Earlier this year I read A General Theory of Love, a profound scientific and poetic meditation on love and relationship with particular emphasis on the role of the brain. I suppose some may bristle at its humanistic slant. I did not; in fact, I lost count of the number of times I penciled Yes or This or even one Gasp! in the margins as the text soothed my usual porcupine quills into something more resembling lambswool.
This passage highlights seeing, hearing, and the power of being known–our soul’s deep need for this:
“Every person broadcasts information about his inner world. As a collection of dense matter betrays its presence through electromagnetic emissions, a person’s emotional Attractors manifest themselves in a radiant aura of limbic tones. If a listener quiets his neocortical chatter and allows limbic sensing to range free, melodies begin to penetrate the static of anonymity. Individual tales of reactions, hopes, expectations, and dreams resolve into themes. Stories about lovers, teachers, friends, and pets echo back and forth and coalesce into a handful of motifs. As the listener’s resonance grows, he will catch sight of what the other sees inside that personal world, start to sense what it feels like to live there.
“… Take a few lines from the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi’s ‘Fountains of Rome,’ a tone poem meant to evoke (among others) Trevi. How can its meaning be disclosed? One could dissect the notes, scrutinize the sound frequencies, chart and measure the silent intervals. But anyone wishing to receive what Respighi has to say need only listen. Part of the brain enables us to assemble certain sounds in a loftier coherent dimension. As a result, Respighi’s exhuberant outpouring requires no schooling to grasp. Music, said Beethoven, is a higher revelation than philosophy. Another part of the brain is poised to translate emotional signals into revelations higher still.”
“The first part of emotional healing is being limbically known — having someone with a keen ear catch your melodic essence. . . . A precise seer’s light can still split the night, illuminate treasures long thought lost, and dissolve many fearsome figures into shadows and dust. Those who succeed in revealing themselves to another find the dimness receding from their own visions of self. Like people awakening from a dream, they slough off the accumulated ill-fitting trappings of unsuitable lives. Then the mutual fund manager becomes a sculptor, or vice versa . . . the city dweller moves to the country, where he feels finally at home. As limbic clarity emerges, a life takes form.”
Lewis, Thomas, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon. A General Theory of Love. New York: Random House, 2000. Print.)