Monday, January 18, 2010

Love Poetry

One of the most pernicious proofs of god's existence is the proof from love.
God is love (1 John 4:8)
Love exists
Therefore god exists.
This proof is not very convincing logically. All one has really done is redefined god to be love. One can go through the entire dictionary oversubscribing words to god in order to prove god's existence. God is chair, chair exists, therefore god exists. God is yellow, yellow exists, therefore god exists. This line of reasoning gets one no nearer any ideas and the absurd conclusion is a one word dictionary. The only reason that this proof is compelling is because of love. God does nothing to help us understand love.

If reason is the highest visible achievement of adaptive evolution then the portion of the iceberg under water is love. As much as thought, as much as wonder, humanity is love. We can look at the stars and wonder at the limits of practical infinity but the depth of a lovers eyes remain unfathomable. The very mechanisms we use to think have evolved to love at a level as basic as perception itself.

The use of love to “prove” that god exists leverages the apparently unknowable. Love appears close to magic in that it gains precedence over the thought mechanisms that would be used to understand it. A good analogy is trying to look at ones own eyes. No matter how hard you stare into space the eyes see and are not seen. Since you are looking with the eyes you cannot see them. Since you are loving with your mind you cannot understand love.

Of course we can see our own eyes. A simple mirror can give us a good view of our eyes. They can be photographed and imaged in greater detail than the eye alone is capable of resolving. We can create models of them and visualize their workings in our mind's eye. We can see our eyes very well indeed, just not by staring out into space.

Thinking about god is thinking in the wrong direction to understand love.

Some people might state, mistakenly I believe, that mystery makes love more interesting. Some may say that dissolving the magic shroud that conceals the operation of love in the mind would weaken love. As if reason could break the bonds evolution has constrained it with and throttle its emotional overlord. We have discovered ways to effect the action of love in the mind, but with chemistry rather than with understanding. The application of reason to love is more likely to wax romantic poetry than to eclipse the effects of love. Rather than antagonistic, reason and love are practiced bedfellows.

Few who have read this far believe that the love I'm talking about is anything other than love between two people; two lovers. The love that motivates bonding. Perhaps in another piece I will outline the evolutionary advantages that love affords. To most the advantages are obvious. It is easy to draw very attractive lines of reason that would blame much of the more laudable features of civilization on love.

Some would dilute the concept of love by dividing it into a million tiny scraps. Love is inexorably tied to attraction. The brain is like a chemical difference engine many of whose inputs are tied to the means of perception, which like thought, have evolved to service love before reason.

Plato, to whom “platonic love” (love without attraction) is blamed, recognized that attraction was a human imperative:

Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet. 
Plato 

Everyone becomes a poet, and there are a LOT of unfortunate poets. The cacophony of discordant rhyme is just proof to the universality of love. Who has not caught themselves singing a line from a bad song just a little farther out of key and a little more off beat?

I have written earlier about flow. I have written about using the language of spirituality to create mechanisms of action where reason is the wrong tool to use. I have suggested that many of the constructs of human knowledge are useful regardless of the unfortunate terminology they have been transcribed using. This is true for nothing so much as love.

More than most I have proclaimed love. I have been guilty of bad verse proclaimed to closed walls, to open vistas, face to face with lovers. There is something about the touch of a lovers hand beneath a sunset that creates poetry from fractured words and phrases. Luckily love has a small effect on the hearing of poetry as well. I'm not sure civilization would have survived without that later effect.

Away with your fictions of flimsy romance,
Those tissues of falsehood which folly has wove !
Give me the mild beam of the soul-breathing glance,
Or the rapture which dwells on the first kiss of love.
Lord George Byron (The first kiss of love)

Of the aspects of humanity few things are as defining as love. Even for the most introspective of us love can short-circuit the patterns of self reference that are critical to defining personality. This may sound like obfuscated romantic poetry, though I am certainly not above that diversion, this statement arises from modern neuroscience not Yeats.

When people fall in love the body is awash in neuroactive chemicals. For up to a year NGF (nerve growth factor) is elevated. Testosterone and esterogen are realeased at the meare suggestion of the lover. Each of these chemicals can acctually cause long-term physiological changes in an individual. Increases in hormone-responsive tissue and potential nerve pathway reinforcement permanently change the person in response to their lover.

Each neurotansmitter associated with mood (serotoninn, dopamine, melotonin....) are modulated in response to love. Drugs that can down-regulate these chemicals have been shown to down-regulate the capacity for romantic love more effectively than they have been shown to treat the illnesses for which they are prescribed.

God is not love - you are. You become love when you become a lover. The transformation is saturating and undeniable. It can, however, be stopped and reversed.

Why would one want to though? What is humanity without love?

Love is a canvas furnished by Nature and embroidered by imagination.
Voltaire

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