Meet Dr. Stephen G. Post of the Department of Bioethics at Case Western Reserve University, who studies altruism, selfless love and compassionate love. Part 5/5.
The Science of Selfless Love Part 5/5 Narrator: At its simplest religion is organized spirituality by Doctor Post’s definition. However, when it becomes routine and empty, it is no longer the spirituality that is a lively relationship to the believer’s view of the ultimate reality. Doctor Post personal experience of worship is a coming together in a religious framework of meaningful symbols and expectations in a community of support. That is what creates spirituality. He believes the key to the future of humanity is to enhance the spirituality of the religious traditions which play a major role in the cultures of lives of many billions of people. Dr. Post: Religion can bring out the best in people, it often does. It can bring out the worst in people, it often does. It can give rise to a Mother Theresa or Rumi or in Abraham Heschel or a Dali Lama and on other hand it can give rise to incredible arrogance and even inflame hatred. I am a big fan still of Reinhold Niebuhr. Maybe the greatest 20th Century American theologian, I would say so. And one thing Reinhold Niebuhr insisted on is that true spirituality religion and he didn’t even differentiate the two depends on humility. The deeply spiritual and religious we become, the more we realize how little we know and how much progress we need to make and how seriously we need to take other people’s viewpoints and humility is what we lack. Mystery is another category in religion that I think we need to recover, mystery about the ultimate nature of God, mystery about the will of God. Narrator: Doctor Post is interest in knowing about the possibilities of unlimited love. Love that goes beyond the limits of family, class, race, nationality and religion. He wants to know what science can teach us about such love. Even though it’s an ancient subject, people have not seriously devoted study to unselfish love until recently. In the field of neural science, the emphasis has been on the study of the brain. But the focus has been not on love but on fear, fight or flight for example because it is an easier emotion to study. Only recently have numerous brain studies focus on compassionate love, the love that begins with a mother caring for a new born. This love is being studied in other areas as well. Fro example it’s also evident in Buddhist monks who seek to develop compassion through meditation and other practices. From these studies, we begin to get a sense of the physiology of love and the hormones associated with it, especially the state some called the care connection access and its biological and neurological properties. Dr. Post: We’re also getting a lot of good information now about the health benefits of living a life of love. In fact that’s the focus of my book with Joe Nimark, a wonderful co worker. “It’s good to Be Good”. It even has a loving long Japanese skit, believe it or not, which is very well tested as a generalization. More than 20 major studies in the last five years on mortality and people dying, right? It’s usually focused on older adults. Point out that people who were engaged in helping behavior, who are volunteers, not to be overwhelmed and stressed by that activity itself. But within reason, to be pro-social, to be involved in helping behaviors seems to be very closely correlated with a longer life expectancy. Now, that’s big news, In other words, its good to be good. It seems to be the case that depression rates, anxiety are elevated when we stop focusing so exclusively, me, myself and I and we just let go, just move on beyond itself, which is what spiritual traditions say by way, move on beyond myself and just go over to the others. Narrator: To doctor Post, the essence of evil in the world is the most important challenge or obstacle to overcome, facing the parent in relation to raising child with love. Through empathy, attentive listening and engaging with the child, even from a young age, we can be the kind of parents who create children of love. Dr. Post: One of the things that come very clear in the literature is that adults who are identify widely in your communities very loving and generous. When they look back on their childhood guess what? They say that their parents were not permissive. “My mom, my father was not permissive”, they say. They did just let me do anything, do you own thing, right? But they weren’t authoritarian; they want blood beating with the ones screaming all the time. They want emotionally crazy and nasty and hurtful. No, they were authoritative with great dignity. They were authoritative. They established in their own life and example of generous love toward friends and neighbors in tit for tat theory, you enter into a relationship with your neighbor with the intent of doing good. Now if the neighbor does not reciprocate, you may pull back for awhile but you still come back, eventually to doing good for your neighbor. So it’s not completely oblivious to reciprocation. But still, its clear energy comes from this assumption, I will do good and entrust my neighbor. And modern day versions of game theory, Martin Nawking at Harvard is probably the most significant scholar in this area talked about how important in game theories forgiveness’s that we can forgive the none-reciprocator on 1/3 of occasions, just ignore the fact that they did not give anything back to you and just continue to be good to them. You will win the game. Narrator: Today, Mathematician used game theory to understand how people behave under certain condition and even in game theory, doing good is a big part of winning. Dr. Post: If you want to strive, if you want to survive, if you want to live life well, as an individual, if you want as a nation, as a group to live life well, love you're neighbor. It the best formula for success, in other words, it’s good to be good. Host: And all those years of working with people challenged by Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of mental impairment. Doctor Steven Post is witnessed recurring phenomenon. Well, severely limited in their ability to reason or calculate these patients often have an overwhelming capacity to give and to receive love. Post believes that love is the foundation of human life. Through caring for others we strengthen ourselves physically, emotionally and spirituality. According to Doctor Post all the religious traditions affirm enlightenment begins with learning to honor the needs of others. Thank you for watching our program. We hope you’ll join us again as we continue to explore topics that intrigue the mind and touch the heart. From Matter and Beyond, I’m Laura Wells.