Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Love is Real

Once again I divert from my main line of thought to share something on a personal note. This past weekend, I attended the wedding of my brother. It was one of those rare, most memorable occasions when, as my author sister put it in her blog, “we packed a week’s worth of emotion into one day.” In fact, I would say that we packed the buildup of many years of emotion-- of love for my brother and hopes for his happiness-- into the one culminating day when our best wishes for him were realized. The wedding ceremony was beautiful and full of spiritual depth, as the two committed themselves to each other and to God. The obvious and peaceful happiness on the couple’s faces and the intensity of family love, with their parents and all siblings present at the celebration, made this the most joyous event I have ever attended. The story of how the couple met playing ultimate frisbee, of how he proposed (involving a lamp-lit table display set up in the frisbee field where they had met), and the events of the wedding itself are sure to become the stuff of family legend from generation to generation. Just as I love hearing the story of how my dad pushed my mom around in a wheelbarrow following their wedding reception, my brother’s posterity will cherish the story of how he and his bride waltzed in Denny’s restaurant at the family dinner following their wedding. In short, there are no words adequate for describing the joy and beauty of this union, and my gratitude for witnessing it.

There are those who claim that the whole sum of our experience, thoughts, and feelings as humans-- all of our experience with so-called love, beauty, or spiritual experience-- can be reduced to explanations of chemical reactions and the firing of neurons in our brains. These reactions, in turn, are the result of a long evolutionary history that made the development of such feelings and beliefs adaptive for our species. In this view, our emotional or spiritual experiences are only products of our physiological makeup rather than manifestations of ideal or transcendent principles that exist independently of our minds. In other words, the very feelings that make us human are illusions, artifacts of evolution, not external realities. This is the view put forward by E.O. Wilson, “father” of sociobiology, and promoted by those such as Dawkins.

After the events of this past weekend, just thinking about these spiritually impoverished philosophies feels like a punch in the stomach! Fortunately, Wilson and Dawkins cannot prove that they are right. But neither can I prove to anyone’s satisfaction that they are wrong.

Only those who have felt-- and trusted-- the kinds of things my family felt this past weekend know the truth of the matter. There is more to our minds and hearts than mere physiology or evolutionary expediency. I believe in God and in the godly nature of our human relationships, not just because I want to believe them or because my ancestor’s genes compelled them to believe for their own survival. The first-hand knowledge I have of love, of beauty, of the spiritual, and of God, is based in experience beyond the explanatory scope of science or empirical observation. I cannot convince you of them by logical argument, mathematical proof, or scientific hypothesis testing. All I can do is simply testify, by my own experience, that they are real. And they are wonderful. I know that each of us can discover-- through our own transcendent experiences-- the verity of all those good things for which our human hearts most hope.

Thank you to my brother and his wife for helping me glimpse the eternal.
LDS temple in Washington, D.C.

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