Imagination over intelligence

‘Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own’ ~ Robert Heinlein.

Love has been described as a ‘divine accident’ and a ‘triumph of imagination over intelligence’ among other numerous attempts to eloquently interpret this emotion. Biology has provided a glimpse into the cognitive process and brain chemistry,  psychology has attempted to factor in emotional experience and an evolutionary explanation. Despite my scientific background I still feel perplexed by the concept of love, how can something we often label ‘complex emotion’ be simply a neurotransmitter concoction and the hand-me-downs of our early ancestors? Least I can blame my infatuations on a dopamine high, ah reductionist science at its best.

I regurgitated all this insightful information in conversation earlier today and this was the response I got:

“The feeling of love may only be oxytocin or dopamine but who cares. You don’t see a beautiful painting and go, ‘ah well that’s only my brain’s interpretation of the very small range of the electromagnetic spectrum that I can see. So nothing special’. Just because love is chemicals does not make it less real. In fact it’s more real because you don’t have to have any physical act for me to feel it. For me to feel pain you would have to physically do something to me. For me to feel love I need only look at [my true love].”

This sod-the-science attitude I found quite endearing and I appreciate the attempt to push past the explanation of love as being a hard-wiring in the brain. It’s more Disney that way and I would never deny anyone that magic.

The internet is brimming with so much slush today of all days, I know it can be tough on one’s gag reflex but bear with me. There is one video that stands out to me. The storyline is simple, and as you will see there really are no words necessary.

My favorite part was when the central character finds life brighter after stumbling upon his love interest, cue: effortless waking up and arriving at the office in a lovestruck daze. It broke my heart at the start (oh I am a sentimental one) to watch someone walk blindly through the working day without any passion for what they were doing. An existence like that would be worst than death for me – and this is not an exaggeration! Everyone needs something worth getting out of bed for, something they can throw themselves into and I’m not just talking about love here.

But yes, I thought the absence of dialogue was perfect.

On topic. Le Love – an internet shrine to the feeling of love. I wanted to mention this as it delves into the multi-faceted concept that is love. It doesn’t attempt to sugar coat it, or portray love as being always laced with rainbows and white picket fences, nor is it all happily ever after. There is no false advertising here. From the moment love struck, the apprehensive move from friends to lovers, the bittersweet transition from lovers to friends and everything in between. It perfectly conveys the insecurities and uncertainties, the hope and cynicism. The incidences of unrequited love with the ache of longing for something we may never have and someone who may never belong to us. This honest journal captures it all.



Filed under Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, Personal Development

4 responses to “Imagination over intelligence

  1. Mmm, “imagination over intelligence” is a really poignant way to put it, actually.

    Mind if I ramble a little? Cause I think I might, if that’s okay, to add to your point. I’m reading a book right now by Oliver Sacks about the science of music on the brain, and I just read a part that detailed a guy (Clive Wearing) with severe amnesia who cannot process any new information, what so ever, and he’s lost much of his previous memory too. His intelligence and faculties are all still perfectly in tact, but his mind cannot process or file away anything new. And yet, every time his wife walks into the room, he lights up with adoration, greets her as if he hasn’t seen her in 50 years, even though it’s been 20 seconds. She is the only person he recognizes.

    Perhaps more incredibly, if you sit him at a piano with a sheet of music, he can play it magnificently and without a moment’s hesitation (he was a professional conductor). So consider that love is like music. Both in how we experience it, and in how our brains and bodies process it. Which, if you ask me, requires more imagination than intelligence.

  2. Julie

    I remember in my neuroanatomy class, we learned that pleasure means the absence (inhibition) of pain. I was a neuroscience major in college and everyone kept asking how brain expresses emotions and what not. I remembered when I mentioned the whole meaning of pleasure from a neuroscience standpoint my non science friends were telling “no it can’t be! How is it that we were always in pain?”

    anyways done with that rambling. It’s interesting how people think love can be defined as “imagination over intelligence”–I kind of disagree. I believe from well…what I’ve seen with my friends and family who claimed to be in love. But I believe to be in love is to love yourself first–I think you have to have intelligence to do that. I learned that we choose the love that we think we deserve and I see my friends and my siblings and cousins in miserable states for sticking around with someone they claim to “love” so that’s not really loving or respecting themselves.

    Imaginations, they go away but intelligence can always grow (or dwindle if one so really chooses).

    Anyways done rambling!

  3. Nice point of view Julie.

    I know of people who swear they are in love, but have a terribly low self esteem (even though they are marvelous inside and out) and hang on to their love interest like a security blanket. Like you said, you need to be smart enough to realise that loving yourself is the key – to being happy and having a good connected relationship.
    People argue that you can still love regardless of whether you love yourself or not but I definitely think it makes for a more fulfilling relationship as you’re not just seeking someone to fill a void.

    I haven’t read much into this yet, but the child-mother love/bond could have its place in the imagination vs. intelligence argument.

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