“Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” Gertrude Stein.
Love seems to be an exclusive human affair, especially when it comes to matters of self awareness and spirituality. But, let’s attempt to explore the origins and usages of the word love back to its flickering manifestations at the beginning of life.
If we accept the premise that through time everything settles and cools down following the second law of thermodynamics, we can probe whether the same “law” could be applied to the history of the meaning of love through time.
We could venture into calling it, a biological history of the decay of the meaning of love.
However, even when the universe as a whole has been and continues to decay away, life has continued to open up a somehow paradoxical challenge to entropy.
Throughout this challenge we already know that entropy (decay) is still ahead of the game and yet, love and life have kept upping that game to truly remarkable heights.
Love as an inner affinity between living things have evolved from an outward spontaneous random chemical affinity in cells, passing for an inward sexual affinity of species to a conscious, more than sexual human affinity with the entire bio-ecosystem, including the stars.
The conscious affinity between humans transcends the self referential “malady” of consciousness when two self-aware humans in love know that self-awareness comes to be the ultimate barrier to get through.
Love comes to be not a love of the self, but the love through and outside the self, which causes spontaneous affinity towards the challenging uniqueness of each individual who are also embarked on the outer journey of the self.
In the old English, love (lufu) means, affection, friendliness. Affection from Latin affectionem means, a relation. Also, we can think of the notion, “playing for the love of it”, which means, for nothing or not expecting anything in return.
Love then, could have been initiated at the biological order as an “amicable” relation between different bacterias, which did not expect anything in return due to the spontaneous and random exchange of genetic materials among them.
When we trust evolution, and I do, we tend to assume that genes, cells, organisms and species have a purpose and that they have appeared with the “intention” to evolve through the survival of the fittest. I do trust evolution, but I do not believe that purpose is predestined in the living. Purpose is a choice we have when and if we want to push a little bit further away from entropy, since entropy, so far, is inevitable.
However, for most of what we know, life has been a probabilistic accident in the motion of atoms and chemical organisation back on earth 3.5 billion years ago.
Evolution has no telos or finality, we can only perceive so in retrospect. Physics tells us that if there is matter, energy and gravity there is a chance for order, life and love to happen right anywhere there is a cloud(nebula) of entropy and decay.
Life truly appeared on planet earth “for the love of it”, for nothing, for no predetermined purpose. But, then, we might ask. How evolution took place? Hasn’t life had a purpose of maximising and optimising energy as it carried on creating a more complex order of organisation of matter?
3.5 billion years ago we had on earth what is called, The Last Universal Common ancestor (LUCA). They used to exchange biomaterial (proteins) with no further intent to get anything in return.
When mitochondrion got randomly inside cells through processes of proton gradient motility and DNA got in too via parasites, ATP (the energy currency of cells) kicked started the motion of life’s inner “self” as we know it.
There must have been some kind of mild survival of the fittest within LUCA, but not in the explicit way in which it manifested further in time.
Natural selection helped create a more enclosed and relatively self sufficient inner world for genes, cells, organisms and species. Yet, natural selection has never been a straight forward process.
As mutation, variations and adaptation have helped in the process of survival of the fittest, mutation is a random “affair.” So, for the living to better adapt it requires not only the right random mutation, but also the timed variation in the environment.
There are more bacteria on earth than stars in the known universe. Many of them randomly mutating and migrating as the environment keeps changing. They have been finding their right affinity or “lovers” and evolving in the process.
Once we get a huge proliferation of the same blueprint across the planet and add to it also 3.5 billion years for the living to make countless of errors in a long quest for affinity and love, the chances were there not only for life to survive, but more importantly, for life to thrive. We are very lucky that we have made it so far.
The loud “cry” of the living, but also its enduring fight has been: “Let’s divide ourselves in sub units to give us a better chance and endure in one planetary unit.” Such process continues to be a fight against the eroding work of entropy.
If we first understand “love” at a biological order excluding humans, we can understand how it gets just a little subtler at the biological-spiritual human order.
First, we have to be willing to be relatively unbiased for a moment of any personal experience of human love to avoid anthropomorphising the biological order without humans.
I won’t go into the realm of simple chemistry and atoms. That could be the subject of another discussion worth having in which we could discuss entropy and order in the arrow of time.
Love at its base follows certain rules of attraction through gradients of similarities and differences between bio-entities in close proximity. Such attraction has been asexual and sexual.
We could define “love”, for instance, as a vital force of propagation that has created diversity through processes of conservation and optimisation of energy among bio-entities, which have thrived to exist through continuous extremely slow growth that might or might not carry on existing in the future.
Let’s use also a basic general definition of “love” as the vital force that give away abundance of energy regardless of whether it will receive it back or not.
But we already know the problems we face with energy exchange. The key to understand how life obeys entropy is to look at the energy it takes in and the energy it gives out.
The living borrows order from the wider universe(the sun) and then it exports it again as disorder(heat), but they have to export more disorder than the order they import. Yet, for every new born whose gene mutation might improve adaptability and optimisation of energy exchange decay is hold for longer in abeyance.
The sun, for instance, can’t get any of its energy back. It is meant to burn and burn as it turns hydrogen into helium and helium into oxygen and carbon until it “dies.”
Throughout this process energy degrades. The sun ages, but it ages continuously, it doesn’t grow, as it happens with the living.
However, the sun, in a way, is a hard organisation of matter. It is not as fragile and subtle as life, and specifically life’s formation of brains. Brains are like floating formation of subtle watery matter through the heaviness of gravity.
The sun, compare with the organisation of the living, doesn’t have relatively independent inner worlds. The sun is an outward-inward continuos external exploding ball of energy.
Between gravity and nuclear fusion somehow a balance is kept in check, but the sun lacks of inner self-differentiation as it is the case with the living.
It was by way of this inner self-differentiation in the living through the organisation of cells, organs and organisms that a proto “subjectivity” emerged even before hearts and brains became the core of almost all animals functioning.
We are not really talking about subjectivity yet. This proto “subjectivity” emerges when the inner making of the living starts having layers or clusters of inner organisation, which can function with relative independence from larger clusters which comprise them. We can see them with genes, cells, bacteria, parasites, organs, organisms and species.
Love and life in many ways are the history and the evolution from this proto “subjectivity” of inner unfolding until it reached the human subjectivity.
Life, if it aims to anything at all, is to “pick up” the legacy of the sun, strike and feed from the “malady” of entropy as it creates order out of sun’s energy.
If there is something fascinating about the living is that it thrives to optimise its energy intakes through the very entropy that wears it out.
In that sense, there is nothing more “unloving” for the living than entropy. The living can falter to love, but entropy is the only thing that can absolutely do without love, and yet, it is out of entropy that the living emerges.
Mitochondrion give to the living the necessary excess of energy to thrive, to leisure, to idle, to create and to love.
Mitochondrion produces more with less. They produce surplus of energy at a cellular level, precisely what we human can produce at a social level as surplus of wealth via technology and culture. Abundance is not a hypothesis or an utopian idea, it is in the fabric of our being, in the cells that keep us alive.
The chances for harnessing the principle of giving in abundance without expecting anything in return are in our further understanding at the biological level of these little machines called mitochondrion, but also and fundamentally, in our further understanding at the spiritual level of these larger organs we call brains.
I do not endorse the ideas expressed by Richard Dawkins in his book, The selfish gene, even when he has clarified enough that the term “selfish” he uses is a metaphor.
In that sense, I am not flipping the coin of his metaphor to say that the gene is selfless or even that individual organisms are altruistic due to genes “hidden agendas” of self replication.
Dawkins even coined the term “meme” to refer to an idea, behaviour or style that spread from person to person as genes do. I do not endorse any of the memetic bandwagon of translating what happens at a biological order into human cultures and expect it to be as valid as genetic processes.
It is an entertaining narrative and it points at real problems regarding information overload and how we have become so co-dependants and mere cogs oiling the mechanisms of a global “sentient” network.
However, I don’t see it as a tool nor believe that our individual ideas are memes following the dictates of a global super organism.
Our ideas are not mere genetic metaphors. We are still organisms and more importantly, that which each of our brains can create in terms of ideas is foundational, is a universe in its own right with the challenges of finding affinity and love outwards as it find an inner spiritual dimension in the external world.
I neither endorse the idea of a “collective brain” in which individual brains can’t reach their full potential unless they continuously get “plugged” to this collective “sentient being”, be it the “neural technological hub” of Big Data or “Gaia” as a planetary super organism.
Again, both metaphors point at something valid and worth scrutinising, but you are the only thing you require to start the journey of departure from yourself.
As you continuously depart as you without alway owing to yourself self awareness of yourself, you come to meet with the face of the other. The other as a person with a universe as unique as yours, always presenting to you the other external side of your own world.
It is up to you to find affinity and love for the self discovery of yourself in the other outside yourself or to recoil into the other of your already known self.