Coded gray.

Sunday 14 October 2001


Pic of the day: The face only a god can love. :)

Loves and attentions

Despite some slightly fragmented entries, such as yesterday, I actually have some pretty coherent theories. Or world views. For instance, I am convinced that there is a strong connection between love and attention, and I am convinced that divine love and human love can substitute for one another, at least within certain bounds. Does that sound at all interesting? I know I have written about all this before, but I try to find new angles. New simplicity.


"Does a mother forget her suckling child?" asks the prophet Jesaja. It is of course a rhetorical question. A mother does not forget her baby. At least not any vaguely sane mother. A mother may love her child more, or she may love it less; but there are few who without the aid of strong drugs would be able to forget their baby for a long time. On the contrary, parents can often be found gazing at their babies who do typical baby things, like waving their arms and legs and making baby sounds. Completely unproductive things that require no adult supervision. In fact, you wouldn't be able to give any meaningful feedback on that if you wanted to. Still, you'll find parents staring at the little larva like it was prime time entertainment.

It happens again when people fall in love. Suddenly they start babying each other, and can be found gazing at the other for a long time. There was a small article in Psychology Today recently, where they had scanned the brains of people who claimed to be madly in love. When they looked at pictures of friends, their brains seemed to work normally. But when they gazed at pictures of their beloved, the brains suddenly lit up in places where they shouldn't, such as the pleasure centers. The brain was rewarding itself for looking at even a photo of the love object! One can just imagine how they feel when they sit there staring into each other's eyes.

That is, I can just imagine. Most of you can probably remember.


The New Age writer James Redfield talks about energy, though this is obviously a metaphor. By getting attention, we get energy from other people. This is the reason why so many (most) people spend so much time in elaborate attempts to get attention. And not just attention, though that is most of it. They also try to get others around to see things the way they do, even in cases where it has no practical value. I mean, if you don't know that azure is the single most beautiful color, that's your loss. I live happily on without convincing you. But some people need complete "rapport", to use a fancy word for it. They seem to need the minds synchronized.

This is what happens to people in love, is it not? They selectively present the compatible sides of each other, and merge their minds in these areas. At the same time, they suppress dissent. As my best friend commented after a short bout of love for some guy: It feels good to be able to verbally bash him again. You can't do that while you're in love. I bet that chafes. Heh.

But Redfield also says that the same energy can be drawn from nature in certain places, and from holy places, and from within yourself after you have had a spiritual breakthrough. He sure got that right, even though he carefully avoids demanding that you must be "born again" and "baptized in the Spirit".

Is it really some Higher Being that keeps an eye on us, the way it definitely feels like? Or is it just a part of ourselves? Or is there no difference, because we are part of the Higher Being, the way these New Age people believe? Whatever the reason, it seems that some lucky people are almost continually the focus of friendly attention, and the positive feelings that come from this.


This would go far to explain the similarity between hymns and love songs. For years and years, when I listen to love songs, I hear them as hymns. (On a larger scale, this fate seems to have befallen one book in the Bible, the Song of Solomon. Christians cheerfully ignore the aboundant hips and breasts in that little book, and think happy spiritual thoughts instead. Fine by me.)

So my theory is that divine love can substitute for human love, or quite possibly it is human love that substitutes for divine love. None of them substitute for sex. Masturbation substitutes for sex; or if you don't even do that, wet dreams. Wet dreams don't substitute for love, that's for sure. Masturbation neither, unless I am highly mistaken. But these things are not completely parallel.

There is a continuum. In the middle there is "in-love" love, where human attention love mixes with sex (which itself is very attention intensive - try making comments about how the ceiling needs painting next time you make love, and see what happens). To the left, sex is removed from its human love component and becomes prostitution, porn, masturbation and impersonal lust. To the right, erotic love goes over to a diversity of other loves: Platonic love, parental love, and divine love. If all is well, these do not cross over to the other side, or even go all the way to the middle.

(Actually, a number of people enjoy having sex with their friends; more so than with complete stranger. But at least nobody lusts for their deity. Or if they do, I hope I'll never know.)

I want to thank the following for contributing to the article:
My online acquaintance Noire, for posting her picture and thus reminding me of why people fall in love. R.E.M. for making the song Losing my religion, reminding me of the connection between love and religion. My parents, for showing me how close human love can come to the divine. My Lord, for loving me despite knowing all the bad things I would do. My best friends, for letting me experiment with platonic love. James Redfield, for translating obvious truths into scientific jargon. And screaming babies on the bus for reminding me that loving babies is a very subjective thing ... :)

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