Woodart wrote:Love is an aspect of consciousness that can be pretty tricky to understand. We all have it, most of us, but what is it? Is love emotion, feeling, distraction, desire, and/or madness? Love seems to be all over the map. Love can be ecstatically happy and mixed up - sad and insecure at the same time. In order to get a handle on love, I have to ask myself some questions. First, do I have love and if so with whom? Are there different types of love and if so what are they? How does love figure into my decision making?
As in most of my posts here, the following comes from a certain non-mainstream belief system. I'll try to keep it to a minimum but I need certain postulates in order to address the topic.DISCLAIMER 1:
This is a rather, let me say, engineering
approach to love, not as it it usually treated.DISCLAIMER 2:
The following contains many propositions which are logically necessary for the arguments being presented, but is out of the scope of this post to justify any of them, so they are simply given. Have in mind, however, that these propositions are part of a belief system, not part of a theory or any other formal system.DISCLAIMER 3:
The entire scope of the ideas presented in this post is rather large, so I'll purposely level down the formality and the details so I can cut to the crux, which is Love, as quickly as possible. However, as a result, any critical review would easily spot problems in this post.
First some background. Please bear with me, this is
related to the topic in hand.
According to this belief system...
The thing that we might think of as our inner self
, the source of consciousness, the "me" making decisions, is the so-called Spirit, or Soul. And a human being is a spirit temporarily "incarnated" in a biological body through the mind, which interfaces "us" with our brain, so we can perceive the physical reality and indirectly operate on it through our body.
So, each one of us is a spirit (temporarily living a human life). Interestingly, according to this belief system, so is everything else. That is, while *I* am a spirit, my body is ultimately composed of (much smaller
) spirit "fractions". So are the clothes we wear, the air around us, the stars, etc...
As you can see, this model isn't classical "dualism", for everything is made of spirits, and is just that some take on a "physical" role, such as the ones making up atoms, and some are not in that "physical" role, such as you and me. And, being all spirits, we DO interact, which is why you and me can link to a body and have, say, our hands lifted (but we need a mechanism to properly communicate and propagate the intention, which our bodies provide, so we can't link to a, say, rock and have it bounce around at will)
But all these spirits (we, the air, the stars, etc...) came from a "Creator". We can call that "God", though this is nothing like the religious God(s). In particular, God only created spirits, not this (or any other) Universe.
There are two fundamental characteristics, or attributes, of any spirit:
(1) we have free-will
(2) we have been created, but we cannot be destroyed and we have all of eternity (we are hemi-eternal
Having free-will means that individually, we only do what we choose to do
What I said above doesn't look at all like our human experience, in which "we" do plenty of stuff we don't choose (from breathing, to running like a speedster on the face of sudden danger, even if we didn't even think about it and staying would have been smarter), and we cannot do all we do choose (like flying). What happens is that the statement above refers to one individual spirit (such as the "me" in "ME"), but a human being is not one individual spirit but an organism. As such, the "all of us" that makes up a human being must agree and coordinate a net decision before anything actually happens. We are at the apex of a hierarchy, which is why most of the time, we found ourselves doing with our bodies what we actually wanted, but there are obvious limitations, plus there are actions that our bodies would execute without even asking "us" (which can include a full-range attack on a predator for example)
But, at the level of the individual spirit, nothing at all happens if there is not a conscious choice to make it so.
Have in mind that, again according to this belief system, our "thoughts" and "feelings" are not
a direct expression of our intentions, desires and inner decision making. These are just things going on in (and often for) the body, which we can perceive
, just as we can perceive the hands moving or the body temperature dropping. Thoughts and feelings are just a mental perception (a sort of reflexion) of whatever we and the rest of the body senses and do. You might think of "the mind" (and all mental processes) as this Internet forum: it does express what we think but not directly. It's contents needs to be explicitly constructed and stored; and, it reflect all of us, not just my words.
Let's try to imagine that point in time when we were just "created", that is, as "free spirits" not linked to any organism yet. This is way before the Universe. As "free spirits", we don't think, feel, do and communicate in the way we humans do it, but we do all that nonetheless, in its more "natural" or primordial form.
If free-will means that we only do something we choose to do (we free-spirits, not we humans), then, why would we choose to do anything at all to begin with?
Well, according to this belief system, the Creator didn't create spirits with just free-will and eternal life,
(3) we have drive
: a reason to act, to choose to do something rather than nothing.
Having the free-will, that is, self-causation to only do what we choose to do, and the drive to have a reason to do anything at all, we just need one last essential characteristic or attribute:
(4) we have cognition
: the ability to gather, retain, process, use and communicate information, which we use to choose what to do in accordance to our drive.
One fundamental consequence of the fact that spirits have free-will (self-causation) is that the Creator (or God is you prefer) cannot determine or cause any event upon a spirit (such as you, me or a glass of water). That is, he cannot have us do what is right instead of what is wrong, and we are almost
left to our own devices.
[Notice that I mentioned before how everything, not just the "human soul", is made of spirits, so, the Creator cannot determine nor cause anything at all, including the behavior of nature for both "animate and inanimate objects"]
But why did I said that we are almost
left to our own devices?
First, that we have free-will, meaning that we only do what we choose to do, that is, that we drive ourselves and "God" cannot drive any of us, does not mean we are unguided. He is constantly guiding us, so that we can keep the freedom of choice, but have a chance of ending up in a place that makes sense, even if on the very very long term.
Second, we choose what we do, but we don't choose the impact
of our actions.
Remember that we are imagining the situation when we are all free spirits, not linked to any organism. That is before there was a universe at all, before matter itself. In this context, there are no forces of nature, so what we do does not have the impact of moving objects, heating matter, lifting, carrying, etc... reality is just us (there is no matter yet) and all we do is interact with each other. So, what is then, the impact of what we do in this context?
Imagine the Creator, or God, or however you want to call him, created one and only spirit. One single spirit would still have free-will, drive and cognition, so he would be able to do whatever he chooses to do, but, what would that be? well, he would experience
things. The whole point of having these 3 attributes (free-will, drive and cognition) is to have experiences, to have a life if you will. Now, how do we experience anything at all? by doing something from which we draw
an experience. So, a single lonely spirit would just do things in order to experience things, and that experience, that perception
, that awareness
, not of what he is, but of what he is doing, is the impact
of his actions.
Thus, according to this belief system, built-in within our Drive attribute is the permanent pursuit of experiences.
The second we were brought into existence (which does not
refer to the moment of human birth but that instant we have been created by God as a spirit or soul, which even happened way before the Big Bang), we are a blank page and we know nothing except our own existence and the primordial awareness of our Drive, this impulse to do things in order to experience things.
The impact of whatever we do (that is, the experience we draw from doing) is a feedback loop. If we liked it, we would more or less repeat the action, otherwise we try something new. Our intrinsic drive, complemented with free-will and cognition, start us on a path of self-caused action->impact->action->impact...
Now let's imagine that God created two, not one spirit. Would there be any difference between the self-impact of their individual actions and anything done together? As it turns out, yes, there is a difference. And is not a small one: the depth and extent of the experience drawn from the actions of any individual spirit is less than that of the combined actions of two (or more) spirits.
That is, when two or more spirits do something together, their individual
experiences extend. It is in this extended experience where the whole is more than the sum of its parts. We are intrinsically drawn to experience, but God created us in such a way, that the experience drawn from joint actions is deeper and larger than that of any individual action. This "extended joint experiences" is a gathering mechanism that is built-in.
The Impact of any action only comes after the action, so any experience that results from an action freely chosen might be negative
, relative to the agent making the choice, in the sense that what was experienced (after the action) might not be what was intended (when the action was decided). Thus, one can classify choices (actions and experiences thereof) as good or bad along the natural path of learning. According to this belief system, there is a feedback mechanism
built within our cognition and drive by which we always seek to match the expected impact (the experience we wanted) with the actual impact (the experience we got). Whatever we do makes us "feel good or bad", relative to our own expectations, and is that perception which feeds back into our learning, shaping our future choices.
The fundamental trait of this feedback mechanism is that is always relative to ourselves. It measures self-impact. One can "make mistakes", in the sense of getting an experience that was not expected, over and over and over, but this is within the normal course of progression. We have free-will and cognition to learn from such mistakes, otherwise, God would have created us such that we only do we he determines, or with infinite wisdom to only do what is right.
However, even though free-will entails the impossibility of external causation (spirits only do what we decide to do), decisions have only a degree of self-determination
. A decision can be entirely self-determined
, on one end of the spectrum, or entirely coerced
, on the opposite end. Therefore, self-causation (the essential attribute of free-will) doesn't necessarily translate into self-determination, for we can accept coercion. That is, we only do what we choose to do, yet we can choose to do what we rather wouldn't.
The impact of an ideal self-determined action might be good or bad relative to the deciding agent, and this is the normal course of progression and the point of having free-will, cognition and drive. However, the impact of coercion, even though is ultimately self-supported, goes always
against the point of having free-will.
In consequence, according to this belief system, there is also a tension mechanism
built within our cognition and drive by which we always seek to have self-determined actions instead of being coerced. In other words, coercion universally
(as it is a builtin mechanism) "feels bad" (in proportion to the degree of coercion).
That is, there are two complementing regulation mechanisms
at play: feedback and tension. The first regulates the learning feedback loop so we can eternally choose what to do, but progress and not just exist. The second regulates the coercion perception so we are aware that we are doing, and we are experiencing, but we are not directly
learning since there is no explicit matching between what we expected would result from a choice and what actually resulted (that is, the feedback mechanism doesn't kick in when we just do as we are told)
Granted, coercion still leads to actions, actions have always an impact, and impact is experience, so even under coercion we do learn, but is not the direct, first hand learning that we get when actions are self-determined.
Since we have the builtin drive to seek joint experiences, and our actions are always placed somewhere between totally self-determined and totally coerced, there are two opposing paths to follow to get a joint experience.
One is the path of coercion where some parties drive the net-decision so the extended joint experience aligns with their preferences, but not with the preferences of the other parties. Since coercion is self-supported (free-will as self-causation is still there), in the case of coercion, both parties are on this path.
The other is the path of finding matching decisions so that we can have a joint experience yet maximizing self-determination of all involved parties.
Let's call the former the path of Power
, and the later the path of Love
Notice how both Power and Love can be seen as opposing strategies to the same goal, which is to have a joint experience.
Keep in mind that we're still referring to the "world of free spirits", not human beings. So, this characterization of our drive as Power vs Love is universal and primordial.
If both Power and Love are strategies to the same goal, are they somewhat equivalent? Of course not. The "problem" with Power is that is uses coercion, but as we've seen, we have a builtin mechanism against it. Power can take us far, but no further, since the builtin tension mechanism would eventually disrupt the "system". The joint experience that comes from Power, even though it is
an extended experience, is unbalanced
since not all the involved decisions are self-determined. Power is always unstable
due to the imbalance of self vs coerced decisions. Love, on the other hand, has no limits, for it provides a balanced
joint-experience with no internal tension as it displays a net decision
that is composed of self-determined individual decisions.
In practice, Power and Love as described here are the ideal extremes of a spectrum, and we constantly apply degrees of one and the other at every step.
Let us now move a up from the dynamics of free spirits (not linked to a biological organism) to human beings. According to these believes, a human being is a system, and "we" are a spirit at the apex of the system, effectively driving it. However, the rest of the system is also composed of spirits (fractions of spirits to be precise). Some of them are in a "physical" role (quarks, molecules, cells, tissue, etc...), following (on their own free-will) the so-called Laws of Nature, while others are not, and "parallel" the physical parts with a sort of non-physical "para-system". In a human being, the physical subsystem has the brain at the apex, the para-physical subsystem has the mind at the apex (which is a non-physical organ parallel to the brain), and on top of these two subsystems, is "us".
If, as a human, we are the drivers of a hierarchical system of spirits (fractions), which is our body, everything we said before implies that the second we are linked to this (at inception), we are engaged in a primary "relationship" with our body, for it is a community of "conscious, sentient and free-will agents, such as we are". Being "incarnate" corresponds to a specially-designed, super amplified "joint experience". Unlike the more distant relationships with other people, or with other spirits in the case of free ones (say before we incarnate), a single human being is itself a "collective" providing a mechanism through which the joint experience is maximized to the point that we effectively experience our body as if it where directly our own experience, even though is not.
The interplay of Power and Love in the relationship with our bodies, that is, driving this specially amplified joint-experience, somewhere from coercion to self-determination of all involved parts, is the very first thing we start learning when we incarnate. We have needs, but so does the different parts of our body, so there is a constant pull on both directions. If our body needs resources, we feel hunger or thirst, but is up to us to do something about it, so we get a chance to learn that in order to sustain the joint-experience (in this case, to stay alive) we need to align our self-determination with that signaling from our body. Because of the way the human system is designed, if we disregard those needs, the body takes over through Power and we find ourselves coerced. However, this interplay can be of Love instead, and we can agree to attend those biological needs without being coerced. Likewise, since our body is itself a collection of spirits (fractions), it responds to our own self-determined decisions (like wanting to walk up a hill) in the same way, that is, somewhere between being coerced by our own Power (which we perceive as a physical struggle), or by aligning to our needs (which we perceive as being full of energy).
Though our body can to a large extent heal itself, when something is wrong, it needs to communicate that to us, so it signals the problem to our brain, which in turn sends that to our mind so it can be encoded into our own spiritual language (which is not
the human language from which thoughts and emotions
are constructed) and relayed to us. Then we become consciously aware of the problem. However, since being linked to our body in the way we are leads to a specially amplified joint-experience, that perception of a body problem, which is in itself effectively external, feels like "pain", and not just information about something on the outside. This feeling of pain because of a problem with our body, which ultimately are just other spirits (fractions in this case), best exemplifies what joint-experiences are about, and the depth and extent of the joint. The opposite case, that is when our body is all right, is also communicated all the way up, providing us with the joint-experience of pleasure instead of pain.
As humans, our body is the first and foremost playground through which we learn how to link to others in order to have a joint-experience. We
feel pain or pleasure depending on how bad or good our body is working, even though that body is effectively somebody else(s). The reverse is also true, and our own inner-self state is signaled down and reflects directly in what the body "feels".
This learning about bonding and joint-experiences starts with our body, then extends to other people, and the basic principles still apply: since we are bound by an intrinsic drive to seek joint-experiences, we get together (family, friends, society), and then being together, we learn how to gauge from coercion (power) to agreement (love). Since power is unstable and unbalanced, as we evolve, we lean towards love instead, as it is stable and balanced.
Our body coerces us--by a mechanism mixing degrees of pain and pleasure--into following certain behaviors. The primary ones are related to immediate survival: drinking, eating, sleeping, etc.... Eventually, however, procreation
becomes fundamentally important and we experience sexual attraction. Sexual attraction, however, is special in that it pulls us into binding with other people, by which we can extend the joint experience further away from our own bodies. That becomes the next step into learning how to link with others (which is one of the primary purposes of having a human life), thus, our body experiences sexual attraction specifically in order to amplify the interplay of Power<->Love that is always at the core of any joint-experience, only this time with respect to another person. Ideally, we would learn how to gauge from power to love in that new relationship.
Thus, "falling in Love"
which is a feeling generated by our body, is an experience whose purpose is to let us play with binding to other people much more closer than we do with family and friends. Falling in Love is experienced as a pull precisely to coerce us into the linkage, but then is up to us to learn from it and shift to Love instead of Power.
If "falling in Love" (being sexually attracted) is a playground, to Love
is the ideal outcome. In itself, Love
is a verb, not a feeling, and in its ideal form, refers to the pursue of joint-experiences that preserves self-determination of all involved parties. In practice, when we humans "love" (so to speak), we do purse joint-experiences but with any varying degree of coercion<->agreement, that is, we gauge from Power to Love as we evolve. We often refer to love as a feeling because said joint-experience is, like any other experience, perceived. That is, we are consciously aware of having a joint-experience, and is that what we refer to as "the feeling of Love". However, the most important thing about it is to learn that is an action, not a feeling (even if we feel the act when doing it).
[... there is much more to say but this post is already way too long...]