Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Unsex me here!

I had a falling out with Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster.  We had been sharing thoughts amenably until I unwisely mentioned Yuval Harrari's book on the next stage of human evolution, Homo Deus (recommended by my friend D.L.- see link below) where we'll be gods.  Robert told me gila monsters attained this "godhood" long ago without the fanfare humans need, which I was willing to accept, but then he asserted that humans could not attain "godhood"- or as he called it, "awareness"- because we're too fucked up and don't want to be aware anyway.

"What do you mean we don't want to be aware?" I asked, "What else would we want?"

"What else?  You want to have sex with each other night and day." Robert has learned a lot about humans.  "At least gilas have a season for mating and male combat.  You have one season: mating and male combat."

"So what?  I'm telling you we humans are evolving out of this.  Soon we'll be able to modify our physiology with a limited mating season, and with the free time we'll evolve."

"As if!" Robert snorted, "If you're any indication, I won't hold my breath."

I was suddenly weary of Robert's superior species routine.  I needed a break from him and the familiar human conversations at the Family Dollar Store, so I decided to spend the weekend in San Diego.  I booked a cheap hotel on the waterfront for Friday night, filled my 2007 Camry and set out.  

The trek began on the lonely 138, hugging the desert foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, then turned south on the 15 through Cajon Pass, to San Bernadino and on to San Diego. It was about 5:15pm when I checked in.

The main objective of my trip was to walk to Balboa Park and see museums, but it was too late for that, so I headed to the Gaslamp District nearby for dinner.

Young and old lined the sidewalks up Broadway.  I dipped into random mentalities and found thoughts that reminded me of a poll conducted during the Clinton/Trump presidential race that indicated that if only women voted, Clinton would win, and if only men voted, Trump would win. This time if only women voted, no one would win, and if only men voted, same thing.

These explorations soon gave way to hunger, but most of the restaurants were crowded and geared towards couples, where I would have been a sorry spectacle eating alone.  Finally I found a relatively quiet bar that served dinner.  An attractive waitress in her mid-twenties greeted me at the bar with a big smile.  She said her name was Trina.  She was wearing cut-off jeans that had been carefully tailored to cover as little as possible.  A few more beauties assembled, hanging around in the background as Trina grilled me on what kind of martini I wanted- dirty? with a twist? Bombay gin?  Each time I selected, she grinned from ear to ear and said, "All right! Good choice!"  I dug into her mind and found that she was toying with the idea that I might be sugar-daddy material.  Realizing how glum my dinner would be without such illusion, I allowed the fantasy to play out, mostly a passive exercise of my not revealing that I live alone in the desert and my best friend is a gila monster.   Thankfully sleepiness came upon me by 9:00pm and I slipped into relief and darkness in the hotel room.

By 9:00am I was dressed and seated in the dining room for the minimalist breakfast (included): reconstituted scrambled eggs, a tiny selection of cheap pastries, coffee.  A TV screen on the wall forced everyone to hear President Biden excoriating Trump for stealing classified documents, then excoriating Russia for waging war on Ukraine. I checked out the minds of my fellow breakfasters, mostly mid-level management on business trips, men and women, some alone, some with others. The news had a vague pull on their attention- but only out of anxiety that someone might expect them to be informed; almost the entirety of their focus was on the infuriating eggs and the equally infuriating nature of their coming day.

Twenty minutes later I was walking uphill on Cedar, sweating already in the unseasonably hot morning.  Turning left on 6th I walked along the ridge of Cabrillo Ravine.  The El Prado bridge took me over the ravine (which these days accommodates the apocalyptic roar of Highway 5) to a complex of museums and a rough reproduction of Shakespeare's Globe Theater, built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.   I hung a left into the Globe Theater courtyard, which was filled with several high school classes on field trips to see Macbeth.  

"Unsex me here!" yelled an agitated boy as he prodded a girl with a plastic sword.

"Mr. Anderson," called the girl to a fortyish man in a tasteful slacks and short-sleeved shirt, "Brad is harassing me!"  

"Calm down, Brad!  Leave Terry alone, and remember what that line is supposed to mean!"

"I do, Mr. Anderson," Brad said mockingly with a leer, pointing the sword towards Terry, now at an ambiguous 30 degrees, "It means Lady Macbeth wishes she were a man, so she could be strong and have any idea what to do."

With this basically correct interpretation Brad leapt towards Terry, the sword behind his back, calling "Gotcha!" as Terry screamed in shock and delight.  Mr. Anderson looked around to see who expected him to do anything, saw only me, and went back to scrutinizing a clipboard.  

Mr. Anderson might have further instructed Brad that it's Macbeth who lacks resolve and doesn't know what to do.  Here's the context for Lady Macbeth's line:

Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty.

From this we learn that in Shakespeare's time it was thought that "direst cruelty" was a male trait, not normally found in women.  Quite a change in 400 years!

Nearby I found the irresistibly named "Museum of Man," full of beautifully composed models of pre-modern hominids.  My favorite was Lucy, the famous three million year old adult female. She was about as tall as a seven year old modern human.  Her upper arms were long for swinging from tree branches, but her legs were humanlike, designed for upright walking.  I gazed into Lucy's sad but focussed glass eyes, sending my thoughts I wasn't sure where to ask for her statement. Finally Lucy responded, though to me or from me I couldn't tell: 

We were a kind of you, we walked along the forest floor for vast generations, until you killed us.  You will never know our forest floor, our philosophy, the throb at the heart of the universe that beat through us and our forest floor.

I was sorry I asked.

Next was Heidelburg Man.  He reminded me of my grandfather, who had an all-purpose store in North Dakota - the broad forehead and wide lips, the wise patient expression, the random hair. H. Man was the first hominid to live in cold climates and hunt big game. The H. Man model was reconstructed from a 400,000 year old jawbone. There seemed no way to know from the extrapolated head and face if H. Man was as over-sexed as Homo sapiens (Latin, "wise men"), but since we're thought to be direct descendants of H. Man, it would stand to reason. What else about H. Man stood to reason? Without loincloths, how were such things handled?  Were they handled? Are these questions important?  Would a Trump survival and/or resurgence clarify anything other than that patriarchy is in peril?

When I got home to Pearblossom around 4pm it was 115 degrees, and my little berg got one of its rare mentions on L.A.'s local news. To unwind and celebrate my refreshing vacation, I wrote a poem:

Unsex me here, ye gods of men!
Genetic rules did not intend
the tools and hard drives in my den
to sport and rule outside my ken

Nor women in this feisty round
a key to being have they found
No logic to the urgent sound
of gametes playing lost and found

Unsex us here election day!
All coming after then can say
our species finally had its say
and Robert, just coyote prey!

[see my colleague D.L.'s review of Harari on Lasken's Log: https://laskenlog.blogspot.com]).