tragic at the same time."

"Love brings out these tremendous contradictions. At one point in our lives we want one thing, and then at another point we want another thing--and often we want more than one thing at the same time. Does this make us hypocrites or evil that we can’t reveal all our true thoughts? No, it just shows that there are many impediments to love, but we willingly take them on, again and again, and maybe we’re driven because love is the mountain that we can never quite seem to stay on top of."

"But when we look for the secret of success in an old couple we’ll often say something like, ’Well, they succeed because they are each other’s best friend.’ And then the conversation will turn off to something else as though this thought is sufficient to itself," he says.

"But when we analyze this further, we also know that when one person in a relationship says, ’Well, let’s just be friends,’ we all know this is the death blow of the relationship couched in gentle terms. So which is it? Is it good to be best friends in a relationship? Or is your best friend the one you go to when you need to talk about elements of your relationship that you can’t say to your lover?"

"People are always looking for some secret way to find and sustain love, and some people even claim to know exactly what it is. We’ll listen to Dr. Phil, for example, or other ’authorities’ who give us advice about love--we’ll even take Forrest Gump on his word when he says, ’I may not be smart, but I know what love is,’ as if just being human is enough to qualify one to understand love. But then again, even the smartest of us will admit they have no idea what it is or how it works... People call me a ’love expert’ because I study it all the time, and I have to laugh and say, ’No, I’m not!’

"When I was young, the world I moved in didn’t make sense to me at all. In particular, I didn’t understand the way people thought, acted, and talked about love; so I figured, if I can’t get a date, I might as well publish about it," added Aoki, who has been happily married for the last nine years.

Dr. Aoki can be reached most easily by e-mail at or you could try him at 780-492-0478.

Ryan Smith | EurekAlert!
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