This is in attempt to answer one of the questions that baffle me, and expectedly a few others – why love ? That is, why do we fall in love ? The kind of love I’m talking about is love at first sight. Those who think such love doesn’t exist are merely lucky or unlucky enough not to have experienced it. However, it does exist. But why ? First, a little about evolution.
Like it or not, we have all evolved. From stuff that came from some star. In the words of Carl Sagan, “We’re star stuff, harvesting star light.”. There’s absolutely nothing special or divine about us, except that we might be able to prolong our survival through our developed brains.
Has it ever occurred to you why we find certain things repulsive or scary while certain other things attractive ? We’re instinctively disgusted by the smell of rotting flesh, scared by the sight of a snake, but charmed by flowers. Why ? The answer lies in evolution.
Throughout evolutionary stages, our ancestors roamed the African plains, hunting and gathering. In the course of their lives, they encountered various stuff. Like rotting flesh. To the first human tribe, rotting flesh probably did not smell ‘bad’. It probably didn’t smell at all. It was like all flesh, except that it had harmful bacteria that made the person who ate it, sick . Unaware, they ate it. And fell sick. Some died. The ones that survived, made a note of this in their brains. Over generations, this piece of information about rotting flesh being bad, got converted into a series of chemical reactions in the brain that developed a ‘smell’, which is essentially a flow of hormones to your body that made the smeller feel nauseated. Thus, the smeller became averse to the rotting flesh, through the ‘bad’ smell. Chances are that the rotting flesh does not smell bad to a dung beetle, since they thrive in Hydrogen Sulfide.
Now how does all this add up to love at first sight ?
When you think about it, a person’s face is merely a collection of contours that might or might not appeal to you in the same way it does to another. Why this difference in taste ? If your ancestors, ( not just your parents, but 10s or 100s or 1000s of people above you in your hierarchy ) found a great degree of success in producing kids with a female having a given kind of face, their brain stored this information. Passed on over generations, if each of the people along that path found great success of producing healthy offspring in the same kind of face, the feeling that the bearer of that given kind of face will help you produce an offspring better than the bearer of any other kind of face, intensified greatly.
This is where the intensity of love that people talk about comes in. How can love at first sight be so intense if you don’t even know the person ? Modern social dynamics requires that people get to know each other over a period of time and then, your love could be called intense. Most people would rubbish Love at first sight as mere lechery or weakness of character, without even looking into what causes it. So now, we have two kinds of love –
1. The cultivated love, ( the one that grows with companionship, trust, etc. )
2. Love at first sight.
Let’s dissect both of them with the perspective that we’ve held up until now – evolution.
1. The cultivated love between Male M and Female F
Well, throughout the generations, no particular kind of trait stood out, and hence no particular face stood out greatly. They all averaged out, and good still remained good, but no kind of face was electric. However, throughout the generations, one thing was common – the chances of bearing healthy young would increase if the couple formed a bond of trust and affection with one another, preferably for life. Hence the ‘Cultivated Love’.
2. Love at first sight between Male M and Female F.
From an evolutionary perspective, this kind of love would occur when the males slept around with females that had a lot of similarity in their facial/physical features.
For example, if the first generation male picked a female that had narrower eyes, a pug nose, large shoulders, a small chin, etc. and if he was able to produce healthy offsprings with her – this kind of a face would get persisted into his memory. But this attraction was still not written in stone. The next generation ( his offspring ), found a female that had similar features, and was once again able to produce healthy offsprings with her. The genetic persistence into his limbic brain got a little stronger. Some 50 generations of similar females later, the rule of attraction was that much closer to being written in stone. How ? The limbic portion of the brain of the 51st generation kid was imprinted with brain code telling it – “This kind of face/physique is right for you. If you copulate with her, your kids will be strong. Go for it ! “. When the kid actually sees a girl with a similar face or physique, his brain tells him – “Hey, that girl is so pretty ! Go for it !“. How ? Once again, through a rush of hormones, that give the kid a high. The kid of course, interprets this as love, and goes for it. The female agrees, and they have healthy offspring. Now, this feeling is intensified over generations. We’re probably into 10000s of generations, maybe more, since humans developed the brain. Imagine the intenstity of this love at first sight, if most of our ancestors reproduced with similar girls.
This is why Love at first sight is not balderdash. And is probably more intense than Cultivated Love, atleast at first.
Now, what happens when the female you have fallen in love with at the first sight, refuses your advances ? Is it doom ? Does it mean your genes will end with you ?
Hardly. Even ignoring the wrong assumption that there’s only a single female with the approximate facial/physical characteristics that your brain has been told is good for you, there’s the option of using that which makes us human – the frontal cortex. I.e: Cultivated love, through conditioning. Without the frontal cortex, and our control executive, we would have been left at the mercy of our ancestors’ experiences. However, with the inclusion of this newly evolved brain, we get to cope with constantly changing surroundings. It’s like the inclusion of a RAM chip and a hard drive over a ROM chip – the latter is read only, while the former are configurable.
While making a choice, the executive area of the brain is consulted first. The limbic portion usually comes into play during emergencies, or when the executive area is too swamped, or resting (like when we’re daydreaming ), or when we’re intoxicated ( alcohol, lack of sleep ) .So, for the most part, you can configure your executive brain to trigger the release of the same hormones that get triggered when love at first sight occurs. This means that cultivated love can be just as fun as love at first sight, since the same hormones get released with both of them.
However, since your limbic portion still has some other, possibly conflicting, information about the person you’re supposed to be with, you will have to lead a life of slight subconscious conflict ( which you’ll probably never realize anyway.) All it will mean is that your offspring will not feel AS attracted to the girl that you fell in love at first sight with, since you were not able to produce offspring with that girl. If this continues, the rule written in stone might get erased and 1000 generations later, your descendant might find another kind of girl attractive.
Conclusion (and some fundae :P ):
There is nothing divine or pure about either us or love. No Cupid, nothing. The ability to feel loved is but in your own hands. And the best way is to love everyone, like the sun – the object all gods are based on. The sun gives warmth to one and all without distinguishing between people, and without asking for anything in return. If we, are able to achieve such a level of giving love, it must mean we have love. For, in the words of John Marks Templeton, “How can you give love if you don’t have love ?” .
So, if you’re feeling piqued because some girl dumped you, don’t ! Mainly because you’ve got other options, and secondly, because you’ve got company !! :D