The world is a scary place today.
It’s always been a scary place, but we are more aware of the dangers than ever before. Several centuries ago, humans had to contend with disease and death and dangers, but those things seemed confined to a small area. They didn’t know what was going on elsewhere. Their village was their world.
Today, we worry about some madman blowing the world up with nuclear weapons. We worry about men with bombs who have no personal argument with us showing up in our cities and blowing us up. We worry about the erosion of culture and values and all sorts of things which people of the past didn’t even understand.
But despite all those things, we still fall in love. We still get married. We still raise children. Every single one of these things is a bet we place on a better future — not on the fear and despair which are so often on the lips of naysayers.
Every new marriage is a triumph of hope and faith about the future.
As I drove home from work this evening, I was next to a car on I-459 in Birmingham which had “just married” crudely scrawled on the side. Everything about it was a cliche. You’ve seen it a thousand times. But something about it made me feel warm hope inside — just as it always does.
The couple in the car looked happy. They appeared to be in their 30s. They didn’t seem to have a care in the world.
I know that will change, because troubles are common to all of us. They might end up unhappy. They might eventually divorce. They might have financial problems and fight. He might cheat on her. She might cheat on him. They might have a child die. They might deal with bankruptcy or death or war or natural disaster.
There are a million things that might go wrong in the future for them. But right now, they’re happy. They’ve each placed a bet on the other for the future. They’ve each said, “I choose to build my life around you.”
A completely rational person wouldn’t do any of these things. He wouldn’t marry unless it was for an alliance with someone with more resources. He wouldn’t have children. He wouldn’t do anything but provide for his own pleasures and build nothing for the future.
Instead, we’re wired to fall in love.
Love drives us to do all these things. Love drives us to trust another human and to place a bet on that person. And when that bet fails — as it often does — love causes us to place a bet on someone else — even when experience says, “You’re a sucker if you think it will be different.” Love causes us to have children and to nurture them. Love makes us work hard for their welfare and try to make the world better for them.
Yes, the world is scary. Terrible things might happen. Politicians will disappoint us. Evil and selfish people will hurt us. Even the people we trust will sometimes betray us.
But we’re wired for love. We keep coming back to love. We need love and understanding and intimacy. Despite a world that might otherwise make us decide to lock our doors and ignore everybody, love drives us forward to something better.
Love changes the world by making us act in irrational ways.
I don’t know the newly married couple I saw on the road this evening. I’ll never see them again. But in a way, they represent the best of all of us. They represent our willingness to suspend our fears and doubts and even nihilism. They represent our need for connection and emotional intimacy.
They represent the best in all of us, because they remind us that love changes everything — at least long enough for us to place bets on making the world a better place for our children.