Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Is love a bug?

A rather odd article in the New York Times posits that, if oxytocin can be used to spur monogamous relationship between individuals in near proximity, it might also be used to inhibit infidelity--or, even inoculate people against love.

The results are somewhat depressing:
“If we give an oxytocin blocker to female voles, they become like 95 percent of other mammal species,” Dr. Young said. “They will not bond no matter how many times they mate with a male or hard how he tries to bond. They mate, it feels really good and they move on if another male comes along. If love is similarly biochemically based, you should in theory be able to suppress it in a similar way.”
Sure, detachment would reduce soul-crushing infatuation (and any/all idiocy that accompanies it) great--but, in counterpoint, when I think monogamy, I think STD's. Or, namely, the decreased risk to acquiring them.

So, I'm not sure that this extrapolation makes sense:
I doubt many people would want to permanently suppress love, but a temporary vaccine could come in handy. Spouses going through midlife crises would not be so quick to elope with their personal trainers; elderly widowers might consult their lawyers before marrying someone resembling Anna Nicole Smith. Love is indeed a many-splendored thing, but sometimes we all need to tie ourselves to the mast.
In fact, this conclusion seems to be in direct opposition to the quotation from Young above. (Am I missing something?) The story of Odysseus and Penelope was about love; the story of Odysseus and the Sirens was about blind lust.

Or, as Derek Walcott put it in Sea Grapes: "The classics can console. But not enough."

1 comment:

Les said...

that story creeps me out.