An essay on falling in love
Sent: 6:35 pm February 7, 1992 (Friday) for Valentine's day
Our bodies, and most especially our sexuality, was designed carefully, exquisitely, over hundreds of thousands, if not tens of billions of year, by a very simple process, LIFE, which is based on only one rule. If it reproduces, it stays in the game. If it does not, it was probably irrelevant. That one rule powers all of evolution. It is LIFE itself. It does not consider individuals, or imply good or bad, or even recognize right or wrong.
Everything about our bodies and the minds they support was designed according to this rule, shaped by the force of this evolution , in order to get us to reproduce. That is the fundamental purpose of life. It can be argued that it also the sole purpose of life. We are not here to learn about the galaxy or to enjoy our sexuality or to create masterworks of art or to reach a state of spiritual perfection. We are here to reproduce. Not to reproduce ourselves, but to reproduce LIFE itself, in the particular manifestation that is us.
Our emotions were designed by this process and are therefore an essential part of it. Chemically, emotionally, genetically, we are each a completely original expression of the process of LIFE and the mechanism of evolution. We all use the same chemicals, in very much the same way, but in spite of our basic similarities, each one of us is totally and utterly unique. As a result of our uniqueness, we each experience the world of [illusion] that whirls around us and the world of emotion that boils within us through different filters.
These filters are tools we have inherited (inherited because they had at some point in our past lead to reproduction) or developed (in the course of living our individual lives) to simplify what we see and feel to something that we can comprehend. They are our defenses. They provide the basis on which we translate experience into language, into our own personal language, into our own personal memories. Because of the uniqueness of our defenses, each of us necessarily describes what we have seen and what we have felt with a completely different language, a language ultimately incomprehensible to anyone but ourselves.
[Our collective past, and the common inheritance (how many generations back until we are all related?) of many similar filters, and similar languages, interacting with the inertia provided by our social institutions, and the changes in our circumstances explains much of the continuity of our form of life.]
"Falling in love" is a demonstrable, reproducible phenomenon, a chemical process. It is a distinct physiological condition that has co-evolved right alongside our social institutions. "Falling in love" is a delicious anesthetic which dulls our suspicions and overwhelms our fear of intimacy and pain and loss, with reassuring warmth, and pleasure and happiness. The release from fear that accompanies these feelings allows us to lower our defenses and this allows us to put our trust in strangers. Even strangers we should not trust.
The anesthetic power of love makes people feel "good" to one-another. This keeps people from noticing that they do not really fit perfectly together very well, or noticing that the do not know even the most basic or essential things about one another. It allows them to notice that they smell good to one-another, that they don't worry about what one another is thinking, that feel suddenly familiar, as though they had known one another forever, they sense that they fit together walking, they imagine that fate somehow brought them together. This leads to an escalation of openness and intimacy that finds its ultimate expression in our sexuality.
That is the sole "purpose" of falling in love, and to this purpose it is almost perfectly suited. Falling in love has been designed by the process of LIFE to last long enough that most people successfully reproduce long before they begin to notice that they have allowed themselves to be deceived , that their old nemesis, the sense of being alone, is still there, aching in the depths of their hearts.
That is the first step, but only the first step. Simply getting people to get each other pregnant, and making sure they stay together long enough to bear children is not enough to ensure that LIFE will continue, not in an expression as complex as our own species. That might be enough for a spider, or a mouse, or even a bird, but it is not nearly enough for us. Those smaller creatures are born relatively complete. They are born knowing most of what they need to do to live and to reproduce their lives. They do not have complex international societies and confusing political abstractions in which they must learn how to live. It does not take 30 or 40 years to educate them like it does us.
LIFE, at least the kind of life that people live, requires that the anesthetic must wear off. That is the second step. The love we fall into with strangers is entirely different from the love that develops between a mother or a father and a child. I am describing a brilliant system, a process that is simultaneously as complex as the unfolding of our lives yet as simple as the operation of the sun or the tide or the rain.
When the anesthetic wears off, which it does for a variety of reasons, primarily from the friction that inevitably results from our uniquenesses, the billions of minute differences between us form a conspiracy to make even our most basic expectations ultimately unique, and our most fundamental needs and desires totally unfathomable to any other individual.
This gradual reawakening, this recognition of our fundamental uniqueness is most powerfully exposed in the course of parenting children. It is in our most completely personal experiences, the paths of our own upbringing that we are each most entirely unique. Therefore, if we have not already fallen out of love, if the anesthetic has not already worn off simply from the continual buffeting we must take in our day-to-day lives, our irreconcilable beliefs about our roles and responsibilities toward the raising of our offspring and the demands made by their role in our lives will soon wake us up.
The point of the process is to assure that when the anesthetic wears off, we wake up all alone. That is the third step. Because once we are awake the pain of recognizing that we are once again lonely, after the comfort of being in love, is unbearable and it prepares the parents to fill their hearts with the joys of sharing life with their offspring.
Unlike any of the rest of the people in the world, our offspring are not totally unique from us. They have inherited many of our uniquenesses and they are thus, for reasons of chemical identicality, the closest chemical relatives two both parents. Therefore they share many of the parents' filters and they can speak more of the language of their hearts than any other living beings. As the children mature, the parents respectively cherish and encourage and attempt to extinguish and discourage those parts of their offspring that derive most directly from themselves and their mates. This normally leads to considerable antagonism between the parents, encouraging them to awaken further. This antagonism is normally quite confusing to the child, whose similarity to one parent finds little or no complement or resonance in the dissimilar one, and the traits least similar are often the focus of serious rejection by that parent.
Because you can never know what another person is really feeling, you can never really anticipate what another person wants. This is the great danger that two people must eventually face, when they try living together as a childless couple.
Childless couples are truly unnatural, in the sense that LIFE, by its very nature, could never have created them. LIFE demands reproduction. Therefore the evolution of skills and the language for dealing with the path that childless couples must follow cannot be a part of our genome; you will never find the tools you need to live with another person by looking inside yourself. They are simply not in the toolbox. If you want tools that let you step outside the process of life must learn to invent them for yourself.
The idea of a genetic system that would produce chemicals that could give us the tools to communicate with one another's hearts is self-contradictory. These tools cannot exist until we build them because the genes that designed them would have been extinguished the first time they were used. Genes that help people live together without reproduction, are against the rule, they are irrelevant because they can not possibly be inherited by the unborn ancestors of their developers.