One of my favorite learning activities of each Biodesign Class was to consider the socio-cultural importance of the plants, animals and people associated with secular and religious holidays, including Valentine’s Day.
Valentino of Terni was a 3rd century Catholic Bishop who was beheaded by Roman soldiers under the order of Claudius II. His “crimes” included secretly marrying couples in Christian nuptial ceremonies, which were contrary to pagan Roman law. Also, he boldly and publicly cited the apostle Paul by claiming that love was God’s greatest gift to humankind. When given the choice of renouncing his faith or face execution, he opted for death. He died at the age of 42.
Although Valentine lived before microscopes were invented, they would eventually play an instrumental role in unlocking some of the biological secrets that lead to the sacred act of procreation.
In 1590, Zacharias Janssen invented the first microscope. In 1677, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, was the first to describe, “wee cavorting beasties,” which included human spermatozoa.
Discoveries in this area led to the discovery of perhaps one of the greatest human mysteries; the union of a single sperm and ovum to produce the human zygote.
According to Lewis Thomas, M.D./ author of The Medusa and the Snail; “The mere existence of that cell should be one of the greatest astonishments of earth. People ought to be walking around all day, all through their waking hours, talking of nothing but that cell.”
Each sperm contains about 3 billion bases of genetic information, representing 750 Mbytes of digital information. The average human ejaculate contains around 180 million sperm cells. So, that’s 180 x 10^6 haploid cells x 750 Mbytes/haploid cell = 135 x10^9 Mbytes=135000 Terabytes!!!! Without this process happening, the human race would die out in one generation.
Contemplating this reminded me of Roger Sperry, M.D./neurobiologist and Nobel laureate, author of, “Science and Moral Priority,” and “Yoking Science and Religion.” We were connected by a huge synchronicity, which occurred in August 1983. Omni Magazine published an issue that included Sperry’s discoveries of the human right-brain/ left-brain phenomena and a related article, “The Superiority of the Female Brain.”
The article focused on the cerebral hemispheres and corpus collosum, which essentially is a wall between the two sides of the brain. Stated briefly, female brains have verbal centers in both hemispheres with more connections between words, memories, and feelings. Male brains tend to only have verbal centers in the left hemisphere with fewer connections between words, memories, and feelings. This has led to the facetious reference to males as having “reptilian” brains. LOL
During the early years of the Biodesign Class, it dawned on me that the girls had an inside track on spirituality. This was confirmed many times in class, but especially following each epic field trip. When the students presented their post-trip reflections, the girls were often better at describing transcending moments involving mystery, wonder and awe. On those occasions a typical male response was; “That’s exactly how I felt, but I couldn’t find the words to express myself adequately.” They had sincerely identified and described the limitations of their own brains.
PBS aired a program focused on love and the human brain. The speaker was a psychiatrist/marriage counselor, with a record of successfully helping many dysfunctional couples avoid the devastating trip to a divorce court. He asserted that many of the problems that they encounter (including matters of intimacy) are due to their failure to understand the differences between female and male brains. He proceeded to offer some techniques that could be used to improve looking, listening and feeling that would hopefully improve communication skills and not only save, but enrich their marriage.
One example he cited was that most men understand that a box of chocolates (preferably dark) can often spark a romantic interlude. However, he observed, most men have not made the connection that a trip to a women’s shoe boutique can also trigger a similar favorable result. He admitted that he had no scientific evidence of the connection of new shoes to female libido, but opined that mysteries were always beyond the purview of science.
While the Catholic Church has waffled over whether Valentine is a legitimate saint or not, his living spirit continues to empower millions of lovers to say, “I Love You,” right out loud.
It is a message that has found favor in the retail sector. Valentine greeting card, candy and flower sales exceed 20 billion dollars annually in the US.
Happy St. Valentine’s Day