Friday, July 5, 2013

OK, a 4th self

You may know that the Buddhists make a big thing of there not being a self.  They don't seem to deny they have a physical body, a distinctive DNA, a recognizable voice but they find it quite valuable to admit the true, inner, fundamental Self is elusive at best, non-existent even.

I have found that my picture of myself, who and what I am, changes over time.  Of course, I am older now and not the same as I was at 3 or 30.  But I like to keep a collection of pictures in my head of the being I am.  On May 9, I posted about my conscious mind, my unconscious mind where habits and autonomic body controls like heart beat are stored, and my interaction with others as being three "selves" that influence my guesses about who I am and what I am like.


But lately, I have gotten interested in a 4th picture: me as a primate.  My friend, Prof. E., is a retired psychologist.  He tipped me off to the National Geographic special about humans, apes and sexual and social signals called "Going Ape".  At about the same time, May Roach's "Bonk" was showing me mammalian and primate connections to humans in important areas of social, political and sexual life.  The book has this incident concerning Page, a young female, who wants to mate with Keystone, a major male:

Why the coyness and hesitation? In Page's case, it has to do with her low rank and the risks that go along with it. If she's too obvious in her solicitations, she stands a chance of being thwacked by a higher-ranking female. Furthermore, adult male rhesus monkeys— if you're a female rhesus— are big and intimidating. "Imagine it," says Wallen. "You're this little teeny female, you've done nothing with the adult males for all of your preadolescent period, and all of a sudden you wake up one day and say, 'You know, this guy is really attractive.'"

Roach, Mary (2009-04-06). Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (p. 282). Norton. Kindle Edition.

You can see the connection between attraction, biology and politics.  You don't want to get "thwacked" but you want Keystone.  You didn't use to want him but suddenly, today, you do.  Doesn't that sound rather human?

Humans sometimes dream of skipping all the preliminaries.  The Korean-American comedienne Margaret Cho, the secretary on Drop Dead Diva, Lifetime TV, has a routine where she goes to a night club or party, sees a guy she wants and just shouts at him, "Put it in!  Put it in!"  But she would get thwacked and when apes or humans, female or male, thwack, it is a serious thwack.  Better to proceed socially and politely.


In connection with better understanding of humans as primates, I have downloaded "Our Inner Ape" by Frans de Waal, a primatologist.  I have my eye on "The Third Chimpanzee" by Jared Diamond, of whom I have heard good things but never read.

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