THINKING, MORTALITY, AND SEXUALITY

Thinking

“I exist.”

Only humans can make that statement. Perhaps, a few other animals, a couple of our fellow primates, and a few birds can recognize their own reflection, but self-recognition goes no further. We humans, however, can report to ourselves, covertly or overtly, silently or aloud, “I exist.”

Furthermore, we can report to ourselves, “I’m reporting to myself, ‘I exist.’” Recursively, we can continue to expand that concept indefinitely beginning with “I’m reporting to myself, ‘I’m reporting to myself. ‘I exist.’’” (1) With recursive thinking comes the capacity for sentient abstraction . . . for self-reflection.

Mortality and Morbidity

“I exist, but I’m going to die.”

Again, only humans can make that statement. More precisely, only humans can state, “I exist, but I didn’t exist always in the past. I didn’t exist always in the past, and I shan’t exist always in the future.”

With recursive thinking comes the capacity for sentient abstraction. With sentient abstraction comes the capacity to recognize our own mortality and infirmities. With the capacity to recognize our own mortality and infirmities comes the capacity to recognize others’ mortality and infirmities, including those of our most intimate creations, our children.

“And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.” -Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), who himself was nasty, brutish, and short, took Hobbes’s dark characterization of human life a giant step further when he said, “Nature is cruel; therefore we also are entitled to be cruel.” Cruel he was . . . to tens of millions of others and even a bit unkind to himself by denying himself the simple, commonplace pleasures of meat, tobacco, and sex.

Hitler was wrong. Nature is neither cruel nor kind. Nature just is. It is we who are cruel or kind in our own subjective judgements.

Furthermore, vastly beyond the capacity of our fellow creatures, our human capacity for cognition increasingly allows us to manipulate Nature to our benefit or our detriment . . . for us to be more kind or to be more cruel, recognizing that sometimes seeming cruelty actually is kindness and seeming kindness actually is cruelty.

Suffering and cruelty themselves raise a fundamental question, one faced by every sentient human and elegantly phrased by Shakespeare (1564-1616) in Hamlet’s famous soliloquy beginning with “To be or not to be? That is the question.” Be that the question, what be the answer?

For Hamlet, to be is an avoidance-behavior associated with anxiety. Shakespeare captures Hamlet’s thinking when he has him ask, “Who would fardels bear, to grunt and sweat under a weary life, but that the dread of something after death, the undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn no traveller returns, puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of?” For Hamlet, it is “conscience (i.e., knowledge of our lack of knowledge about that which follows dying) that does make cowards of us all”.

Well, not quite all. There are those who choose not to be.

“I choose to exist no longer.” Suicide, the ultimate and final escape-behavior.

Does not suicide symbolize yet another human dilemma? Given that, once conceived and once birthed, we must face “the thousand natural shocks” to which flesh is heir. If tens of thousands of our kind terminate their own existence annually to escape the fardels of life, what force causes us to pass the misery of such fardels to the next generation . . . to our own children?

With the blessing of birth does not come the curse of suffering, a curse potentially so awful as to make dying seem a blessing? Has never a prospective parent asked herself, “Why should I bring a new life into such a cruel world?” We should answer her question not in the context of the benefits bestowed upon us only of late by Science and Technology but in the context of that which came before . . . life without those benefits.

Given mankind’s capacity for sentient abstraction and self-reflection and given the harsh and demanding context into which mankind is birthed, did Mother Nature, to anthropomorphize nature itself, recognize the potential for mankind to cease sufficient reproduction to maintain its own kind as did the Shakers, dreading to inflict upon its progeny the suffering and miseries inflicted upon itself? If so, did that recognition lead Mother Nature to design mankind to be, compared to almost every other species, hyper-sexual.  Yes, bonobos, for example, are equally hyper-sexual, but that trait serves to bond individuals within a group and to diminish violence not to divide individuals within a group and to promote violence as it does among humans. The topography of the respective behaviors are identical but the functions are not . . . they’re different “operants” (www.inescapableconsequences.com).

PART TWO

Sexuality

Breasts.  “Tits”. “Boobs”.

Bonobos hyper-sexuality notwithstanding, only the human female has breasts, not just mammary glands but breasts. Function? Seemingly, to signal her female sexuality and, likely, to attract the male.

Also, only the human female has menses (i.e., “the curse”).  All other species have periods of oestrus when the female becomes sexually receptive or, more commonly stated, “goes into heat” . . . “comes into season”. When a female chimpanzee does so, for example, her caudal area swells and turns pink as a signal to males that then form a line to copulate with the willing, if not eager, female . . . or, stated in the vulgar vernacular, to “gang-bang”. Of note, even though not in oestrus, the area still changes monthly.

So, what survival-value is there to human females surpassing chimpanzees by having menses not oestrus? Seemingly, to be sexually available to the human male all the time throughout all the seasons. Furthermore, unlike other species, she remains sexually receptive even when fully pregnant.(2) Hyper-sexuality taken to an extreme.

If insemination during pregnancy serves not impregnation, what function does it serve? Seemingly, only to keep the male sexually satisfied; nearby; protective; and caring, at least in his own masculine way. Female sexual availability seems to be a biological element serving as the basis for marriage; inheritance being a social one.

Unlike swans and wolves, however, human fidelity, female and male is fickle, at best. Even during marriage, infidelity often becomes a sometime thing . . . or more frequent than sometime. Furthermore, human hyper-sexuality can generalize outside the boundaries of normal heterosexuality to homosexuality, paedophilia, and even bestiality.

PART THREE

By and large, we humans are a gregarious species unlike cats other than lions. With gregariousness came socialization. With socialization came religion. With religion usually, but not always such as the case with Baal, came suppression of our most base, animalistic proclivities; including our hyper-sexuality.

Mother Nature, however, may not have foreseen some of the developments of which the human brain is capable. Over-breeding. Nuclear weapons. “The pill”.

In the 1960s with “the pill” came the so-called sexual revolution. With the pill came the bill, disease.

The sexual revolution brought diseases previously unknown . . . genital Herpes and HIV, for example. Today, fully one-quarter of young women carry a venereal disease. The portals to pleasure have become the portals to pathology. Is Mother Nature angry about our promiscuity. If so, best we remember that it’s dangerous to make Mother Nature angry.

Today in the West among Christians, other than the Evangelicals, and Jews, other than the Orthodox, like fidelity religion has become a sometime thing. With the decline of religion has come a decline in traditional moral values. That which Biblically is an abomination, homosexuality, has become a so-called civil right.

As we revert to our basest, most animalistic acts, we might pause between random copulations to consider the possible, ultimate consequences of reversion and perversion. Heaven or Hell? Strength or weakness? Order or mayhem? Survival or extinction?

“Something in between,” one might say, and one might be right, or one might be wrong. Whichever be the case, keep in mind, behaviors have consequences . . . desirable or undesirable, favorable or unfavorable, for Good or for Evil (www.inescapableconsequences.com). In the end, as always, Mother Nature will decide unless we use our sentience to control our destiny as best we can . . . but, then again, what are the odds of our doing so?

As Lord Keynes noted about finance, in the end we all die. About life, that which matters is how we live it . . . as individuals, as a nation, as a species. Do we live as humans striving to be all of which we are capable or as humans driven by our basest instincts, no different from the beasts in the fields?

Notes
1. See, for example, Corballis, MC: “The Uniqueness of Human Recursive Thinking”.  American Scientist 95: 240 (2007).

2. In some other species such as the rabbit, the female remains sexually receptive when partially pregnant because she continues to ovulate temporarily after the initial impregnation.

-The End-

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