Kurt Bell

A life of courage, joy and independence.

Biology

.

Instinct is the noblest ambition
Delivering results in accord with nature’s mandate

~

When I run my hands through soil
I feel my pulse

~

While in the desert this weekend I stopped to hike across the heart of a dead volcano. The place is a moonscape, with craggy, razor sharp igneous extrusions of molten lava frozen in time like froth atop a Starbucks latte. There’s no visible plant life here and the only animals are possibly millions of Black Widow spiders which inhabit the volcano’s countless nooks and crannies like tenants in a condo of venomous killers. While looking out on this scene I remembered a comment I’d once heard referring to how well our species had done given we’d started out with just sticks and rocks. I pulled my smartphone from my pocket and looked at it against the background of the volcano and thought with awe how we’d derived one from the other. The smartphone was made from no less than the compounds we’d found around us on and under the ground in landscapes like this. Then I looked at my hand…and realized how much longer the journey had really been. One of the first hominid tool makers was Homo habilis (handy man) who began making stone tools roughly two million years ago, yet the hands which made the tool were formed of a much longer, more gradual process beginning roughly four billion years earlier. It’s true, the smartphone began with sticks and rocks but so too the biology which had to arise as a precursor to even the most primitive technology. I put my phone atop the surface of the dead black volcano and considered the long chain of events which led from one to the other…and then my mind tittered and leapt in wonder at where the road of progress and change may yet lead.

~

The very best part of living on the wrong side of the tracks is the discovery that it is inhabited by people.

~

The non-sentient beast within
Doesn’t give a damn what I think
Its agenda sealed in instinct
Proper, tuned and true
My reason no more than whimsy
Against eons of proof
Go on with your thoughts
Playthings by compare
When blood, fang and brutality
Deliver mute truth
Sure results
And deep
Satisfaction

~

I find sometimes that if I squint my eyes and stare for a bit at any organism then I can begin to perceive the busy, bustling, highly organized society within. This is great fun though a bit disconcerting when I do it at people. It makes me wonder where the individual really is?

~

An insect’s level flight
Is almost more wonder than I can handle

~

Our true, and perhaps only, essential purpose is etched into our being with the imperative of desire, and the awful threat of living and dying alone. It’s a mindless drive, truly requiring no thought. We live our purpose on auto-pilot; fulfilling its mandate with the satisfaction of every instinctual whim. An easy way to live, and a satisfying way to die. *

~

Life is orphaned from the start. Our progenitor having more in common with a stone than the loving parent we might hope to deserve. We stand and gaze across the wild for some sign of kin and kind, our eyes drawn at last to the sky and stars in hazy remembrance of dim, indifferent origins. *

~

We awake! Our fresh senses alive and new and electric with perception. At once we begin our locomotion; stepping and grabbing and speaking. We’re never lost, not for a moment, though our minds may despair of purpose or meaning or direction or worthy end. Indeed a deep mandate has the reins. A singular, worthy end. There’s but one direction, one meaning that really matters, a consolidated purpose, driving and quite distinct. All artifact speaks to this one end. All else is abstract substance and substrate, compost and waste, filler and raw resource towards the gain. *

~

Our genetic inertia propels us towards ends we rarely consider: sex, love, marriage and even Jesus proclaim our mute acceptance of responsibility to the survival of our species. Our blind allegiance binds this mandate to action. The veil may never rise for us, though the ones to whom we may one day become God should certainly pity our narrow vision, and quite constrained understanding. *

~

Our genetic inertia propels us towards ends we rarely consider: sex, love, marriage and even Jesus proclaim our mute acceptance of responsibility to the survival of our species. Our blind allegiance binds this mandate to action. The veil may never rise for us, though the ones to whom we may one day become God should certainly pity our narrow vision, and quite constrained understanding. *

~

Your mind is on a track. There’s actually very little leeway between birth and death. The course is strikingly simple, though we don’t notice due to our one chance at living, and the fact that our perspective biases us to exaggerate what little difference there really is between one life and the next, and one generation to the next. Gender plays a role in the course we must live, as does age, though these aren’t very popular topics to discuss. But keep that in mind, and listen to what your nature has to say, even if you choose not to listen; for informed choice brings both responsibility and accountability into the hands of the chooser. Always apply reason to your biology, always demand diplomacy of your motives, always seek virtue of your wants, or deny them altogether. In this way, never hesitate to resist your nature should it prove base, barbarous, unjust, or inhumane.
So you’ll bump along this course of living, fortune heaving you at once to the left, and next to the right; but always forward, and at a steady rate, even when at rest, even when you decide not to choose. Remember that you’ll always be on those rails, and there’s nothing spiritual or spooky or inexplicable about them; so don’t get suckered into motivation, divination or exorcism to change your way. Instead, ride the rails like the successful survivor you have become, we have become, we’ve all become, by virtue of the simple fact we’ve survived. You see, biology’s criteria for success is both simple and absolute. So ride your rails to the end of the line. And if you choose, pass carefully your successful mandate into the future, as your mother and I have done through our loving creation of you. *,**

Citations

* Included in “My Muse is a Corpse”
** Included in “To My Daughter”

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