When I was in Seattle I saw a book and on the cover was a hyper-reflective asterisk. A fresnel footnote. An interference-patterened maybe in the middle of a life currently defined as mine. Read the subtitles. Everything is under the skin.
The woman I was with saw me standing there looking. Elliott Bay Bookstore. Wooden stacks holding tomes of the recently published. Raincoated patrons milling between glossy headshots of this writer or that, looking literary in Ansel Adams tones. Writing a book turns you black and white, apparently.
I would like to say the latte' in my hand was steaming into the gray Seattle cloak called weather, but it had gone lukewarm by then. My eyes, bleary from the sleep I pretend in hotel rooms, I could barely read the titles but at least I wasn't alone. A day to kill, kill with me I asked her without asking. Do you like books was what she wanted to know in the killing.
Do I like books? Do cows like the pope?
What? Bears, I mean bears. Wait, what are you saying? Ok I'll meet you at Elliott Bay, is what I'm trying. Where's that? Do I need a plane? Oh, you're not from here. Feet you need feet. I have those. Because it's just up the road from where you're staying. Nine o'clock. Ok I'll be there.
A latte at the Starbucks on the corner. Home of Starbucks. Hey, here you are, you found it. Yes. It was close like you said. So, cool. Go browse I'm going to go up there. Looking for something. Ok, I'll be here.
I'm right here.
The titles, the author's names came unglued from the paper and floated airborne, dust waiting for the sunbeam. Everything in the air. She has this Nordic energy that makes me imagine her riding reindeer for some reason. Then her hand crossing my visual plane. Here I am. Underwater and she's dived in.
I'll buy it for you, she said without saying, taking the asterisk from the rack in front of my eyes, leafing through. Stared at the architectural photograph of the author. A present. I have to give you something. Why? I don't deserve anything. Yes you do. I say you do, so you do.
I told her I didn't even know what it was about, but it didn't matter. She smiled and put the refractive asterisk on the book in her hand. Isabelle Allende. Ever read her? No, I hadn't. Not at all.
Short love stories. You really should. You'd like them. They're like poems. Meant to be read to you. Maybe we'll go for lunch at my favorite place and I'll read you one.
Okay, what will that mean I don't say we start reading each other love stories I don't say maybe we should go to the music museum I don't say maybe. Or yes.
Blink. You've become my asterisk.
What do you think it's about? I don't know, but it sounds interesting. After you're done send it to me. Ok. But how will I get it to you? How will I find you? You're all over the place. You don't live anywhere. Don't worry. You will. When I need you to, you'll find me I know you will. You know how.
How do you know?
I just do.
There are two books and two movies I've just consumed. This book is called "Blink". That book is called "A General Theory of Love".
Malcolm Gladwell, Blink. Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, Richard Lannon (all M.D.s) A General Theory of Love.
Kinsey: Liam Nesson, Laura Linney,etc. Code 46 Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton, yadda.
These four things are the same to me. It's all about how your intuition is oh so right and oh so wrong. How love comes from nowhere that lives in your limbic brain. It's not cerebral. The logical cortex doesn't fathom love. The reptilian brain is a biologic automaton. The simple state machine that runs the heart and lungs.
Love comes from the limbic system. It comes from the knowing without knowing.
Kinsey studied sex, which is not love. A point made after 90% of the movie is over. After everyone has had sex with everyone else, and two of Kinsey's assistants are battling it out in the office. Each has had sex with the other's wife, but one opposing pair has gotten too attached.
Kinsey had seen it coming, but was powerless to stop it. The connection between sex and love hadn't happened in his science. Love was too ephemeral. Too fuzzy. Too unscientific.
A General Theory of Love and Blink both put love squarely in the limbic system. The seat of the unconscious.
There's an experiment they both reference. The researchers put in front of the subject two decks of cards. The cards implement a game. The game is this: turn over a card, win or lose money. Each subject is given $2000 in fake money. The objective is to turn over cards until one deck is completely turned over or your play "bank" goes to zero. At that point the game is over.
One deck of cards awards people money in increments of $50. The other, in increments of $100. However, hidden in the deck of $100 cards, are big penalty cards. In the deck of $50 rewards, the penalties are fewer and less severe.
The subjects know nothing about the decks and how they're stacked.
Within the first thirty card turns, all subjects correctly divine the strategy for success is to turn over the cards in the deck that has been awarding them in $50 increments, but they don't know why. They just know it works.
The experimenters do PET scans of the subjects while they're turning over cards. They see a "premptive", anticipatory "wave" of action sweep through the brains of the subjects before they turn over a card. The wave gets stronger and stronger as the "correct" algorithm is determined.
But the subjects have no idea what they're doing or how they're doing it.
In another experiment, people are simply asked to push a button at certain intervals on the clock. Observers watching their PET scans see the "anticipatory" wave sweep through their brains BEFORE the people are cognizant of the need to push the button.
Let me say that again. The neurons in the brain fire before the people "know" they're supposed to push the button. Something in the brain, below the cortex controls this.
Researchers in A General Theory of Love exposed subjects to a seemingly random pattern of graphics and then showed the subject a landscape under different times of day and differing weather patterns. The algorithm (called a "hash") for matching the weather to the pattern was so complex a computer would generally be required to figure it out. Yet after 50 tries, all subjects of all levels of intelligence, age, sex, etc., were capable of determining the weather and time of day with seventy percent accuracy by looking at the complex graphics.
And they had no idea how they were doing it.
This is what we experience as intuition. This is a part of our mind, which has learned something our cortex does not fathom.
Code 46 is a near-future, post-apocalyptic science fiction about a man with remarkable intuition, who falls in love with a woman who is so like him genetically that it is illegal for them to marry.
The operative idea being that through state-sponsored IVF, this woman who is almost 15 years younger than him, has a genetic structure almost identical to his own mother.
And his intuition screams love to him. And her intuition tells him he is the man she has been dreaming of her whole conscious life.
Blink highlights a psychologist who can look at a couple from a distance and predict with 90% accuracy whether they will stay together or separate. Body posture, tone of voice, gesture, these things radiate internal conditions. A General Theory of Love tells us we are predisposed to fall deeply in love with people who fit the patterns of thought burned into our neural networks by years of our own lives. Some of the patterns are genetic. Some are learned.
There is a limbic connection that occurs between two people looking at each other. We can see this on our instruments. Somehow, the midbrain communicates while the cortex goes blind to the transfer. The window directly to the soul drives feelings we have no way to comprehend with our the language that lives on top. No way to explain with the giri of Broca's area. The temporal lobe. All that stuff is down deep where memory lives. The pineal. Glands we can dissect, put into spectrographs and chemically analyze.
What is it doing? The software impact escapes us.
Love is a mental state. It can be broken down and observed with PET scans. Reductio ad absurdum. We are all our molecules and mental states. Sixty years ago, Alfred Kinsey could have told us roughly when we started masturbating, when we first experienced or gave oral sex, what our favorite position was.
But he had no idea, and made no attempt, to connect that activity with love.
No sex no love. Maybe. Asterisk.
Probably because at one level, it doesn't connect. And at another, it always does.
Blink. She can see you across a room. One set of eyes in two thousand, and know it's you. You can see her getting off a plane. The crown of one head bobbing among hundreds. A voice that cuts through the din of aircraft engines.
She tells you that you can put a tape recorder on a grave and hear the voices of the dead. She tells you there are spirits in the woods who told her about you. She tells you she's been dreaming about you since she was ten. That last night, she dreamt you were here. And now you are.
But I can't stay.
It doesn't matter. It hasn't to now and it never will.
She shrugs. The world is bigger than me. So much bigger.
Where will you go? How do I find you?
You will. You just do. That's how it works.
Do you believe me?