Sunday, April 17, 2011

Science, love and wonder

I'm one to ask "big questions" like, what is Love, for example. I have put quite a deal of thought into it, as it has run through my life like a bull in china shop. The path of destruction some of my partners have left still aren't cleaned up completely.  I thoroughly enjoy deep contemplation, and discussion about such things too.  It's one of the passions in my life.  When my marriage disintegrated and my family became fragmented, I found myself needing to understand why people behave the way they do, and I went looking for some answers.  I have come to understand that we're merely the most social and talkative of the social primates, and I'm becoming something of an amateur primatologist.In my discussions with people about "being human" I often hear people who feel that understanding love as a biochemical process robs it of it's wonder. I don't feel that it does at all.  I have felt love, in small doses since I came to this understanding, and to be honest, I have appreciated it more now that I understand better, what's happening.  It's a difficult thing to explain though.  The "feelings" are the same, whether you think they're some mystical energy that moves through you, or whether you think they are caused by hormones and neurotransmitters.

Take sunrises for example. My natural god-given eyesight isn't all that great at a distance. But through the wonders of science, I can get glasses. I can see the sunrise much clearer, and in far greater detail, thanks to science.

Do the glasses make my experience of the sunrise a lesser experience or greater?

If I were to reason that understanding the science of love ruins the experience of love, and then extrapolate that back to the sunrise, the sunrise would look less magnificent to me, than it does to someone who doesn't need glasses, who is ignorant of the properties of the electromagnetic spectrum, who has no comprehension of the atmospheric affects on light which cause the color shifts of our star's light, when it is low on the horizon. Also, modern man, with his understanding of the Sun, as a star, about which the Earth orbits, and spins on it's axis, would have a reduced experience of the sunrise, than an ancient man, ignorant of the science of a sunrise, who thought it was a god, in a chariot.

A "bio-mechanical" understanding of being "human" doesn't change anything about life other than the words you use to describe it.  A shade tree mechanic who can't read, and doesn't know the names of the parts, can still fix a car as surely as a certified mechanic.

Being a primate is no different than being a human, it's merely more humble, you cease to be a special creation of mystical forces, and become a special creation of the forces of nature. It's different words for the same thing.  The difference between them is that with science and primatology you understand why things are this way, with "mysticism" you see it as more artistic. If you paint a picture with a paint-by-numbers approach, or whether you do it freehand, given a high enough resolution, you wind up with the same picture.

I'll never be a special creation again, I'm simply a talking primate. I have one life here on Earth and I can guarantee you one thing, If I ever "execute my love subroutine" again, I won't be riding the wave like some teenage surfer who doesn't know what causes the waves.  I will enjoy it more deeply, and more thoroughly, than people who refuse to see science as science, and insist on being something magical, rather than accepting the fact they are simply a talking ape.  I'll be aware of my shortcomings, where they will see the unknown. I cannot see how admitting that Love is a biochemical reaction with the evolutionary purpose of causing deep attachment in order to preserve the species, makes it any less "magical" of a feeling when you're feeling it.  In fact, to me, it makes it far more incredible and wondrous, that it is the way it is, created by ancient, evolutionary forces, than if it were "poofed" into being by some invisible magic man, a few thousand years ago.

Do you think the oceanographer who specializes in wave formation enjoys surfing any less than a teenage pothead? Understanding the formation of waves versus "feeling them" doesn't make surfing any less fun.  I've done the love thing as a "stoner" high on neurochemicals and riding the waves without understanding what caused them, or when they were going to end, several times now, and they all ended poorly.  I don't want to waste the next time on chance and magical notions.

If being "truly a man" means returning to an understanding of life where I have to be something better than the rest of the critters on my planet, with a magical spark in me that defies explanation, then I'm afraid I'll simply be an ape for the rest of my time here.  And I'm perfectly content with that situation.  If there is one thing my 45 years have taught me, it's that there is nothing special about me. I'm made from the same stardust as everything else around me, and that's special enough for me.