"Science is the distinctive achievement of the modern mind. In each incontestable scientific conquest, the same process is repeated: What had been an age-old, dark and formidable mystery is transformed into an enigma.
There is no enigma, however complex, that cannot finally be solved."
When we lift the veil of self-delusion, revealing the nature of things, the act is rich with consequence. We are offered an unobstructed look at fundamental mechanisms and at the same time expose the errors of our beliefs--we stare into the eyes of our "wrongness." Revelations of this sort can be devastating: our species functions by being "right" about our beliefs.
It is no wonder that we hold beliefs beyond reason. There is too much at stake.
It gets curiouser and curiouser to discover that finding answers, to be Homo sapiens, man the wise, leaves us somehow bereft. It is as if we need to have something ultimately unattainable to keep us intact. What if we really held in our grasp all of the answers to the questions we ask? It could be, then, like suddenly discovering the impossibility of grasping the complexity of an everyday observation, the nature, say, of the interface between the ocean and the land, which looms at bottom to an incomprehensible pattern of fractal figures. Why is that, in itself, not enough for us? Why do we continue to invent or live as if there were something else, something that gives meaning to our individual lives?
The answer to that must be buried close to the question itself. I seem to accept that our animal, avian and insect cousins exist without an implied context of individual meaning. The ant that crosses my kitchen floor in search for food is not somehow fulfilled by its presence in my hallowed halls. It is obeying its genomic instructions, nothing more. In thousands of compelling ways, Gary Larsen has offered us an opportunity to see ourselves in the tantalizing comparative of creatures acting like humans. We laugh. The laugh turns oddly hollow when humans are pictured as acting like animals. In fact we employ pejoratives when we make such comparisons: acting like pigs, living in a pigsty, jackass, baboon, monkey around, etc. Yet, that behavior is closer to the truth of it.
It is the study of other animals and Homo sapiens that will yield the clues to the motive forces behind our behavior.
A laundry list of comparatives might be a good place to start: other animals and humans are virtually identical in physiology, physiological chemistry, fundamental anatomy - we repeat in our own development the anatomical features of the phylum from gills to tail - cellular anatomy, assimilation of foodstuffs, respiration, locomotion, reproduction, mating, kinesthetics. There is no value in spending time here.
Animals do not have a language, they do not compose music, they do not write. They tell things to each other: where the nectar is located (bees), the food (ants) etc., but they do not write books, tell stories before the fire, they do not employ metaphor, 'as if,' behavior in their lives, they do not paint, nor make sculpture, write poetry to translate their feelings. They do not tell jokes, are not affected by irony.
Gods. Do animals have gods? In the form of 'lords," they seem obedient to a master, a queen, a pack leader, but except for the dominance/subdominance roles of interspecies behavior, there is little evidence.
We differ precisely at the point of self understanding. The rest is covert, hidden manifestations of animalness. Pack becomes tribe becomes shire, kingdom, nation. Pack leader becomes tribal leader becomes king becomes president.
"Among primitive peoples the continuity of the political system is dependent upon the perpetuation of alliances between small groups of kin. These alliances are created and cemented by gifts of women: fathers give away their daughters, brothers give away their sisters. But if men are to give away their women to serve social-political ends they must refrain from keeping these women to themselves for sexual ends. Incest and exogamy are the opposite sides of the same penny, and the incest taboo (a rule about sexual behavior) is the cornerstone of society (a structure of social and political relations)."
Contradictions vex religious dogma and have been the source of extraordinary measures taken to silence them. Examples abound: Galileo, Christian burning of the library at Alexandria, human sexuality, issues of abortion, biblical creationism versus current common knowledge.
And yet creationists are faced with "This moral principal implies that . . .the first man should have had a wife who was not his sister . . .For if they were brother and sister then we are all the outcome of the primevil incest . . .thus the biblical Eve is of one flesh with Adam and their relations are incestuous . . ."
A living thing is that which is not dead; a dead thing is that which is not alive. But religion endeavors to separate these two intrinsically interdependent concepts so that we have myths which account for the "origin" of death or which represent death as the "gateway to eternal life.
What is the origin of our propensity to endow others with special qualities? How does this come about? Surely the declarations of a lover would lead us to believe that the beloved is unique, sublimely special, akin to divine, irreplaceable, wondrous, priceless. Yet when we view the same scene at a later date we might hear instead: "My ex-husband is an asshole," or "My ex-wife is a flaming bitch." What is the difference? The psychology of it would suggest that the origin of all this is in the beholder, not the beholden. In Darwinian terms, something about the beheld selects-out a place in the perceiving organ of the viewer that was already there. When love comes, it comes with a host of chemicals that are emitted as a result of the process causing a real change in the homeostasis of the individual. Somehow, Nietzsche was able to foresee the effects in his definition of it: "Love is the state in which man sees things most decidedly as they are not."
Falling in love is a mysterious miasma which envelopes and confounds the faller. All attempts at logical controversion are ineffective. The object of one's love is transformed in the process into something other:
Falling in love with love
is falling for make believe.
Falling in love with love
is playing the fool.
Science, herein the method of science rather than a sacred cow, would not be necessary if people did not lie. If people could trust their observations, it would only be necessary for one person to observe an event to confirm it. But we are consummate liars. That is what we most commonly do. Lie. We lie to ourselves and we lie to others. Some way to create an atmosphere where observations can be tested is needed. We have devised a testing process which can withstand human nature and time. It is not, by any means, perfect. It works pretty well. When the processes of science generate information which disrupt the pretty prose of our institutions, we are witness to another human propensity: retention of beliefs at any cost. Gallileo's suggestion that Aristotle might not have been quite right in assigning to the earth a central position in things placed him in the garret of the highest tower of obscurity the Church could find without actually immortalizing him. The Catholic Church has always employed rationalizing philosophers to explain away the findings of the real world. When the community of science presents to religion another observation that contradicts their catechism, they come-up with another plausible explanation, or worse, simply brand the information as heretical, kill or imprison the heretics, burn the data. When Darwin's thesis becomes finally unassailable truth, switch the definitions. Have god create not the human, but the "soul," and have it inserted into a chosen human. It solves the problem and generates an assertion which cannot be proven nor negated.
Or, if you are sovereign, simply declare all knowledge before you void, as did Ch'in Shih Huang Ti, emporer or China, 221-210 BC, and burn the books.
With rings and diamonds, DeBeers helped create two results: artificial scarcity and social ceremony. Diamonds have been deemed valuable and, are used as a device for rental of woman (eggs). In primitive areas of the Philippines, "When a boy and girl wished to marry, a go-between was engaged to offer the girl's family an expensive heirloom bead (valued at one or two carabao)." This is not new nor unique to modern society. It is in a ritual that can be traced to the earliest formative events of human socio-political development. This is the very stuff of Levi-Strauss.
If a woman detects that she is being looked at, if she is currently leased (rented), she will flash her ring. The diamond's unique characteristics of brilliance and reflectivity are ideally suited for such a signaling device. With betrothal, the engagement ring becomes a claiming tag, a dot placed upon a painting hung in a gallery, a "sold sign" in a furniture store. It says: 'I'm still here for you to see, but I'm spoken for. You better get something for yourself or you'll lose out!' This is a marketing ploy that has been used for centuries.
Rings in society are constant reminders that the desirable women are being taken. The man better commit to one or he'll lose out (translation: he'll lose a chance to fertilize one of his own.) This is a complication upon the mating strategy which is an overlay of society. By creating marriage, and with it the associated rules and regulations, the men of societies (the historical and actual lawmakers) have designed a mechanism to assure the sanctity of the egg the man has rented even when he is not there. It remains true that women do the choosing, yet still, rape and forced entrance are possibilities, so the process tends to promote order.
And there is also the chastity belt.
The commercial dissociation of egg/woman/value to 'value = $' is hidden here. Perhaps what Girard interprets as envy is rather fear. If the observer doesn't get or does not have or is not what the observed is seen to be/have, the observer fears he will lose the only game in town!
In mythology, according to Claude Levi-Strauss, . . .the hidden message is concerned with the resolution of unwelcome contradictions . . ."
In the preface to Eric Dingwall's curious book, "The Girdle of Chastity" we find: " . . .in few directions is the fear of cuckoldom and the possibilities of illegitimate offspring more vividly displayed than in the use of the so-called girdle of chastity. [chastity belt]"
Dingwall failed to see the basic nature of what appeared to him as an aberration of male behavior: jealousy. He visualized and showed the device to be a result of the conflict between an unfaithful wife and the cuckhold.
But this interpretation is incorrect. Reference to the origin of human social-political systems, as proposed by Levi-Strauss presents a picture of woman in possession of intrinsic value. And she is definable as such: a valuable bead, two carrabao, an amount of goods agreed upon between the families of the betrothed, an engagement ring, 1/2, 1, 3, or more karets, a Mercedes-Benz. "Social-political alliances are cemented by gifts of women." As such, the value in a gift of this type lies in the gift's retaining its basic quality. One characteristic above all others is that the woman not be shared. It begins as an interdiction, a taboo against incest--one cannot continue to use a gift one has given away as an exchange of value, a quid pro quo. It begins as that and without much imagination expands into ceremonies, agreements, written and spoken and the implied potential that the agreements be at some time broken and for this transgression another layer of quid pro quo, perhaps aggressive. The origins of, and the seemingly overblown reaction to, cuckoldery can be found here.
And what if we search deeper? What is unique about the woman? What does she possess that is of such fundamental value to the universe?
For a brief and magical interval of time, she owns access to and control over about 400 eggs!
The world is falling from or perhaps has already fallen from religious influences. The false bindings and boundary lines of purely political constructions are broken with regularity. We have escaped the influences of both once-powerful forces. Upon what has our civilization chosen to lean?
Commerce! Women are its driving force!
Women have always had socio-political value, they were the first medium of exchange, one which created kinship connections and defused the human's intrinsic self-centeredness, his need to consider others as enemies. Women became and continue to be objects of commerce. They are commodities because of what is unique to them, their eggs. Eggs are the most important element of the universe. Eggs are very rare.
Does this surprise you? A few pithy quotes might bring things into focus: "I hate to be a failure. I hate and regret the failure of my marriages. I would glady give all my millions for just one lasting marriage success." J. Paul Getty
"A lasting relationship with a woman is only possible if you are a business failure." J. Paul Getty
"His designs were strictly honorable, as the phrase is: that is, to rob a lady of her fortune by way of marriage." Fielding
"If women didn't exist all the money in the world would have no meaning." Aristotle Onasis
It is possible to see the entire fabric of human relations to be woven of a warp of human eggs and a woof of exchange elements, money or its equivalence. The cloth, when loomed by the universe's shuttle, becomes our future: babies.
"Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself."
Thus, we are the same as all the other creatures with whom we share this global space. This should not be a surprise. The theater generated by the processes of commerce fill our lives, perhaps generating all the meaning necessary for most of us.
But look at the emotions we generate: Do we speak against gold or silver or other objects of desire? No, because we can usually see through to the artificiality of the wish, but in the case of woman, men possess an inborn urge which directs them always to seek eggs.
Because of this, men are not, as they say, ruled by their cocks as much as they are likely servants of their genetic code, a utility which arose at the specific behest of the universe. Men seek at every moment the precious egg. Since it rides with the woman, they have no other choice but to seek women. But women do the choosing. Thus if it is a god men serve, then it surely is woman.
Men, some claim, hate women.
"Women fail to understand how much men hate them." Germaine Greer
There is ample written evidence for this, and surely a vast oral tradition amongst men. What other explanation would suffice for such a vituperation as:
"Woman is a wrathful/angry, unstable, lewd, unfaithful and cruel animal, one who love vain things more than that which is certain and sure." (Tableau des piperies des femmes mondames Cologne, 1685)
The word hate derives from the greek word heke which until about the 14th century meant "fear." I doubt that men truly hate women; not in the sense that hate has come to mean. I think they truly fear them. At least they fear something in association with them. That this fear has to do with a loss of rational control over themselves, a slip into incomprehensible behavior might be evidenced by some observations:
"The great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is: What does woman want.? Sigmund Freud
"Man is for woman a means; the end is always the child." Nietzsche
"The chief cause of unhappiness in married life is that people think that marriage is sex attraction, which takes the form of promises and hopes and happiness - a view supported by public opinion and by literature. But marriage cannot cause happiness. Instead, it is always torture, which man has to pay for satisfying his sex urge." Leo Tolstoy
"I don't think I'll get married again. I'll just find a woman I don't like and give her a house." Lewis Grizzard
"One is very crazy when in love." Freud
"Love is like an hourglass, with the heart filling up as the brain empties." Jules Renard
"The American girl makes a servant of her husband and then finds him contemptible for being a servant." John Steinbeck
"American women expect to find in their husbands a perfection that English women only hope to find in their butlers." W. Somerset Maugham
"Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship." Oscar Wilde
"The concern that some women show at the absence of their husbands does not arise form their not seeing them and being with them, but from the apprehension that their husbands are enjoying pleasures in which they do not participate, and which, from their being at a distance, they have not the power of interrupting." Montaigne
"When a woman becomes a scholar there is usually something wrong with her sex organs." Nietzsche
"The happiest time of anyone's life is just after the first divorce." John Kenneth Galbraith
"Divorces are made in heaven." Oscar Wilde
"Bachelors know more about women than married men. If they didn't, they'd be married too." Mencken
"A man may be a fool and not know it - but not if he is married." Mencken
"If I ever marry, it will be on a sudden impulse - as a man shoots himself." Mencken
"The only really happy fold are married women and single men." H. L Mencken
"The world as depicted by contemporary feminism is a peculiar one. I teaches a history that is at variance with that taught in the hisotry departmens, a view of science incorporating only selectively that taught in science departments, and a paradoxical, illiberal approach to morality in which the correctness of an action depends to a large extent on who is performing it...The world view erected by contemporary politically correct feminism. . .is a house of cards. It requires its adherents to jump from one unsteady limb to another, never quite sure whether sex differneces in behavior are illusory or very real but insignificant; uncertain whether women behave exactly the same as men, or are emotionally or morally superior, orinted toward life (unlike men, who love death); switching from "absolute egalite" to "special provisions," depending upon which confers greater advantage. Women are simultaneously strong and independent, fully prepared to prevail in the hell of combat, yet at the same time so weak as to need special rules under which they receive compensatory advantages to assist them in competition with men; they also need special protection against unwanted sexual advances and dirty jokes. This is much like a magician's silk that appears to have a different color each time it is revealed." Robert Schaeffer, "Feminism, the Noble Lie" Free Inquiry, Spring, 1995, p. 13.
Think about these things when you next hear a scream for "women's liberation." The power has been vested with women all along. When society tampers with a delicate and central human process it is as a child plays with dynamite. Cause even more fear of women through legislative acts and you can almost hear the matches being struck to light the fuses. In the chemical testosterone there is too much potential for serious destruction.
"How much fame, money, and power does a woman have to achieve on her own before you can punch her in the face." P. J. O'Rourke
What mythology must women be in the process of creating to resolve these "unwelcome contradictions."
1. René Girard, "Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World,"
Stanford University Press, 1987, p. 3.
2. Edmund Leach, "Claude Levi-Strauss, New York, The Viking Press,
4. Falling in Love with Love words: Lorenz Hart music: Richard Rogers
c 1938 Chappell, renewed
5. "People of the Philppine Cordillera" E. Masferre; J. G. de Villa, M.T.G
Farr and G. M. Jones, Devcon.I. P Inc, 1988, Manila
6. Edmund Leach, Ibid.
7. Eric Dingwall, "The Girdle of Chastity" p 63
8. Edmund Leach, Ibid. p 61.
9. Kahlil Gibran, "The Prophet," A. Knopf, New York, 1989