Friday, August 19, 2011

Limerence: How Shall we make a concord of this discord?

In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a romp of desire and love, Theseus asks “How shall we make a concord of this discord?” as the now-reconciled lovers are about be entertained by amateur actors. The question can be seen as one overarching that play, and is one of many insights it has to offer us about the unconscious, love, life and what David Brooks calls “limerence.”

When describing  limerence in “The Social Animal, The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement,” (see previous post), Brooks  cites the neuroscientific work of Read Montague, Peter Dayan and Terrence Sejnowski which found that “the mental system is geared more toward predicting rewards than the rewards themselves.” We are constantly creating predictive models and “when one of the models accurately anticipates reality, then the mind experience a little surge of reward, or at least a reassuring feeling of tranquility,” Brooks writes.
These little anticipatory patterns in our brain help us predict the future. The desire for limerence, he says, draws us to the familiar, propels us intellectually, is experienced in crafts well done, or when, at its most profound, we fuse with nature and God and one another. Some call these moments of harmony love or bliss.

Achieving limerence, Brooks says, can produce an overwhelming feeling of elation. Here’s an example the elevation of limerence:
July Mountain 
We live in a constellation,
Of patches and of pitches,
Not in a single world,
In things said well in music,
On the piano, and in speech,

As in a page of poetry—
Thinkers without final thoughts
In an always incipient cosmos
The way, when we climb a mountain,
Vermont throws itself together.

 I know it’s August, not July, but I often think of this poem in summer.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Barbara
    Our book-group season begins Mon night and I'll pass on your blog address. I'll gather some favorites from summer reads 'show&tell'. And I promise send along the list for this winter, too. It's fun to see your writings and ideas.