Friday, 9 January 2009

932 - On Love [Working Note]

Let's forget supernatural. Let's not talk about God. Let's just spend a little time with Love.

Conceptually: the quality of expending oneself for another, with no thought of cost to oneself.

What might an understanding of Love do for one's take on the world? Particularly with reference to neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity, conceptually: the quality, in brain science, by which neurons responding to internal and external environments form new networks and pathways through the brain's architecture, to a greater or lesser extent restructuring it. We read because of our capacity to rewire ourselves, says Maryanne Wolf, in her book 'Proust and the Squid'. Norman Doidge, in 'The Brain that Changes Itself', says, I think (though I haven't read the relevant bits yet) that psychoanalysis encourages similar positive rewiring, enabling recovery from trauma, for example. In other words, ideas encourage physical healing.

So exposure to an experience of Love, if Love is about unconditional self-giving, could precipitate permanent change in a person. That change could be physical as well as cultural. And the concept need not be precipitated by anything supernatural: as an idea, it has a weight of its own.

I don't understand why more neuroscientists don't explore the nature of Love. Instead it is left to religious people, who have their own language and culture, and a reputation, if not a track record, for late adoption of scientific ideas (if not the benefits that those ideas bring them, like better nutrition and home entertainment systems).

One would think that the systematic investigation of a concept capable of encapsulation in a four-letter word and a three-word definition, regardless of its source or cultural providence, which held the capacity, universally, to transform, affirm and overturn value systems simultaneously, would appeal, the way the Holy Grail might, were it to turn up in a Harvard, MIT or Cambridge lab, handles cocked akimbo, with a sign saying 'Test me' at its lip.

The neuroplasticity of Love. You heard it here first ;)... [...Unless Norman Doidge has got there ahead of me!]

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