Richard is a philosophy undergraduate student with ambition toward a career in jurisprudence. He likes banter and debating but can be impatient and at times unsympathetic to the questions of God. Sundar is a student in electrical engineering with hopes of working in the field of wireless communications. Both young men enjoy each other’s company and discussion even though one is an atheist and the other a committed follower of Jesus and the Christian way.
What of Love?
Richard: Another day, another step closer to the dollas
Sundar: What are you all giddy about?
Richard: Got into NYU law school!!!
Sundar: Oh my, now you are really going to be insufferable
Richard: Unstoppable! Don’t worry, I won’t forget the little guys who helped me along the way [laughs]
Sundar: Oh good for me. What did your Dad think?
Richard: I don’t care what he thinks – he is just pissed I don’t say hail Mary any more. We don’t connect much and to be honest I don’t really care.
Sundar: Isn’t he paying for school?
Richard: Was, I’ve been on my own for a couple of years. He cut me off after I told him what I thought of him.
Sundar: Man, I didn’t know.
Richard: Its ok, I don’t really care
Sundar: You have to care a little – I mean, who wants to be estranged from family. That has to bum you out a little, no?
Richard: No, I sort of hate the guy to be honest. Not trying to sound like a jerk or anything but I pretty much feel only contempt there. But stop all this noise and lets go get a beer and celebrate! NYU and Columbia were my top two and I’m in!!!
Sundar: Aight, give me a half an hour to finish up this digital electronics homework and we’ll head out. Nothing crazy though; I don’t want to tuck you in again like spring break your freshman year. We’ll hang but I don’t want you getting all sloppy drunk OK? I’m not your momma.
Richard: Ok, but hey, I’m not a freshman any more, I’ve matured a bit you know. But we need to have some fun – our time here is coming to a close quickly. We’ve had some good times. We need to soak this in.
[Richard drumming fingers on table, Sundar giving him an angry look…Sundar finally finishes up his last schematic]
Sundar: Aight, lets hit it
Sundar: Why don’t you ever talk about your Dad – I mean, I had no idea what was up there.
Richard: Nothing to say.
Sundar: Don’t you love the guy?
Richard: I got no need for love. And that man is the ultimate object of my disaffection. I’m not sure I believe in that whole love business any way.
Sundar: Seems pretty central to being human.
Richard: Love is just input and outputs Sundar. It’s a feeling in the brain – neuroscience has demonstrated that love is nothing but your brain getting all jazzed up in a certain area. We have located the way the brain reacts when people feel love. All just chemistry man…I have not use for that game.
Sundar: Did you get dumped in high school? [laughing]
Richard: Shut up you tool, I mean I like some people and certainly enjoy women, I’m just saying I’m not into all that sappy, “you should love your Dad” stuff you want to bring up.
Sundar: Whether you should love your Dad is another question. I think love is central to who we are. That we are made for relationship.
Richard: Social creatures, yes. But love I can see through that stuff.
Sundar: Hey, just a question about what you said a minute ago about neuroscience. Isn’t that a bit reductionist to say that love equals a certain brain function?
Richard: Not at all, you just have someone think fuzzy thoughts about their Mom or husband or wife or kid or something and watch the brain. When they are feeling love; the brain lights up. It’s pretty simple actually.
Sundar: Yes, but that is my point, there is a person who is thinking and feeling something. How do you know they are not thinking about MMA and beating someone down?
Richard: Well, you tell them what to think about dumb dumb.
Sundar: And how do you know they are thinking about their puppy or girlfriend they love?
Richard: They tell you!
Sundar: What if they are lying? You’d never know.
Richard: [Pauses for a second] I guess you have to take their word for it. But why would they lie?
Sundar: I’m not saying they would or did in the experiment you referred to. I am saying that we must rely on a real person to explain what they are thinking/feeling and then your sensors can perceive the corresponding brain function. But the love is not the brain function, the brain function is a correlated result of feeling the love.
Richard: But this would imply the person is more than their brain. Which I don’t believe.
Sundar: Well, maybe we are more than our brains. We both like neuroscience – fascinating stuff – but materialism is a philosophical claim and is not something science can prove. The existence of other minds we may believe, and be right to believe, but we cannot prove this scientifically. It is a truth of philosophy and of experience.
Richard: Yet we have demonstrated clearly that the most important aspect about us is our brains. Our higher and lower brain function dictate everything in our conscious and subconscious experience.
Sundar: I agree that our brains are indispensable – I’m not saying that we are ghosts operating without our bodies. But the mind is something immaterial which is causally and uniquely correlated to our brains. The brain is the bodily organ where the drama of minds takes place. Think of it this way [whips out his smartphone and launches a YouTube app].
Richard: Oh I love that “Guy on a Buffalo” video – so stupid and funny
Sundar: Ok, we’ll watch it – I like it too [they watch a 2 min clip]. Now, if I were to ask you what is the movie we just watched, what would you say?
Richard: “He’s on a buffalo!” [laughing] I would say it’s a story about a guy riding a buffalo in the wilderness and some crazy dudes writing some funny songs to go around it.
Sundar: Right, you would not say that the movie was “just some glass, an AMOLED display, electrons turning on and off in a machine.”
Richard: No, who would talk like that
Sundar: You would. You realize that the movie is a plot, some characters, in this case a buffalo and a guy riding on it, [both laugh] it has people interacting and we have an understanding of these interactions. Only a goofball would reduce the movie to “physical electronic parts.” And you, being a goofball, do that to a human being. Our brains are the medium of the mind but the mind is not the medium.
Richard: I see what you are saying. Hard to prove that though – especially when we can see so much can be reduced to the brain.
Sundar: Well, as a future NYU law dog, you should think about these things. After all, if we are simply matter bumping around due to the previous states of matter there is no “real” volition, ethics, spirituality or possibility of “changing oneself” as you so often like to say “you” did. You don’t get credit for your LSAT score as the bumping of matter that is you simply and necessarily had to do this because of the laws of physics.
Richard: Well, if I have to give credit to MY LSAT score to physics maybe I’ll believe I’m more than my brain. I’ve just built my brain so awesomely you know. [laughs]
Sundar: I really just wanted to ask about your Dad. How did we get on all that schmack?
Richard: I said love is just brain chemistry and off you went
Sundar: Sorry man, you must get sick of me doing all that
Richard: No, I love it. No pun intended.
Sundar: I think you know love is important and central to being human. Otherwise, why would you be so disappointed with your Dad.
Richard: Because he’s a piece of crap – you don’t know what it was like Sundar, you parents, pujas and all – are nice people. Pops…not so much. Just disappointing.
Sundar: Naw dog, it is just the bumping of atoms bro, your Dad’s brain is what it is. No reason to be disappointed. C’est la vie.
Richard: Stop it [laughs subtely]
Sundar: The central nature of love to our existence is why it’s so disappointing. You had hopes and expectations – the stuff of relationship – that didn’t work out with your Dad. So your hope of love and friendship with Pops is why it hurts so much. You won’t convince me otherwise.
Richard: OK, Dr. Freud, Ok, maybe I wish things were different. To be honest, I’m really thankful for a friend like you. Most people don’t put up with my BS – for some reason you hang around. Probably just want to convert me.
Sundar: No, Richard we are friends, you know that. Whether or not you convert, I like you anyway man. Even in your crusty arrogance and LSAT dominance. [laughs] But for sure, you know I want you to believe in Jesus.
Richard: Sappy bro, let’s get another beer.
Sundar: I’m about done. You should slow it down after that one as well.
Richard: I have thought more about Jesus in a serious way since meeting you. My Dad and his church friends seem so stupid to me. I couldn’t even look at Jesus as anything but silly…but you messed that up for me Sundar. I’ve realized there are thoughtful and caring believers out there and certainly Jesus is an enigmatic figure. Maybe after law school I’ll pick back up some religious reading and have some questions for you.
Sundar: I’d really rather you not just put down your wrestle with God and faith in Jesus. It is more important than law school you know.
Richard: Blasphemy!!! [laughs boisterously]
Sundar: I know, but hear me out. Afterall, your Dad is going to die soon.
Richard: What does THAT have to do with anything!? [a little agitated]
Sundar: Death is a serious thing and that end is coming to us all. Sorry to be so blunt but you shouldn’t put off stuff that is important. Like your jacked up relationship with your Pops or the destiny of your own soul.
Richard: Is this where you tell me why I’m going to hell again?
Sundar: No, we’ve had that discussion – and God knows on that one – but I will say that before our current brainwaves cease, we should care about our own destiny.
Richard: Indeed – I hear you man. Can we just hang now?
Sundar: Never. [both laugh]
© 2011 Reid S Monaghan, Jacob’s Well – www.JacobsWellNJ.org