An old quandary

An old quandary

The ‘God particle’ sheds no new light on the mysteries of romantic love

By Lionel Rolfe 08/02/2012

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Now that scientists have found the “God particle,” maybe it’s time to solve the far lesser but still deserving and perplexing questions of existence. Perhaps it’s not exactly parallel, because the discovery of the God particle answers more about how the universe came into existence than the far more tangential question of how life was born.
 
Still, most people would say the universe be damned. If we’re not sleep-deprived or hungry, romance remains the foremost thing on most people’s minds. Romance plunges us into emotional maelstroms at the mere glimpse of cleavage. The joys, the ecstatic moments, merge with the mundane in the construction of the bonds by which people are bound. 
 
They say that the God particle is the glue that binds the various parts of the universe together and gives them bulk and mass, and I'll grant that the God particle is the most exalted piece of knowledge there can be; still you’d think the glue that governs the mechanics of our love life is almost as important.
 
You would think all the truisms known about love and life have been written in a big book somewhere, and it should be easy to look up how to meet the challenges of love and life simply and easily.
 
As far as I can tell, many people believe in romance, but many more do not. You’d think that before we unravel God particles, we’d be able to decide if love really is nothing more than pheromones — or perhaps there really are universal keys that explain women’s true psychology, and men just have to read some guru to get whatever they want from the fairer sex.
 
Maybe compatibility boils down to women who choose their mates by picking suitors who can be good providers and defend their offspring. After all, we share more than 99 percent of the DNA of chimpanzees, whose males choose their future female mates by killing her current man and his offspring.
 
I know one guy who sees everything through the prism of the barnyard. He derides folks who think they are “in love.” “No,” he says, “you’re in lust.” It’s all simple barnyard mechanics.
 
I’ve been suffering from divorce for a year or so now, and my friend suggests that I should have a lot of sex to get over my most recent ex-wife. He says that would fix everything. “Sex can conquer love anytime,” he says.
 
So we can discover a God particle, but we can’t figure out how all of God’s beasts go about finding true love.
 
I have two varieties of birds in my bedroom. I have an African Gray and three cockatiels. I understand that avian creatures are nothing more than the descendants of dinosaurs. I know from experience that cockatiels mate easily. If you put a male and a female in a cage, they’ll produce offspring, even when they are father and daughter. African Grays, on the other hand, are cantankerous and prickly and picky, though ultimately monogamous mates.
 
Dogs and cats are not romantic lovers, but birds can be. I once was in the odd situation of being at a pet store and seeing a couple of cockatoos in a cage that had taken a fancy to each other. Their lovemaking looked sophisticated, inventive and complex. At one point, one of the cockatoos saw I was watching him. He stopped and indicated, “We know we’re stuck here in this pet store, but give us some privacy.”
 
I did, but I took a peek now and then. They had happily gone back to making bird love.
 
Now I don’t want to get too rhapsodic about bird love. I know part of what matters to a bird couple is how well they preen each other. Birds can’t preen large parts of their own bodies, but with a mate the problem is easily solved. They preen each other and it’s fun to watch how complex mutual preening can get.
 
Beset by all my questions, I went to discuss it with another friend, who may or may not be the wisest guy I know.
“What do you think of being in love?” I asked him.
 
“Of course, romance is a fool’s errand. I’m now at the point where I flirt with married women. Neither of us wants to consummate it. That would end the romance. Of course, it’s a grand illusion. Most women want just the romance part.”
 
This fellow lives in a very old house in Edendale, staying mostly in the backyard, which he has turned into his own native forest made up of “Trees of Heaven,” a kind of acacia imported to California many years ago by the Chinese.
He’s a bit dubious about “civilization” and “romance.” He thinks that rather than living in cities, we should live more scattered lives out in forests and villages. He has also outlived the two women he was mostly associated with over the years. And he claims he can live without love just fine.
 
I understand that the term God particle is sort of a joke, and Brother Consolmagno, the Vatican’s science observer, warned those who take the term literally would be wrong to do so. It “has nothing to do with theology or God,” he said.
 
Presumably only an all-wise, all-knowing God would make it easier to decipher the mysteries of romance than the mysteries of the universe. Instead, He has done the opposite. 

Lionel Rolfe is a journalist and author of several books including “Literary L.A.,” “The Uncommon Friendship of Yaltah Menuhin and Willa Cather,” “Fat Man on the Left” and “The Menuhins: A Family Odyssey,” all available on Amazon’s Kindle store.

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