Coded gray.

Saturday 15 July 2000

Flowering bush

Pic of the day: It's all sweetness and light. Or was that flowers and bees?

Meditation over infatuation

As I walked to the grocery store, gently daydreaming, I thought about why people fall in love.

Can all things be explained logically? I think yes, but only if you have godlike knowledge. Need all things be explained logically? Far from it. Still, it is fun to try. That's why any self-respecting popular science magazine has puzzle pages. And so, of course, has life. Even the Bible wouldn't be complete without a few unsolved puzzles: "There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden." (Proverbs 30,18-19.)

Science has made quite a bit of progress since King Solomon gathered his wise friends, but the four "amazing things" still need to be navigated anew each time. Perhaps chaos theory will help, eventually ...


Anyway, falling in love. Is it just a cultural thing, or is it an instinct we are born with? Or is it an instinct that is shaped by our culture? Not all people eat the same food, after all, or eat it the same way. Not all people wear the same clothes, if at all. One country's poetry is another country's guttural babble; one people's music is another people's wailing.

Scientists have verified that falling in love leads to quite real changes in the brain and body chemistry. Neurotransmitters and hormones jump up and down. Then again, meditation also leads to quite real changes in brain and body. Sadly, the two seem quite incompatible. Too bad, since they both reduce the need for sleep and generally make people feel better. Perhaps they will eventually both come in pill form. One red pill, and one blue.


Anyway, here is my current theory. I think infatuation is essential to the growth of a humanity with higher intellectual functions. By this I mean logic, critical thought, compounded self awareness, a stable self image, personal responsibility. Without these higher functions, civilization would not have been possible. And yet, falling in love disrupts them.

There is the pious virgin, she has no time for idle things; her life is filled with prayer and virtuous deeds, and her mind's eye is on the Kingdom of Heaven, to which all things on Earth are as rubbish. Then she falls in love, and a few days later ... ok, weeks then ... she is happily pregnant. And life goes on, on Earth not quite as in Heaven.

There is the career man, devoted to his work. The one you can always trust on to shoulder the load on evenings and weekends. He takes his work home with him, and on his vacation he catches up on the literature of his profession. Then he falls in love, and all other things become unimportant. Values are turned around and plans changed. And life goes on, even if work does not.

There is the shy one, the wallflower, always in the corner, looking at life through an invisible wall of glass. The one that cannot touch or be touched, the one who is always alone even in the crowd. And then love comes and breaks the glass, melts the ice, and opens the shell, until the very minds and bodies seem to merge into one.

"Suddenly love comes in and finds me on open ground
nowhere to hiden, nowhere to run
there's no turning back
and a journey has just begun."

Chris de Burgh, Suddenly love, from "Flying Colors".


Of course, I would not really know anything more than I have seen and heard. I guess falling in love is a way to switch off the rigidity, the critical thinking, the responsible self. It may be needed to make sure that even smart people actually breed sooner or later, or our civilization would slide back down into barbary. Perhaps this is the key to its success.

But I suspect that many people also need it to change for their own sake, not just for the possible children. Like the lobster that has to discard its shell and be vulnerable for a few days to grow. Well, that's my take on it today. Of course, what do I know? I have no part in it. I'd take meditation over infatuation any day.

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