God. First.

Sunday is a good day to discuss religious topics in a behavioral context.  In fact, any day is as good as another, but Sunday works for me because it’s at the end of my workweek and it’s the ‘religious’ day in the context of how I was raised.

Saturday is fine, as is Friday.  Technically, it seems that for those who are sufficiently religious, every day should be a day of worship.  But there’s the crux of it – worship what, exactly?

Let’s worry later about who / what / if we worship anything in our modern age.  For now, let’s hit the back button on our magic history browser and ask what our great great grandparents were worshiping in their day.

Even if you are an ardent follower of a modern religion, you know that there was a time “before” your god came around to enlighten your people.  Before that you were heathen, and you worshiped the “wrong” god.  Presumably those people also knew there was a time before, and so on.

Eventually we will come to a group, a tribe, perhaps even a clan with a chief.  And this clan went about without any god.  The didn’t have a god, because, before their clan, there was no group that needed god.

Then, whether you think it revelation, or necessity, or inevitable, they needed god.  Where did they find god, this First Clan?

My guess is that they looked up at the most important, regular, and life-giving object in any human’s existence – the Sun. (And this is a pure guess, Gentle Reader.  Everything before here is straightforward logic.)  Yes, the Sun was God number One.  It’s big.  It’s bright.  It gives light.  It gives life.  It pretty much does it all.  Even today we know that the Sun is the only thing that makes living on Earth bearable.

There’s evidence from anthropology that this is likely, and we do know that ancient civilizations also tend to focus quite a bit on the sun.  So, as students of behavior, the next time you respect your god, or the next time you look up into the sky, think about where it all began.

Up there.

 

Where did Love come from?

Where did Love come from? Why does this even matter? I’ll deal with these issues together, and start off by way of analogy. In order to understand heart attacks, the first thing we do is use all the medicine we have sitting on the shelf and observe the outcomes. In order to prevent a heart attack, we have to learn everything about it: where does it come from, what makes it happen, and what will make it stay away. The same is true for those things that we wish to have, like Love. We must use what we have, learn as much as we can about where it came from, and why it has hung around for so many generations.

First, a note for those who may think Love has been around as long as the Rocky Mountains. It hasn’t. Love is entirely human, as we are using it here. There are other animals that form lifelong attachments, called ‘pair-bonding’ by ethologists, which means that similar behavior has appeared in other species. However, we are only interested in people. It’s likely that ancient humans, like our simian cousins, normally lived in tribes controlled by an alpha male. Love didn’t exist a million years ago, and it may not have existed even a hundred thousand years ago. At some point in time it came to be; Love was created, by man. Since there is nothing in our species that says we have to pair-bond, why is Love around at all? It’s around because one of our early ancestors successfully tried to pair-bond. The odds were against living happily ever after were never good, as they are even today. Then again, living happily ever after didn’t take as long since most humans barely lived to middle-age.

Imagine the following crazy and possibly romantic scenario. You are in a band of hunter-gatherers living on the fringe of the African veldt. You’ve been born with the pair-bond urge, and your body has matured to the point where your hormones are screaming in your ears. You’re ready. Here comes the romantic part. You’re still part of your birth tribe because you’re not old enough to threaten the alpha male or are too much of a drag on your mother. You’re gathering some berries away from the group far enough so that you can hear them in the distance, but not so far that the tigers can take you by surprise. Suddenly you come across another young human, not of your tribe, and of the opposite sex. Bang! go your hormones, and Thump! goes your heart. You have just had the very first ‘Love at first sight’ experience. He sees she, she sees he, and off they go to start their own tribe.

The implications are tremendous. Because these two have committed to each other, they now have a very different relationship than any of the other competing clans. They present a more stable home for their children. They understand each other better than anyone else, and can tend to each other’s needs more efficiently, saving time and making their time together more pleasing. Finally, they are able to start thinking about other things rather than taking care of their hormones; things like housing, higher education for the kids, and civic planning.

How important was this event, this ‘Love at first sight?’ It was big enough such that those humans who practiced it had a big advantage over other humans. And even today it is big enough that almost all of our cultures revere and promote the idea of life pair-bonding in some way. It’s big enough so that most of our entertainment is focused on the same event – that one special moment when two souls meet and overcome obstacles to begin a new life together.