The Memory of Love

When I went to university in the late 1980's, in addition to studying Computational Linguistics I also enrolled in an English class, one of my best decisions ever. One of the courses was English Literature and, of course, it included one book of Graham Greene: The Heart of the Matter. Escape, war, responsibility, passion, guilt, failure, shame and pity are some of the issues dealt with in this piece.

“When he was young, he had thought love had something to do with understanding, but with age he knew that no human being understood another. Love was the wish to understand, and presently with constant failure the wish died, and love died too perhaps or changed into this painful affection, loyalty, pity…” Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter

“The truth, he thought, has never been of any real value to any human being- it is a symbol for mathematicians and philosophers to pursue. I human relations kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths.” Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter

These themes can also be found in Aminatta Forna's The Memory of Love, also set in Freetown, Sierra Leone. In both books, the title appears somewhere in the middle. In Forna's case it describes how one of the main characters feels "the lost love of his life like his amputees feel their phantom limbs; the "memory of love" is an absence every bit as desperate and intangible as any more physical haunting" according to The Guardian.

Love is concept often described in terms of conceptual metaphors. Many examples are provided in the song "The Rose", a smash hit from 1979 written by Amanda McBroom and sung by Bette Midler.

"Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger,
An endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower,
And you its only seed."
The Rose
From Gunnebo Summer 2015
There are two parts in a conceptual metaphor: the often more concrete source domain that we are supposed to know something about (river, razor, hunger, flower) and the more abstract target domain that we want to understand better (love).

Viewing love as an intrinsic part of yourself, similar to a limb, seems to me related to embodied cognition. Love can be warm or cold, it is sometimes painful, your often take it for granted and only miss it when it's gone.

At Chalmers, researcher Max Ortiz Catalan has developed a new mind-controlled prosthetic arm that also minimizes phantom pains. To make it available for more people, he has also created an open source platform for the development and benchmarking of advanced prosthetic control strategies called BioPatRec. I wonder if a similar thing could be developed for lost love, and to what extent that would be a good idea. However, I'm sure it would gather a substantial transdisciplinary international open source community.

"Your body will remember
What your mind learnt to forget" Level42, Two Solitudes

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