Why do fools fall in love? It is a question that has taxed the minds of great thinkers throughout history. A notable investigation of our own era, by Lymon in 1956, was perhaps hampered by his extreme youth and that of his research assistants. It is true that some breakthroughs in the advance of human knowledge have been made by youngsters, but in matters of the heart we may prefer to rely on the doddery and decrepit, who are likely to have amassed valuable experience in the field.
Few are as doddery and decrepit as Nisbet Owlhead who, it is thrilling to learn, is at long last on the brink of publishing his findings. Owlhead has been working on this stuff for years, holed up in his top secret laboratory somewhere high in the Swiss Alps. Some decades ago, he provided a glimpse into his working methods in an article for The Rigorous And High-Minded Scientific Bulletin Of Lurve, reprinted here without permission:
In order to find out why fools fall in love, we must first obtain two fools. The easiest way to do this would be to go to Cretin Town and drag off the street and bundle into the back of a van the first couple of fools we encounter. So that is what I did. It is a very long way from Cretin Town to my top secret laboratory somewhere high in the Swiss Alps, so I placed both fools into an induced coma for the duration of the journey by van, train, forklift truck, ship, another forklift truck, another van, another train, and finally funicular railway.
I installed the fools in a sealed but spacious chamber designed especially for my purposes. Before bringing them out of their comas, I did a thorough investigation of their brains, prodding at them with various instruments, to ascertain the precise degree of foolishness. They were fools all right. I could not have been more pleased, so before waking them I treated myself to a slap-up dinner at The Reeking Goat, a Michelin-unstarred eaterie halfway down the mountain. The trough that night was filled with delicious pap and slops, and I mixed easily with the regular clientele of goatherds, peasants, and tubercular alpine invalids.
Back in the lab, after a post-prandial snooze and a few games of pingpong with my hunchbacked assistant, Mungo, I set to work. I injected both fools with a wake-me-up potion, and then retreated to my observation post outside the sealed chamber. After some minutes the fools, as scientifically predicted, fooled about. I was so pleased I had another slap-up dinner, another snooze, and further games of pingpong with Mungo.
On St. Valentine’s Day, I introduced into the chamber a box of chocolates. The following year, I introduced a bunch of flowers. The third and most decisive intervention came on the next St. Valentine’s Day, when I placed in the chamber a cherubic, winged, chubby, naked, curly-haired infant armed with a bow and arrow, which hovered in the air above the fools.
I have every confidence that true love will blossom within that sealed chamber, and when it does I will be ready with my scanners and bleepers and probes and buzzers and pointy things and all sorts of tiptop scientific paraphernalia you could never begin to understand. Mungo keeps it all polished to a gleam with his special rag.
Owlhead celebrated his ninetieth birthday last week with an announcement that he would publish his findings on St. Valentine’s Day 2018, or 2019, or, at a push, 2020.
Next week in this series : What becomes of the broken-hearted?