Sunday, November 14, 2010

angels' notes 3: we don't know what we are

Here's the next installment of notes from my stint as Roy Cohn in Angels in America. Explanation and previous installments here and here. I didn't scan the notebook this time because my handwriting would have made it impossible to read.

Anyone up for some drive-thru?

The psychological damage done to humans simply by the way we choose to live is literally incalculable. We literally cannot imagine what we could be, what we ought to be, what our souls, our DNA are crying out to be. The weight of the centuries of lies and ‘civilizing’ forces and forced subservience to imagined and invented authority both earthly and otherworldly has so warped us that we no longer can know--truly know in our bones, our hearts and our minds--what we are.

What I mean is, over the past 100,000 years--and the millions of years we developed toward becoming anatomically modern humans--we developed in certain ways in order to survive and thrive under certain conditions. At least until 10,000 or so years ago when the development of agriculture and large-group culture began, and began to change everything, all that evolution, all that societal pressure and breeding resulted in survivors who do well under the rigors of life on the savannah: running after game, running from predators or fighting them, absorbing the open air and freedom (as well as the heart-racing, nerve-tingling fear and tension) of always being on the move and never knowing where one’s next meal might come from--this is what we are, what we are supposed to be, like it or not.

Fight or flight. Hard-wired. 100 percent pure adrenaline, baby.

Not incidentally, surviving all of this long enough to pass on one’s genetic material was not only key to our ancestors’ survival, it's key to our eventual existence--without these particular traits, we never come along. And these traits are key to understanding what we are now--and what is wrong with us. You cannot overcome 100,000 years of human evolution and breeding--not to mention the countless millennia leading up to that moment when we became humans--with a few centuries of so-called civilization.

It’s absurd on the face of it. We are what we are, and what we are is animal. Animal-Plus, if you like, as a nod to our big brains (ever-insecure, lest they be forgotten! Don't worry--I got your back, buddy.) but that’s another matter for another discussion.

However, this is no Fight Club/Iron John bullshit lament for the lost Bukowski/Hemingway Manly Man, one who never really existed in the first place, certainly not at this late date.

Understand, those beings on that long-ago savannah were our ancestors, and understand what that means: their DNA is ours, their hard-wiring is ours. They are us. We are them.

I'd love to have a beer with Lucy.

With the obvious similarities between chimps and us, it absolutely blows my mind that people still eat these creatures. 'Cannibalism-lite' if you ask me.

And they would not recognize us today. The skills and tendencies and strengths they gave us are all washed out to shades of sallow gray, bleached to nothing by society’s rules, or sublimated at best. Our aggressions and the need for that adrenaline and freedom and the awful, wonderful fear that comes with them are expressed only in shadowplay, in pretend danger: video games, road rage, backstabbing bitchiness, sports, bar fights, empty loud-mouthery from safe behind computer keys--all the poisonous frustrations of the modern age that eat away at us because we have no real outlet to be who and what we are; these are the places where the animal tries and fails to get out from under.

SIDEBAR: Interestingly, some of the people most frustrated by these confusing signals from our big brains and our DNA often seek out jobs in law enforcement or the military, where there’s at least a chance that some head-bashing might come up. But those tasked with imposing our imaginary civilization on our clearly uncivilized species are, perhaps unsurprisingly, often the most fucked up of us all.

What dismal, flaccid creatures we have become. Cramped into boxes, piled one atop the other like factory chickens. No wonder we routinely beat, rape, and murder one another.

Of course we do; we’re all mad.

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