Friday, June 02, 2006

Au Naturel!

Thanks to Blog Monkey I suddenly feel inspired to post after a long absence! Seems the "Controversial One" has once again stirred up the mud puddle that is our lives and away we go! I was going to post this as a comment to his post but found it started getting too long and got me thinking and writing passionately on a subject upon which I've mediated from time to time over the years. So it starts kind of like a comment to his post which maybe you should read before this:

Totally agree with what you're saying. If the drives are there they must be understood so that they can be managed without guilt. But, as with so many other human impulses and tendencies, I think we have a kind of knee-jerk reaction to hard-to-deal with aspects of humanity that says something like, "If it's natural, then there must be a way to let it work itself out naturally, after all, it's only natural". And nobody stops to ask what the hell we mean by "natural" and where our concept of it comes from? Not that I think this is your [Blog Monkey's] problem, just that this topic could end up going down this slippery slope of sloppy thinking, which is why it scares people (though that's no excuse not to tackle it head on of course! All the more reason....)

We often forget, conveniently so, that as human beings our ability to reflect and reason is one of our most extraordinary evolutionary achievements (if it can be called that). It is a human necessity to take responsibility for our abilities and the actions to which they can lead. As our actions, as we know, can have incredible consequences for life on earth, this should be a moral imperative with no exceptions. Never ever ever. I think the tendency humans have of taking a somewhat under-explored notion of "nature/natural" and applying it to human drives can be dangerous. Not that it's not true (that they are natural and not manufactured in a lab in the Antarctic) it's just that our unique situation, what with language and reason and writing and meaning and our ability to reflect and go deeper than mere stimuli/response relationships with each other and the world, adds a certain something to the pot. Our evolutionary gift is this higher intelligence. Do we use it fully yet? No, obviously. Why? Not sure exactly, probably easier not to, or to let a few leader-types use it for us even though they might only be using it for their gain at our expense, and the expense of the planet as a whole. Humanity's biggest problem is that it does not accept and acknowledge that our "nature" is to have to use our intelligence as close to fully as we can in order to survive as a species. I think we knew this before, way back when our situation was a bit more desperate on the day-to-day level. But we've (the West) have hit this comfortable blip on the radar that is humanity's past, present and future existence on this orb and for some reason, because we don't reflect enough and most often look at the situation from our limited and unexamined point of view, we don't see that our current way of thinking and the actions it leads to is slowly but surely destroying the very possibility of survival in the long term. Our intelligence could be used to guide us along easily through life if we took the responsibility and made the effort. We could have by now accepted the way the ecosystem is balanced and worked intelligently to sustain it and ourselves for millennia to come. In a way, I think this is exactly what humanity is trying to work out in recent history, as we strive to disburden ourselves of superstitious restraints such as organized and misguided religions, despotism and, to some extent, though god knows it's damn hard, materialism. Another interesting point is that often when scoffers are pushed to respond to the "what if" scenario of the Earth becoming uninhabitable, their defense is to actually call up a faith in our intelligence and our ability to "find the solution through science and invention and technology". Interesting because it is an admission that our greatest gift is our intelligence, sad because it puts off using it to the brink of collapse.

So what is natural for a human being? Is making conscious and conscientious decisions with much reflection and a sense of responsibility and duty to our intelligence not natural? It may not seem so because it does not happen to us as automatically as breathing or a heartbeat, or, an erection for that matter (for that percentage of humanity that can have one, you know who you are!), but I think this is only because of an ill-defined concept of nature infected with a carryover attitude from humanity's pre-scientific and more religious years when we thought of our intelligence as reflecting something above and beyond nature, something that had affinities only with the gods.

So how the heck does this jive with Blog Monkey's topic of discussion? Well, I'm just saying that to keep the debate intelligent I think we have to remember that the scariness factor comes from past examples of humanity using the idea of "well it's only natural" to justify all kinds of horrible things, like injustice, war and genocide. So if we've got these "Throbbing Biological Urges" (to quote the Simpsons), we've still got to realize that our intelligence can come into play to find a way to give them healthy and just outlets that will not harm others.

It's time humanity gave intelligence its due. And it's high time we see it as our prime ability for survival. Think of it as our wings, our jaws, our gills, or our powerful hind legs, whatever analogy works for ya!


Blogger Blog Monkey said...

not to refute anything you say, since i wholeheartedly agree, but remember i am advocating a dialogue to enlighten the opposite sex with our biological imperative. i will repeat here, i do not advocate giving it free and entitle reign whatsoever. you are correct in your statements regarding our intellectual effectiveness in stabilizing the tandem between the concious self and the primal self.

i want to highlight and discuss the base urge, what it does to us, and what emotional wreckage we become by suppressing without discussing, as sexual frustration, as you note, can manifest itself in surprising and unexpected ways.

what i do refute is the declaration of intelligence as our evolutionary advantage. since we've managed to pull ourselves from the eco-system due to our big, bastardly brains, we've put ourselves at many disadvantages, two of which being the sorry state of human morphology (a soft, weak skinsac with no visible defenses and weak immunity, poor eyesight and such) and the steady degradation we continue to impose towards our planet and it's resources. nothing intelligent about that.

1:20 p.m.  
Blogger Sinkchicken said...

ah, yes, but that's what I was trying to say, just "using our brains to do whatever we like" isn't what I'm advocating. Just because we could do it doesn't mean we should (and I know that's not what you're saying). I'm advocating a deep sense of responsibility and commitment to using our brains with the best possible intentions for survival in the longer term, and this wouldn't just be some cold calculation, it could also include reasoning out, with empathy, what harm we are doing to future generations. And what I'm proposing is that a major part of the problem is that we refuse to regard our intelligence (which includes empathy, self-reflection etc) as our best tool for survival. Of course using it just to get by or get ahead or obtain or reach some goal (often short term and shortsighted ones) without the proper reflection is an irresponsible way of using intelligence and will slowly but surely lead to our extinction. I guess what I'm saying is that the difference between the gift of intelligence/ability to self-reflect over, say, the ability to outrun a predator until he evolves to outrun you and gobble you up as quick as he can is that with the former one can presumably reason one's way out of sticky, potentially population-destroying situations, rather than just eat yourself out of house and home and have die off and then regeneration later, after the predators have had their own moment of population reduction. I do not believe, though I've had my moments of doubt believe me, that our intelligence is a bad thing. I think we probably used it very well back when we were living closer to the earth. Now that we have abused it and put ourselves in this situation we need to quickly reflect and rethink how we have, in a sense, gotten what we wanted, yet with unwanted consequences. If we don't recognize our ability to change the way we think about and use it, then we are, at best, headed towards a situation in which we will once again be forced to use it just to plain survive on a day to day basis as the biosphere disintegrates before our very eyes.

So to me intelligence is still our evolutionary advantage, but it's just such a different ability that it also requires reflection on how to use it, rather than just using it. We will learn that lesson one way or the other if we can just stop shopping or watching TV for two bloody minutes!

4:00 p.m.  
Blogger Sinkchicken said...

Oh yeah, and for me, like I said in the post, I'm pretty damn sure that the assumption by many major religions (those nasty influential ones) that humanity is somehow OUTSIDE of nature has contributed more than anything else to a misuse of thinking and intelligence (science being a close second in that it was pretty much born out of this assumption). So much so that if we could only just get beyond it and maybe let exactly what science is showing us humble us, we could finally, put our little brains to good use and be proud to see oneself as a human being. Sometimes I have fantasies like that, where I imagine us as a species doing so much good and right that we can actually take pride in ourselves rather than constantly hearing news that we are just making a huge mess of everything.

4:08 p.m.  
Blogger Sinkchicken said...

Oh yeah (Part II), and I didn't mean to try to pull you away from your dialogue on the happy wiener/angry rooster topic, you just got me thinking about why people get scared of hot topics like this and how we can try to reconcile biological imperatives and our intelligence and then I got off on my own tangent. Oops.

4:11 p.m.  
Blogger Blog Monkey said...

weiner is a funny word.

4:27 p.m.  
Blogger Blog Monkey said...

oh, by the by, i remember the hissy fit you had once when i posted a continuance and reference to one of your posts... and look who's done an about face.

i used to have respect for yo- wait, no i didn't.

keep on trucking, then, sinkford p. chicken.

5:27 p.m.  
Blogger Sinkchicken said...

yes, I remember that too. Thanks for holding onto it so tightly all these long cold nights.

I ain't tryin' ta steal your readers (and by the looks of things it's just you and me here anyway), I just went off on another topic inspired by trying to formulate a thought in relation to yours, hardly related to the male sex drive whatsoever....but you, you just flat out copy/pasted my topic!!!!

(okay so looks like I held onto it tightly all these long nights as well....)

10:49 a.m.  
Anonymous meinert said...

Aye carumba! Wish I had time to add my "40-something" point of view to this on-going subject.
I find the next post about action figures a perfect antidote to this thread - distract the dinky with dinky toys.

6:41 p.m.  
Blogger Sinkchicken said...

dinky is a funny word.

10:47 a.m.  
Blogger Blog Monkey said...

just re-read this post of yours. good one. now, get out of the house.

5:39 p.m.  
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