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Heidegger Is My Valentine

This post is for all the single people on valentines. No, please don’t read this as a tribute; this post literally is for you. Happy valentines motherfuckers.

So the Atlantic tells me that science says there’s no such thing as everlasting love. That’s not true. My bottle of whiskey has been with me since 1938. I don’t know how many shot glasses I have to break before I remember not to read the Atlantic again, but since my mind cannot be undestroyed, I’m just going to have to destroy yours as well.

Just a question: what is the converse of love?

Many Americans are facing a grim reality: They are love-starved.

Rates of loneliness are on the rise as social supports are disintegrating.

Right off the bat we know this article is insane. Ask a married couple how does it feel to be married for 30 years and there will be only two answers: lonely or annoyed. If you’re annoyed, at least your partner is still human. If you’re lonely, don’t worry about it, science can help you solve everything. This article is already structured on the premise of love against loneliness, never mind that they might not be opposites at all. This premise is a trick, but there’s no getting out of it.

According to scientist Barbara Fredrickson, love is:

“A “micro-moment of positivity resonance.” She means that love is a connection, characterized by a flood of positive emotions, which you share with another person—any other person—whom you happen to connect with in the course of your day.”

In other words, imagine this: you are at a starbucks and a guy taps you on your shoulder and asks if you have a spare cigarette. If you feel that your neurons are dancing with his – that is micro-love. Since I’m drunk and my neurons love to tango, here’s a question: would you fall in micro-love with the fat guy at walmart? In that fantasy of yours, does the starbucks guy happen to be cute, slightly hipster but not too much, has a cute grin, etc? In other words, wouldn’t your idea of what love is precede whatever positive resonance that your brain reveals? In yet other words, these studies merely show the symptoms of ‘love’, and this ‘love’ is already predetermined before any oxytocin is tested for.

More science:

When you experience love, your brain mirrors the person’s you are connecting with in a special way… Because brains are scanned inside of noisy fMRI machines, where carrying on a conversation is nearly impossible, Hasson’s team had his subjects mimic a natural conversation in an ingenious way.

They recorded a young woman telling a lively, long, and circuitous story about her high school prom. Then, they played the recording for the participants in the study, who were listening to it as their brains were being scanned. Next, the researchers asked each participant to recreate the story so they, the researchers, could determine who was listening well and who was not.

The results showed that the brain patterns of teller synchronized with the listener – thus micro-love. Genuis! But absolutely false and really terrifying, here is why. You don’t need anybody else to fall in micro-love with. Yes. The love story told by the recording is imitated by the people, which means that both the girl in the high-school prom and the separate participants fell in love with the fantasy of love. Read it again, the girl narrated her version of the story which in itself already holds the recreated fantasy of love. The participants then recounted that same fantasy of love, which they both agree on. In other words they weren’t falling in micro-love with each other, but the fantasy of love. Do I need to cue another cute starbucks guy to get another cigarette for this to make sense? Okay, let’s think. If the experiment were to be truly happening in a real correspondence between two people, what would happen?

What the two people are really thinking:

Guy: Oh, this girl is cute.

Girl: This guy is really ugly.

Guy: Let me charm her with cool things I’ve done over the weekend like beer pong. She will think I’m a really fun guy to be with and she will fall in love with me.

Girl: The fuck is this guy talking to me about beer pong.

Guy: She hates me.

Girl: I hate him.

Oh my god! They both have similar activities in their neurons! Micro-love?!?!

The whole problem with the experiment comes twofold. Firstly, the recording of the story already includes the romanticism within the fantasy of the story – this romanticism already signifies ‘love’. The participants recreate the fantasy, and they recreate the signification of ‘love’. The problem is in this case ‘love’ is nothing but a created fantasy to which it has nothing to do with psychology and everything to do with ideology. The second problem is the gap between the girl and the guy. When you erase that gap via recording stories on a tape, ‘love’ is on a purely singular, fantasmatic level. If the guy and the girl really sat down and talked, the gap is gone, and the participation between both the guy and the girl comes into play in a circular manner. This circularity is that which the guy wonders whether the girl is interested in him, and he acts according to the signals that the girl gives. In this case, the correspondence creates the kind of love to which has to be reciprocated by the other person. I have a confession. I don’t know what love is. But this article is crafting the idea of love to be a singular experience. In other words, the experiments are testing for love as fantasy between two simultaneous people that are separate. What this means is that when results for both separate guy and girl reveal the neurological activity of fantasy but interpreted as love, they conflate both guy and girl’s neurological activities as dependant on one another. That is how they find out what love is.

The experiments are flawed, but the author is trying to convince you that when you have a passing moment with cute starbucks guy, science tells you that it’s impossible for you to feel this way if he didn’t feel this way about you too. My eyeballs just burst into flames because my body is made up of 70% alcohol and 30% misery. Science just reified the idea that everybody is part of your fantasmatic game by biological design. According to them, you can then fall in micro-moments of love everywhere and that should give you hope. In other words, science says that you can fall in love without having anybody else to truly fall in love with. Wait! Let’s play a game! Let’s spin the Wheeeeel of Fortune!

Question: What is the word for which you can fantasize about falling in love with that person without actually needing that person?

M A _ T _ _ B _ T _ _ N
Hint: Lotion.

Fill in the blanksS,   U,   R,   A,   I,   O,  

The article decided that it wasn’t done crushing my soul, so they start talking about Buddhism. There was once when I really wanted to be enlightened, so I went to Buddha’s house.  We hung out, he was really cool. Buddha told me that only I could help myself. So I did. I helped myself to the beer in his fridge.

When I said this article was for the single people on Valentines, I wasn’t kidding. Those that were reading the post on the Atlantic must be pretty lonely and love is the illusion, the bait to which if you can get true love, this emptiness in your life will naturally disappear. Sorry folks, people that are married say the same thing to themselves all the time. “If only I married the right guy…” Loneliness and love might be related, but not in the way this article wants you to believe.

Here’s advice from an alcoholic. Do things. I don’t mean you should force yourself to go for a jog and come back feeling all sweaty and that will be the end of things. Find the right thing to do. What I mean is this, what is the exact thing that is making you lonely? During the exact time that you feel most empty (it’s usually a recurring constant timetable), start creating something meaningful. It might turn out terrible, sure, but creation spends all of your energy in the right way. And you have something to show for it. If this sounds stupid and mystical, the absinthe is kicking in. Also don’t listen to me I love alcohol.

Psychology attempts to structure the article in the way in which love is the cure for loneliness, yet again this has nothing to do with love at all. The people that believe in this still pine for the right micro-lover to come sweep them away, but here is the exact problem. Since micro love is solitary ‘love’ experience, this allows you to not have to change anything about who you are, but believe even deeper in the idea that you just need to do the things that you are already always doing (fantasizing about love), and finding love requires you to merely do it even more. Yet you know that as much as you micro-love anybody, you’re still going home alone tonight. But you know, science naturalizes this and tells you it’s not your fault. Well, this might be the only way you can get through Valentines anyway.


Categories: Current events, Philosophy, Social Science.

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11 Responses

  1. sasha2013-02-14 @ 18:53

    Brilliant. I remember reading that article and having a similar reaction.

  2. sal paradise2013-02-14 @ 21:00

    reminded me of klosterman

  3. I ‘m going to pull a Socrates and say this is a definition issue. “Love” is not a feeling. Butterflies in your stomach could easily be indigestion or worse from that sketchy burger place. Real love is a choice, a commitment to behave in a certain way even when those micro-moments aren’t there. And if we have control over anything, we have control over our power of choice.

    Looks like our neurons are aligning today, I enjoyed this perspective.

  4. Stoics don’t have neurons.

  5. My eyeballs also tend to catch fire whenever anyone equates the neural patterns concurrent with a given activity performed inside of and measured by an MRI machine with what happens in other circumstances where that same activity is performed but that do not involve being inside of an MRI machine (and moreover, with a complete lack of thought for MRI machines).

    MRI + sexytime =/= sexytime

    And yet, we can’t help but see it otherwise, because science!

  6. It’s all about being content in the present moment. When one happens upon this or works toward its realization loneliness will vanish.

  7. The question is how.

  8. I just wrote about this piece too.

  9. One day I’ll be smart enough to write a post like this.

    Frugal’s right-ish. Love is easier to recognize than to define, so it’s a special kind of identification problem. As Margery Wilson once wrote, “you need no more ask whether you’ve fallen in love than whether you’ve fallen down the stairs”. You know it when it hits. Falling in love is also related to the maintenance of love in that it’s the seed, but maintained love is kind of different. It needn’t lead to loneliness or annoyance (can’t honestly say about >30 years, but this applies to >10). Frugal’s also right about the commitment to behave in a certain way, but there’s a certain mental state, like not thinking about elephants, required too. All neurotics (and most posties are neurotics; stoics might just be functioning neurotics) will eventually ask themselves ‘but why does s/he like me? what does s/he see in me anyway?’ and proceed to give themselves dozens of reasons to sabotage the love. So the additional trick is just to take it on faith and trust the other person and continue doing your best to be worthy of love, even if you wouldn’t believe it yourself if you stopped and thought about it. In metaphorical terms, staying in love is like Wile E. Coyote running on thin air, and he’ll stay up so long as he keeps his legs pumping and never looks down. Falling in love is just running off and feeling the weightlessness, which is way easier.

    As for the Atlantic writing about masturbation, you nailed it.

  10. Surely I am neurotic and often fall short of my own ideals, but if anyone wants to know how I conceive of doing the best Wile E Coyote impression check out Erich Fromm’s “The Art of Loving.” It isn’t explicitly Stoic but it agrees in almost all respects to my understanding.

    As we all know, the plural of anecdote is not data, but you can add my agreement to your >10 year experience of mature love.

  11. Cough cough, (Stoicism), cough.

Got insight?