1. RHYTHMS IN HUMAN NATURE


1


     The story we tell ourselves about ourselves is always one of opportunities taken or missed. We don’t dwell on how we posed or strutted or thought or felt, but on what we did or didn’t do.  And we generally agree on the things that matter most. Inwardly, in the actual texture of our lives as lived, we struggle with the same priorities, because we share common physiological functions that cause us to experience, in every historical and cultural setting, the same passions and virtues. I hope to show that more than any other of our endeavors, love and wisdom, whether we succeed or fail in them, whether our cultures honor or suppress them, definitively shape our sense of self-worth and tune our enthusiasm for life.

    Love or the search for it is the animating force in social life. Wisdom is the fruit of solitude. No solitude, no wisdom. No sociability,  no love. 

   I think of love and wisdom as the vehicles that carry moral sentiments into the world. They’re not moral sentiments themselves; they’re biological imperatives, primordial rhythms that predate ethics. They even predate choice. The moral sentiments they carry can vary enormously in content, strength and resiliency depending on individual temperaments and historical needs.


 2

    love rhythm Love is an Eros centered process that oscillates on alternating legs of approach and separatiwisdom rhythmon. Wisdom is a Logos centered process that moves by successive inward withdrawals and outward returns. Through love, we find each other. In wisdom, we discover ourselves. Love starts with a greeting. Wisdom begins with a departure. While love finds its peak experiences in close communion, wisdom gets its powers when a person descends alone from the surface of life to the depths of inwardness to make a discovery there and return with it. Alchemists called the process “rectification through going inward.”
     Both processes are dynamic engines of change, not states of being. They belong to the vita activa as unfoldings in time. Only in retrospect do they enter the vita contemplativa as truths to ponder.


3


     Why do love and wisdom matter so much? What makes them so memorable to us? They matter because they employ our evolved physiology in ways that generate rhythmic resonances across many body systems. We experience their biological rightness with an augmentation of energy that, in its rhythmic consanguities, transmits a feeling of meaningfulness.
     The strength and wholeheartedness with which we enter our turning points in love and wisdom, rightly understood, is a measure of their rhythmic integrity. And rhythmic integrity can be measured by activity in specific frequency bands that we will explore in the course of our investigations (See # 7, 14, 19, 20.)                                                                                                                                                              


4

     Love and wisdom are real only as ‘round-trip’ events. They move on legs to turning points. They intensify and reverse. The leg of approach leads to separation. Inward withdrawal provokes outward return.                     

                   love turning                                  wisdom turning point
                   Love Turning Point                                   Wisdom Turning Point                 
                                                                                                               
  The phrases “perennial wisdom” and “eternal love” suggest that we climb the virtues like ladders to states of high constancy. But we don’t. Love advances through reversals. Wis
dom travels through stages marked by turning points. No single stage can stand for the whole. The worthiness resides in the completely unfolding pattern.                                       
 

spirals

 The approaches, separations, withdrawals, and returns get their meaning because they join into dramas of engagement and discovery. The dramas, though they disclose themselves as events in time, can be illustrated graphically. I have sketched out the main patterns in still pictures. You can put them into motion in your mind.
     Both love and wisdom are vulnerable to perturbation at the links between their mini-cycles, as illustrated to the left, and even more so, at the major turning in the pattern, the turning of turnings, where the temporal shape of the whole emerges from the congeries of its parts.


                                    Turning of turnings


5

     Sex, belonging, touch, and affiliation all move in the rhythms of approach and separation built out of briefer units tied to frequencies in nature. When new life is conceived, always in closest approach, it develops with its own rhythmic course in a process full of frequency dependent stages leading to a specific gestation period followed by birth.
     Some species only come together to mate. Others express approach/separation as they sleep and rise, feed and rest, travel and settle, attack and defend together. Sometimes the approach and separation occur in great flocking or herding populations. In existing human hunter-gatherer bands, group members separate to forage and hunt and then come together in the home camp to share food, maintain family life, socialize and sleep.

                               san cave painting
                               South African San Cave Painting

     Since the base-camp and the feeding range are often seasonal or even more temporary, the oscillations are tied primarily to the group members themselves, not to the place the group occupies; they approach and separation from and to each other; the particulars of the places can change but the good order of the troop persists.
 
     Sam Keen caught the sense of the polar rhythms of approach and separation well when he wrote in The Passionate Life, “Loving is a continual dance between bonding and returning to our boundaries, coming together and going apart."1
 
      Distance and closeness enter not extrinsically but at the heart of the rhythm of nature itself.


6

     Where the stimuli for approach and separation come mainly from outer sensation and involve sensory following and motor responses, the dominant sensations for withdrawal/return come from inside the body out of social view. Wisdom’s venue is rumination, daydream, dream life, recollection, cognition, reflection, imagination, meditation and contemplation.
     The journey of withdrawal and return manifests as a repeating series of inward-and-outward movements, pulsations between the surface of life and the depths, a pattern that weaves on until, after many dips and surfacings extending over many months, like fractals set in time, a larger inward-outward pattern forms.
     Though we have internal sensory experiences regularly, in some situations, and at certain stages of life, they dominate the screen of consciousness, obscuring or even obliterating external sensory streams. This throws us into long inward journeys. Well conducted, they take us to turning points in our own depths. From them, by gradual shifts to outward sensory interests, we make our way back to the consensual world. The inner adventure changes us. Sometimes we are renewed by it. In happy circumstances, the world welcomes us back.


7

     People vary greatly in the number of mini-cycles that come together to constitute their love lives or wisdom quests. The duration of the individual cycles and the overall pattern, as well as its susceptibility to disruption depends on individual differences in constitution, upbringing and education. And chance plays a part.
     It follows from this, that to understand love and wisdom as they actually play out in a person's life we need to know more about the biological rythms from which they form and how those rhythms come together to shape behavior into larger patterns of meaning.
     Here we enter unexplored territory and must deal with new concepts. Chief among them:

     1) Despite our individual differences, the
rhythmic components  of love and wisdom do not express  at all possible tempos in everyone. They cluster within certain common frequency bands.2

     2) These frequency bands reflect the rhythms of nature to which we were tuned by our early evolution.   That is to say, by long processes of selection, organisms have come to mirror the rhythmicity of the earth environment. Its planetary movements, tectonic rumblings, magnetic moments, flowing water, cyclonic winds and radiant solar energies pulse through us.

                                          


8

     We live in far-from equilibrium conditions. Tipping points occur in life. Because of the complex makeup of the components of love and wisdom, particularly in their rhythmoic interactions as they amplify, diminish, pull on on each others frequencies and sometimes extinguish each other, love and wisdom have tipping points.
     But not all tipping points are turning points. A tipping point becomes a turning point only when  the sensitive nonlinear bio-oscillating systems of which it is  comprised meet  perturbations with rhythmic restoration rather than derhythmization.
     We can speculate that we have the power of rhythmic restoration because:

   1.   Our thoughts and actions and all their cerebral, neural, humoral and skeleto-muscular components  are  designed to move in specific frequency bands with phase relationships to other oscillators.

                                                         wave nature of life
                                                         Imagined View of the
                                                         Wave Nature of Life

      2.  These unfold as events in a field of nature that is itself resonant, suggesting
 
      3.  That reality is structured in such a way as to generate resonances and dissonances that tune human nature (and all living natures) to the environment and to each other.
 
       4.  Love and wisdom are the highest expressions of these dynamics because they command the adaptive peaks of our most consequential solitary and social undertakings. They're what we care about most.

     That's a mouthful. We have a great deal to unpack here. But if we can do it we will come to understand how love and wisdom emerge as meaning bestowing values in human life from the substrate of nature. The effort will be well worth while. It will help us know ourselves.
 










































































PREVIOUS NEXT BEGIN BOOK CONTACT US