“You don’t want love. You want a love experience.”
– Knight of Cups
In the Tech Age, the “human experience” has become harder to define. Before, the “human experience” meant all of the things that a person experiences as a mortal on planet Earth: joy, grief, enlightenment, fear, anger and lust. These are experiences and emotions that occur naturally through our interaction with the world, with each other, through our five senses. Nowadays, experiencing the joy of listening to a beautiful piece of music for the first time, or seeing magnificent landscapes thousands of miles away from your home, can be achieved digitally.
Through synthetic realities–such as virtual reality simulations or simply photos online–we can feel and think we know the backstreets of Le Marais, in Paris, as if it were our hometown by navigating through it on Google Street View a hundred times.
When we are in love with someone, are we truly “in love” with them or are we actually addicted to the holistic experience of above-average infatuation (as I like to define the term “in love”)?
After all, humans are, to put it simplistically, sophisticated animals that learned to respond to external stimuli through complex processes in our mind (psychological) and brain (physiological/neurological) that was developed via evolutionary adaptation. We’ve also created social constructs, such as codes of ethics based on religion and laws based on those codes of ethics (and perceptions of the state as an administrator of public safety and order–e.g. why it’s illegal to run a red light or corporations are fined millions of dollars for improperly disposing hazardous waste).
Through these social constructs and psychological processes, we’ve evolved to become biological machines that are constantly thinking, analyzing and making judgments every minute or less. So how can we discern what it is love–which to this day still does not have a clear definition–and what is the love experience?
I once thought I loved a woman overseas. We wrote letters to each other, communicated online, and went through ups and downs like any other couple (although we were never officially in a relationship). We both admitted to each other that we “loved” or was “in love” with the other at certain points in our timeline. We’ve known each other for almost a decade. We’ve never met. Was love possible without physical presence, without physical intimacy, without shared memories of actually doing things together in person? Perhaps we were just in love with the experience of what we thought was love.
When I was 19, I wrote a poem about walking through the woods in the northern parts of New England. I was able to depict the scenery in vivid details, despite never having been to New England at that time, due to extensive reading and thorough visual research online. About 8 years later, I finally went to New Hampshire and when I stood on the ridge of a mountain after walking through a heavily wooded trail, I felt a sense of déjà vu.
Did the “memory” I construct through my imagination when I wrote that poem and through web photos overlap with my actual first-hand experience?
I believe that first-hand accounts are important. I believe that seeking genuine experiences are important. If we rely heavily on second-hand information–whether through travel stories from a friend or YouTube videos–we can become susceptible to misinformation, deception and mind pollution. In fact, military and political propaganda is applied using this premise.
On a personal note, I believe that seeking “genuine experiences” like the love experience is just as good as seeking love itself. After all, what is love but an experience, right?