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PDF VersionWhy do we Fall in Love?
Written by Australian biologist Jeremy Griffith, 2013
‘Falling in love’ is one of the deepest emotional experiences of a person’s life. Indeed, it is so important to us that much of our great literature, our most-liked films and our enduring works of art express our universal preoccupation with it; not to mention almost every pop song ever written. And yet the power that this state holds, especially when it occurs for the first time, has been one of life’s great mysteries. We haven’t been able to explain why we ‘fall in love’ or even what ‘falling in love’ really means! We haven’t been able to explain the heart-pounding, over-the-moon, walking-on-air, footloose-and-fancy-free, dancing-in-the-streets, crazy-happy feelings of ‘falling in love’, which can be so overwhelming that everything else ceases to matter; and we haven’t been able explain its dark flipside either, which is that the loss of love can lead to unbearable pain and heartbreak. What is the reason for the intensity of the feelings and this sense of longing we have when we ‘fall in love’?
The clue to what happens when we ‘fall in love’ is revealed in the word ‘fall’, because in letting ourselves ‘fall’ in love with someone we are, in effect, letting go of reality and transporting ourselves to another world, an ideal one—to how the relationship between humans could be, and, in fact, once was! The lyrics to Cole Porter’s 1928 song Let’s Fall In Love perfectly encapsulate how ‘falling in love’ is about allowing ourselves to dream of the ideal state of true togetherness: ‘Let’s fall in love / Why shouldn’t we fall in love? / Our hearts are made of it / Let’s take a chance / Why be afraid of it / Let’s close our eyes and make our own paradise.’ The lyrics of the song Somewhere, written by Stephen Sondheim for the 1956 blockbuster musical and film West Side Story, are even more revealing of the ‘romance’, of the aching longing for the ideal state that we humans allow ourselves to be transported to when we ‘fall in love’: ‘Somewhere / We’ll find a new way of living / We’ll find a way of forgiving / Somewhere // There’s a place for us / A time and place for us / Hold my hand and we’re halfway there / Hold my hand and I’ll take you there / Somehow / Some day / Somewhere!’
If we look closely at some of these lyrics we can see the elements of the explanation for why we want to, and are able to, ‘fall in love’. Porter’s words ‘Our hearts are made of it [love]’ suggest that our core being is ‘made of’ love; indeed, that our species’ original, core instinctive state was one of living in a completely cooperative, gentle, considerate-of-others, unconditionally loving state, which is, in fact, the case. Humans are born with unconditionally loving, moral instincts, the ‘voice’ of which is our conscience. As the philosopher John Fiske wrote: ‘We approve of certain actions and disapprove of certain actions quite instinctively. We shrink from stealing or lying as we shrink from burning our fingers’ (Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy, 1874, Vol. IV, Part II, p.126). Our moral instincts are not just concerned with avoiding the ill-treatment of others, they are also concerned with ensuring the wellbeing of others. For instance, when Joe Delaney, a professional footballer, admitted that ‘I can’t swim good, but I’ve got to save those kids’, just moments before plunging into a Louisiana pond and drowning in an attempt to rescue three boys (‘Sometimes The Good Die Young’, Sports Illustrated, 7 Nov. 1983), he was selflessly considering the welfare of others above that of his own. And when the philosopher Immanuel Kant had the following words inscribed on his tombstone—‘there are two things which fill me with awe: the starry heavens above us, and the moral law within us’ (Critique of Practical Reason, 1788)—he certainly wasn’t overstating the magnificence of our altruistic moral sense.
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PDF VersionThe point is, these moral, love-expecting-and-seeking instincts have to have come from a time in our species’ past when our distant ancestors lived in a completely cooperative, unconditionally selfless, loving, deeply-connected-with-each-other, ‘Garden of Eden’-like, paradisiacal state. Indeed, the author Richard Heinberg’s research into the subject of this collective memory of a ‘Golden Age’ in our species’ past found that ‘Every religion begins with the recognition that human consciousness has been separated from the divine Source, that a former sense of oneness…has been lost…everywhere in religion and myth there is an acknowledgment that we have departed from an original…innocence’ (Memories & Visions of Paradise, 1990, pp.81-82 of 282). As the philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev acknowledged, ‘The memory of a lost paradise, of a Golden Age, is very deep in man’ (The Destiny of Man, 1931; tr. N. Duddington, 1960, p.36 of 310). Yes, the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was right when he wrote that ‘nothing is more gentle than man in his primitive state’ (The Social Contract and Discourses, 1755; tr. G. Cole, 1913, Book IV, p.198 of 269). The eighth century Greek poet Hesiod wrote these words in his poem Theogony about the ‘Golden Age’ in our species’ past: ‘When gods alike and mortals rose to birth / A golden race the immortals formed on earth…Like gods they lived, with calm untroubled mind / Free from the toils and anguish of our kind / Nor e’er decrepit age misshaped their frame…Strangers to ill, their lives in feasts flowed by…Dying they sank in sleep, nor seemed to die / Theirs was each good; the life-sustaining soil / Yielded its copious fruits, unbribed by toil / They with abundant goods ’midst quiet lands / All willing shared the gathering of their hands.’
So by ‘falling in love’ we seek to re-create some of the awe-inspiring feelings of this state of true love that we as a species once lived in. We can, for a time, rediscover our ‘paradise lost’ as the 17th century English poet John Milton described our original state in his epic poem of that name. And not only are we drawn towards this loving state that lies so deep in our being, we are also pushed toward it by the need to escape the awfulness of our species’ present less-than-ideal, innocence-destroyed lives. We ‘fall in love’ because we want to—in fact, we are absolutely desperate to—escape the harsh reality of the selfish, competitive, mean, uncaring, artificial, superficial, hateful, immoral, unloving world to which we now belong, and, beyond that, the reality of who we are ourselves, because those uncaring elements also exist within us: we are all to a degree selfish, competitive, mean, uncaring, artificial, superficial and hateful!
As you can quickly deduce, thinking deeply about what it means to ‘fall in love’ raises a VERY uncomfortable issue. If we admit to a cooperative, loving past for humanity, and that we ‘fall in love’ to escape the current less-than-ideal, corrupted, so-called ‘fallen’ state of humans today, we then have to ask why the human race departed from this marvellous original Garden-of-Eden-like state of innocence—what is the origin of humans’ present innocence-destroyed, angry, egocentric and alienated condition? The actual burden of having to live in the insecure, guilt ridden state of not being able to answer this great question of questions is the burden of the so-called . The fabulous, overwhelmingly exciting news, however, is that science has now progressed to a point where we can finally explain, and by so doing understand and heal, our present non-ideal, corrupted, psychotic and neurotic, human-condition-afflicted lives! Yes, most wonderfully, the first-principle based, biological answer to the ultimate question of the origin of our species’ seemingly imperfect, apparently unlovable, selfish nature has been found and at last made it possible to heal our species’ psychosis—and thus unravel all the ‘mysteries’ about our behaviour, such as why we ‘fall in love’.
Very briefly, ever since the emergence of human consciousness some two million years ago, humanity has been involved in an unavoidable battle between our Page 116 of
PDF Versiongene-based instincts and this newly acquired nerve-based intellect. Our instinctive self, which is orientated to behaving cooperatively and lovingly, was intolerant of our intellect having to deviate from this cooperative path in order to go out in search of knowledge. Put simply, the gene-based learning system can orientate a species to situations, but is incapable of insight into the nature of change. As a result, the only way the intellect could keep experimenting and searching for knowledge was to defy the instincts. This battle is the source of our corrupted, divided selves, or what could be termed our ‘upset’ state, which is characterised by our angry, alienated and egocentric—seemingly unloving and unlovable—behaviour. So with the human condition now understood and defended, we can at last explain why we were not bad to challenge our instincts, with the result being that the upset that stemmed from our previous inability to explain our behaviour will gradually subside, thus liberating humanity from the horror of its condition and transforming the world. For the full explanation of the human condition watch an Introductory Video or read the freely available online book .
If we return to the lyrics of the songs we can see this great journey to find the reconciling, dignifying, rehabilitating, healing, human-race-liberating understanding of our corrupted human condition acknowledged: ‘Somehow, Some day, Somewhere’ ‘We’ll find a new way of living, We’ll find a way of forgiving [ourselves].’ Yes, and when we find this wonderful understanding—which we now finally have—there will no longer be any need to escape our reality and dream of the ideal state; we’ll no longer have to ‘fall in love’, we will all at last ‘be in love’! Our existence will, once again, be characterised by universal love and benevolence. That is the utter magnificence of the understanding of the human condition that is now available!
To present some of the insight into human behaviour, and thus our attachment to ‘falling in love’, that this understanding of the human condition now makes possible, consider the following explanation of the very different perspectives men and women have on love: for men, the physical beauty of women meant that they could dream that women were actually innocent and that, through that partnership, they could share in that innocent state, while for their part, women could use the fact that men were inspired by their image of innocence to delude themselves that they actually were innocent. Understanding what was involved for men and women in ‘falling in love’ allows us to see why it was often such a transient experience: the problem with falling for an illusion is that it doesn’t take long for the harsh reality of our human-condition-afflicted-lives to wake us from our dreaming. Not only does the reality of the outside world inevitably intrude upon our dream, but the reality within ourselves eventually manifests itself as well. As a result, women’s illusion of innocence wears thin, and men again become insensitive and preoccupied with their own embattled ego; and without men’s belief in them, women’s belief in their own innocence becomes impossible to maintain—and so the whole dream comes crashing down, often leaving us distressed at the loss of such a beautiful loving state, and the prospect of having to re-engage with a loveless reality. However, it is important to emphasise that the reason ‘falling in love’ does not last is not because love itself isn’t real—love is very real—as explained earlier it is our fundamental instinctive orientation—in fact it is nothing less than the glue that holds the world together. And of course, a relationship that may have begun under this illusion could still go on to develop into a deeply loving and respectful partnership over time. But until the human condition Page 117 of
PDF Versionwas explained, ‘falling in love’ was simply an escapist dream, a reflection of our divisive species’ desperate desire to return to true togetherness.
Fortunately, with this breakthrough biological explanation now available, we can finally understand what romantic love is; understand why we have had to ‘fall in love’ with a dream; understand how ‘falling in love’ is different for men and women; understand why we haven’t been lovable or been able to give love, and most wonderfully, end the psychologically upset state of the human condition itself and thus enable future generations to give and receive more love than we human-condition-afflicted humans ever thought possible. As the former president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, Professor Harry Prosen, has said of the thrilling breakthrough and potential that this explanation represents: ‘I have no doubt this biological explanation of Jeremy Griffith’s of the human condition is the holy grail of insight we have sought for the psychological rehabilitation of the human race’ (FREEDOM, 2016, Introduction).