Society

Evolution Gave Us The Romantic Kiss

Does it come from breastfeeding? Or ancient Greeks feeding each other mouth-to-mouth? Or, maybe, that a smooch is a biological aid to partner selection -- a way of checking a potential partner’s immune system? In any case, kissing is by now locked into hu

(happyhipposnacks)
Benno Müchler

BERLIN - Scientists have been wondering about why people kiss each other for more than 100 years. Psychoanalysis's founding father, Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freund (1856-1939) was convinced that kissing is innate – an instinct originated in every newborn's need to breastfeed that is never lost.

But in 1900, when Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) got his dog to drool at the sound of a bell, many psychologists took that as proof that behavior -- including human behavior -- was not a matter of instinct: it was learned. Human beings were the masters of their instincts, so kissing represented a conscious expression of love.

Modern science considers the will-or-nature debate outdated. Kissing is instinctive, but humans have different ways of behaving, is all.

Which would explain why some 650 million, or about 10% of humanity, don't kiss each other. On his travels, the father of evolutionary theory Charles Darwin (1809-1882) noticed that. So did French anthropologist Paul d'Enjoy who in 1897 noted that for the Chinese mouth-to-mouth kissing was considered an abomination, a form of cannibalism. Around this time Danish scientist Kristoffer Nyrop observed that among Finnish peoples couples enjoyed bathing together but never kissed each other.

In Mongolia, 90% of people kiss, 10% don't. Kissing is in our nature, whether we engage in kissing behavior or not. So where does it come from?

Where does kissing come from?

Freud's hypothesis is still relevant, along with a second one posited in 1960 by British zoologist Desmond Morris: kissing comes from early humans' habit of feeding mouth-to-mouth. Chimpanzees still do that. And when food was scarce, so the theory goes, ape parents pressed their lips to their offspring's mouths to reassure and calm them.

We know from the ancient Greeks that human beings used to feed each other mouth-to-mouth; and Austrian behavioral scientist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, who founded the field of human ethology, has documented the behavior among certain African tribes such as the Himba in northern Namibia.

Just why the tendency to kiss, as opposed to not kissing, took the upper hand in evolutionary terms is another unresolved issue. Using up calories doesn't explain anything, although a normal kiss does use up 6.4 calories per minute or more depending on circumstances.

Research by neurologists and sexologists offers the possibility that kissing is a biological aid to partner selection. According to American scientist Sarah Woodley of the University of Duquesne in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it is a way of running a check on a potential partner's immune system.

The illnesses to which a human is immune is coded in the MHC (major histocompatibility complex) genes -- and the smells and tastes of kisses pass this information on to us. The more different a kissee's MHC genes are to those of the kisser, the more likely the couple is to team up – because the wider the spread of immunity, the more diseases their offspring will be immune to and the higher the life expectancy of those children will be.

One of the tests scientists used to demonstrate the MHC theory was having men and women smell T-shirts that had been worn by others. Most subjects did in fact prefer the shirts worn by those with MHC genes different to their own. However, not all subjects did – which is why Woodley reached the conclusion that MHC genes are not the determining factor for why two people who like each other would mate or marry.

American sexologist Helen Fisher agrees that the MHC check helps in determining partner selection but that other bio-mechanisms are at play as well.

Gender differences in kissing

Another puzzle is the role played by the hormone oxytocin, which when released has a calming and relieving effect on humans and is considered to be the hormonal "glue" of partnership. Couples in love show higher levels of it. So it made sense to assume that levels of it would rise when people kissed.

Not so, say American psychologists Wendy Hill and Carey Wilson of Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. Levels only rise in men – not women. In fact, in women levels actually sink. From this, Hill and Wilson came to the conclusion that unlike men women need more than a kiss to feel bound to their partner.

Hill and Wilson also showed that, when men and women kissed, levels of cortisol went down sharply in both sexes. Cortisol causes feelings of stress, while kissing is a de-stresser – which may also explain why kisser and kissee are in no hurry to disengage.

The kiss will remain a subject of scientific research not least because lovers aren't the only ones kissing each other. The Pope kisses the ground of countries he visits. Churchgoers kiss the bishop's ring. East Germany's leader Erich Honecker and Russian leader Leonid Brezhnev famously kissed each other on the lips by way of greeting. And the French have traditionally kissed each other on the cheeks – with a kissing noise to accompany the ritual – to say hello and goodbye.

So it's entirely possible that the 10% of the world's non-kissers may soon join the 90% of those who do kiss. After all, we travel and emigrate more than ever before. In London-based American academic and writer Dr. Adrianne Blue's 1997 book On Kissing: Travels in an Intimate Landscape, she writes that a little over 20 years ago it would have been unheard of for British acquaintances meeting in public to kiss each other on the cheeks by way of greeting.

But by the late 1990s, Blue writes, the only issue in London is whether two or three smackers are the proper form. She believes in the globalization of the kiss – with the kissers winning out.

Read the original article in German.

Photo - happyhipposnacks

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Ideas

Reading Rumi In Kabul: A Persian Poet's Lesson For Radical Islam

Born some eight centuries ago, the famed poet and philosopher Rumi offered ideas on religion that bear little resemblance to the brand of Islam being imposed right now in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime.

The work of 13th-century poet Rumi still resonsates today

Mihir Chitre

Among the various Afghan cities that the Taliban has invaded and apparently "reclaimed" in recent weeks is Balkh, a town near the country's north-western border. Interestingly, it was there, about 800 years ago, that a man called Jalal ad-Din Mohammad Balkhi, better known as Rumi, was born.

Some see the grotesque exhibitionism of the Taliban advance as a celebration of Islam or a "going back to the roots" campaign. As if followers of Islam were always like this, as if every willing Muslim always propagated austerity and oppressiveness. As if it was always meant to be this way and any shred of liberalism was a digression from the quest of the religion.

In fact, a look at the history of the religion — and of the region — tells a different story, which is why there's no better time than now to rediscover the wisdom of the poet Rumi, but without doing away with its religious context.


In a world where Islam is a popular villain and lots of terrible acts across the world in the name of the religion have fueled this notion among the West and among people from other religions, it's paramount that we understand the difference between religion as a personal or spiritual concept and religion as an institution, a cage, a set of laws created to control us.

Why do you stop praying?

To begin with, and largely due to the film Rockstar, the most famous Rumi quote known to Indians goes like this: "Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there's a field. I'll meet you there."

Rumi's original Persian verse, however, uses the words kufr (meaning infidelity) and Imaan (meaning religion), which was translated as "wrongdoing" and "rightdoing." To me, the original verse surpasses the translation with a vital, often missed, often deliberately forgotten, interpretation, which is to highlight the fact that there is humanity, love and compassion or a certain kind of mystical quality to life beyond the concept of religion and that is the ultimate place, the place where Rumi invites us to meet him.

It would be incorrect now to read this and think of Rumi as irreligious. In fact, he was quite the opposite. But his interpretation of religion was personal, spiritual and not institutional or communal or exhibitionist.

In one of his poems, translated by Coleman Banks as "Love Dogs" in English, a man who has stopped praying to God because he never got a response meets "Khidr," an angel messenger, in his dream:

Why did you stop praising (or praying)?

Because I've never heard anything back.

This longing you express is the return message.

To me, through this poem, it's clear that Rumi advocates for a personal relationship with God. In fact, he goes on to say that being true to God is to long for his validation or nod, that life is longing.

A copy of Rumi's spiritual couplets at the Mevl\u00e2na Museum in Konya, Turkey

A copy of Rumi's spiritual couplets at the Mevlâna Museum in Konya, Turkey — Photo: Georges Jansoone/Wikimedia

Don't sweep the history of Islam with the broom of radicalism

For those familiar with the European literature of the 20th century, I could say that this echoes the ideas of Samuel Beckett. But remember: Rumi lived 800 years ago, at the heart of what we call the "Muslim world." To equate Islam on the whole with repressiveness and hostility, as many of us do today, might just be a criminal contradiction then.

It's also interesting to note that after the Quran, Rumi's is probably the most widely read work in the Islamic world, which suggests that Rumi's ideas, which may sound too progressive for anyone remotely associated with Islam in today's world, have, in fact, been accepted and cherished by the Islamic world for centuries. Sweeping the whole history of the Islamic world with the broom of radicalism wouldn't then be the fairest assessment of either the religion or of radicalism.

This physical world has no two things alike.
Every comparison is awkwardly rough.
You can put a lion next to a man,
but the placing is hazardous to both.

(From the poem: "An Awkward Comparison")

It's tragic that the Taliban has ravaged the same place with their own power-hungry, totalitarian interpretation of the religion which once produced a mind that embraces it with wide arms of warmth and peace and refuses to be compared with other followers of the same.

How to cure bad habits?

It is vital for us to separate groupism or communalism, which often escalates to barbarism, from the thought it is based on. It is vital then to read and reread that what Rumi sees as religion is the private association with God. It is also vital to mark the emphasis on individuality in Rumi's thought.

All the Western ideas of liberalism are based on the idea of individuality, which in turn is based on post-renaissance European thought. Asian philosophy is contrasted with its Western counterpart in the fact that it is rooted in mysticism as opposed to individuality.

Islam itself has long had a tradition of mysticism that is known as Sufism. Sufism is a sort of an inward dimension of Islam, a practice that encourages a direct, personal connection with the divine, a spiritual proximity to the omniscient that transcends the physical world and temporarily subverts immediate reality.

Sufism is the quest for the truth of love and knowledge, without necessarily always distinguishing between the two. Rumi was known as the Mevlana (Maulana) and his poetic collection Masnavi meaning "the spiritual couplets" is known as the Persian Quran. He was no doubt a mystic, a Sufi, and one who strongly endorsed the personal, for the most intimately individual is the truly spiritual.

Rumi might remain unparalleled in not just the Islamic world but also in the world of philosophy and poetry across the globe. Another thing that he will remain is dead. The Taliban, on the other hand, at least for now, looks rampant and alive.

It is now up to us, the other people who are alive, and the ones who are going to be born — not just Muslims but everyone else as well — to choose which interpretation of Islam we uphold or react to, how we read history, and what we borrow from it.

How to cure bad water? Send it back to the river.
How to cure bad habits? Send me back to you.

(From the poem: "My Worst Habit")

I think what we, as a world, need now more than ever is to be sent back to Rumi.

https://thewire.in/culture/re-reading-rumi-in-the-time-of-the-taliban
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