Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mother Nature is a manipulative bitch

I just ate a pear. It was so cold and delicious. As William Carlos Williams might say, it was ass-shatteringly good.

Like usual, however, there's no good that I can't find the bad in. See, the pear doesn't taste good because the universe is kind and wants me to experience pleasure unfettered, it's because the pear wants to reproduce and the best way to do that is to make itself tasty to higher lifeforms like myself.

I'm a step in the reproductive process of a pear. I'm a cog. I might as well be a giant wrinkly gonad hanging down from a metaphorical pear crotch.

But it's not just pears manipulating me, it's all of nature. Just about every single thing that feels or tastes or smells good is a subtle push in the direction nature wants me to go in.

Chocolate tastes good because we need fat and sugar in our diet. Because we evolved in a place where fat and sugar were relatively hard to come by, we're programmed to seek it out. The more rare something is, see, the more pleasure it has to provide so we have the motivation to look for it.

Modern milk chocolate is essentially 50% sugar and 50% fat; eating it is like slathering your brain with orgasm juice. It lights up like a Christmas tree.

It feels sublime, but it's not. It's just molecules bouncing off of each other in the right order to provide us pleasure. And that pleasure is a reward for getting some stuff our body needs.

We're just dogs salivating when the bell rings.

I tell you all this not to depress you but to raise the question as to whether it's possible that there is any free will at all. I mean, from a certain point of view, pears are the kings of society, employing a complex system of human slaves to keep them well tended in lavish pear plantations. It's actually possible to view the world this way, if you stare at it long enough, like a sailboat popping out of one of those Magic Eye 3-D posters.

I think about all the time and effort I put into things and especially all the worry, the constant crushing worry, and it occurs to me that the curse of consciousness is that it provides the illusion of free will.

Think about it, there must have been a first time for consciousness. I mean, there must have been a single ape somewhere out in the plains of Africa who was the first one to make the leap from animal to something more than animal. Picture him (or her) out there, using a stick to grab ants out of a hill just like he was programmed to, just like he always does, but then a bolt of synaptic lightening flashes and suddenly he's thinking ABOUT what he's doing.

And when he does? What does he do?

He says: "This must MEAN something."

But of course it means just what it meant the second before he started thinking about it. All it means is that his body needs protein and little stupid ants crawling up a stick are a convenient way for him to get it.

That is all it means.

Again, I'm not necessarily upset about this, I'm just wondering if, perhaps, I should just give in to the physical world without worrying about the metaphysical. That maybe I should stop pretending that Mother Nature and I are equal partners in this universe.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go poop.


Wayne A. "Tony" Conaway said...

Very nice post, Jay! Meditations on free-will are always good, gloomy topics.

The idea that plants use us as much as we use them has been posited before. It's the main theme of Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World. I think Henry Hobhouse might have touched upon it even earlier, in Seeds of Change or Seeds of Wealth.

The topic would also make a good Aaron Sorkin-style dialogue.

Of course, thoughts like these are a reason some people turn to religion: instead of worriting about free-will, they decide that they're just following a god's plan for them.

Now, what if the god whose plan we are following is the Great Pear God?

Hoardmeister said...

Dahling, you think far too many Deep Thoughts. You could get a migraine! Take my advice and live the superficial life. I'm not sure what to tell a man, I'd tell a woman to look at the pretty pictures in French Vogue and have her maid organize her closet.

Perhaps watch sports? All of the time? Would that help?


Anonymous said...

More updates please!