Friday, November 19, 2010

But When It Comes to Love

. . . Here’s a tragic and yet sort of obvious idea: We made cancer. Also, we invented war. Turns out we are disastrously good at destroying ourselves.

Scientists have found almost no trace of cancer in the mummified remains of bodies from ancient civilizations. It simply did not exist. Is it because they all died too young to suffer from the disease? Maybe. But unlikely. Cancer is, it’s increasingly believed, a lovely byproduct of heavily industrialized, high tech, toxic modern society. We’re soaking in it.

Same goes, in a way, for war and combat, our need to dominate and defeat. Despite a million glorified military movies, a billion dead bodies and Dick Cheney’s fatal sneer, we are not necessarily, by nature, a combative, warlike species, prone to battle and rage. Did you already suspect?

It’s a baffler, all right. But as one fine theory posits – with big thanks to Margaret Mead – that war simply isn't natural. After all, plentiful are the cultures and peoples throughout time and geography that, even despite scarce natural resources, despite having all the supposed reasons to go to war, never once found a need to take up arms, or even understand the concept. It’s just sort of ridiculous.

So then, to sum up: War is learned behavior, spreading like a mold. Cancer is a modern invention, the dark underbelly of our madhouse race to progress. We create – and even knowingly promote – many of the socio-cultural factors that spawn depression and internal demonization.

But when it comes to love, sexuality, the infinite powers of the heart? It’s just the opposite. We are but giddy, terrified players on a vibrant cosmic stage. The love, the sex, the chemistry of desire, while certainly influenced by the modern churn, has its roots deep in our very being, timeless and eternal, woven into our very DNA like a bright red thread into the great throw rug of time.

It's a lot to unpack. But it turns out we’ve had it all exactly backwards all along. You actually can’t choose your particular wiring for love, but you can choose to be a warlike, antagonistic force of cancerous doom. We cannot design our innate sexual chemistry, but we sure as hell can choose whether to celebrate it with wine and song and fearless abandon, or poison it at its heart with ignorance, panic, a violent misreading of God.

– Mark Morford
Your Angry God Will Not Save You Now
The San Francisco Chronicle
November 17, 2010

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day - September 3, 2010
"Gaydar," "Gendermaps," and the "Fundamentally Social Purpose" of Homosexuality
A Lesson from Play School
One of These Boys is Not Like the Others
Debunking NARTH (Part 1)
Debunking NARTH (Part 2)
One Fearless Kiss
It Happens All the Time in Heaven


Liam said...

Um, just so people don't imbibe junk history: the author takes a limited data point on cancer in mummies and generalizes falsely. Cancer was identified and named by the ancients; it occurred. Now, people did not live as long with it the way people do in the past few generations, but cancer was identified before Christ, shall we say.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi, Liam!

Yes, I thought it was odd that the author made such a sweeping assertion ("We made cancer . . . It simply did not exist [in ancient civilizations]") -- especially after saying himself that scientists have found "almost no trace of cancer" in mummies (which implies that some trace has been found!) and after linking to the article re. the Manchester scientists in which it's acknowledged that cancer existed "in antiquity," albeit rarely.

"[C]ancer was extremely rare in antiquity. The disease rate has risen massively since the Industrial Revolution, in particular childhood cancer – proving that the rise is not simply due to people living longer."

Regardless of this misstep by Morford, I appreciate the overall message of his article.