Sunday, October 27, 2013

Human Animal


I just thought about this the other day in the context of watching a National Geographic show about bears or something. How many things can you find wrong with this:

Besides the fact that a anthropomorphic cricket who can think, reason and read is singing these lyrics, and the fact that almost all Disney characters are equally humanoid animals that can do the same...

Humans are clearly not the only animals who can think. No, a chimpanzee will not produce a treatise on the challenges of his alpha male status, but just because a species functions more on instinct doesn't mean they don't think and calculate in their daily lives. They certainly do.

And actually, we human beings are never that far off from our mammal and primate counterparts.

We wear clothes and we make technologically complicated things that other animals cannot. However, some of our gender interactions (and transactions) harken back to the animal kingdom, more often than I think they should.

That's how I feel about any discourse about men not having control over their sexual desire and therefore being only marginally accountable for acts of sexual harassment or violence. How is that different from some of our mammal counterparts?

That's how I feel about these stories of men killing the children of their current female partner. It happens too much in the United States. It reminds me of the beasts of prey who will kill the cubs of a female and wait for her to be in heat again and procreate with her. They have the instinct. They want their genes to survive. What is the human man's excuse for drowning his own two babies in the tub, saying that his 15 month old son was "fat and dumb?"

We humans do have special capacity over our other animal earth cohabitants, and with this capacity, this ability comes great responsibility for us not to fall into the same patterns that reign in the animal kingdom.

It requires responsibility because with our special status comes the capacity for evil that no other animal has. We all have it within us, regardless of gender or our current status as oppressor or oppressed. We have no time to harken nostalgically to our more base tendencies when evil abounds. We also have little time to celebrate humanity when there is much to be ashamed about, much to counteract that is being perpetrated by our fellow humans every day.

I call upon you, human animal, to use the gifts God gave you for good, to resist those base instincts that are destructive and to fight against the propensity for evil around you and within you.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"She said yes!" Really?


Wow, a lot of my friends have gotten engaged this weekend. Not even Michigan people with that absurd Sweetest Day. Maybe it was the nip in the air, pumpkin spice lattes and the crunch of dry leaves that gets people sentimental, thinking about spending the rest of their holidays with that one person. I don't know.

One of my friends, whose entire beginning of courtship I witnessed in medical school, proposed to his girlfriend of 4-5 years. Thank you, Facebook, for letting me know. He had a later post in which he said excitedly, "She said yes!" And thus my knee jerk response, "O RLY?"

You act like you're surprised. Or maybe that statement, like much of the engagement-marriage institutional tradition in the US, is just a matter of tradition with empty meaning. Because, seriously dude, you could have asked her to marry you 3-4 years ago and she would have said yes.

Hell, you could have asked her to marry you when she kept squeezing her petite body between us in the dance floor when I first realized she was interested in you, and she probably would have said yes.

Do I sound bitter? Hah! Let me explain.

I'm very happy for my friends. I was friends with the guy first. He was one of my guy friends who loved the ladies and dated around and "had fun" as much as he could before he settled down. He was one of my guy friends who had ridiculous notions about relationships and women, even after he was in a relationship. I think he was vociferous about these ideas to counteract the very obvious different persona he had with his girlfriend.

And I was very happy for them because I felt like he would be one of these guys content with a perpetual relationship with marriage not in sight. But really, she said yes? Hackneyed, unnecessary, and a no duh situation.

Now, there are, for sure, women who have said no, women who have hesitated, women who have said yes and get cold feet once wedding day comes, yes. That happens. I'm not talking about that.

I'm talking about men and women in relationships that I've accompanied for either part time where I feel like the guy needs to shit or get off the pot.


I'm tired of the standard male discourse, oh, marriage is just about a piece of paper, oh, the ball and chain, or as one guy told me, being "locked up in holy matrimony." Them's fightin' words! There's already enough gender struggle without the notion that one, marriage is something that only women want and two, men are just besides themselves in suffering once they are forced to marry. As the two genders who we're supposed to believe are here to be a comfort to one another, we have spent much of our history being the opposite, and really, that cycle needs to end.

But maybe, just maybe, my friend is surprised. Maybe he's recognized all the times when his actions weren't worthy of her devotion, the times they've been distant, the times he felt that she could do better, maybe still believes that she could do better, and she said yes anyway. I can't know. All I know is, he surmounted those ideas that he previously held, about relationships, about marriage, about women, to make permanent the life that he'd made with this woman in a way that is meaningful to both of them. And what's not to celebrate about that?