Pure, involuntary passions: rage, arousal, fear. Pre-neolithic. Ancient and primitive.
Reduce the concept of a person to its most basic elements. Bring them to the point of raw expression. Boil a person down to nothing. Vivisected. Naked, exposed. Remove the husk; strip away the excess, the humanity, and what is left?
This is something I’ve been contemplating for some time, in my perpetual vivisection of myself. All I do is de-actualize and reconstitute, and am I any better for it? Constantly prodding around, dissecting myself. Remove excess from my beliefs, my worldview, and then gnawing at the stitches thereafter.
Let’s get to the topic at hand. Every stimulus is sieved through our pre-neolithic subconscious subsystems. The first filters experienced linearly by the stimuli, and ironically, the most buried. The proverbial ‘lizard brain’. Every conscious and subconscious subsystem is governed by the perceptions outputted by this function; however, those perceptions can be further modified as they proceed down the linear progression of ‘sieves’, further altering the affects caused by the stimuli.
This may sound obscenely abstract, so I will give an example to simplify. Take sexual selection.
Before I delve into this, I want to assert that I am not making the inference that biological difference equates to feminine “weakness” or male “dominance”, rather; the hormones regarding the development of the musculature simply behave differently. I also am not making the inference that men exemplify greater sexual depravity or otherwise are inferior due to evolutionary psychology; instinct does not equate to depravity. I don’t believe in a strictly gender-partitioned society in which women are “homemakers” and men are “providers”; I am simply describing our evolutionary history. I shouldn’t have to assert this, but if I do not someone will bend over backward to deliberately become offended; a hobby that is becoming increasingly popular in the post-modern era.
As a prelude to the example, I must explain an aspect of social psychology from a strictly evolutionary perspective. The anatomically modern human has existed for 200,000 years, and the human species at large has existed for 6 million years. Given 20 year generations, that is 300,000 generations. For 99.9%+ of human history, the survival of a community and individual relied on (now nearly obsolete) gender roles; the man had more upper body strength, and testosterone is a muscle-building hormone. While the man was evolved biologically-optimized in upper body strength to hunt, and later defend the herd and work the field, etc. The woman evolved biologically-optimized to produce and rear young (as did the female of every social species on the planet).
Evolutionarily, the most fertile and biologically optimized survived. Therefore, over a period of six-million years (and before the evolution of the human, our primate ancestors), female mates (women) were selected based on traits that suggested fertility, and male mates (men) were selected based on traits that demonstrated social stability and capacity for successful social integration.
For selection of the female mate, it was suggestion of fertility; moderately larger inter-ocular distance, chin-nose symmetry, smooth skin, moderate fat distribution, wider hips, moderate or large breasts, and so forth. All of which exemplify to some degree, minuscule or not, biological fertility.
For selection of the male mate, it was suggestion of stability and capacity to provide; sociable and well socialized, well liked or otherwise “easy to get along with”, mentally stable, reliable and consistent, and likely in possession of material excess or otherwise materially well-off.
These instincts embed themselves into our “lizard brain”. All stimuli regarding attraction of the opposite sex and reproduction are sieved through this function, the output of which is sieved through another function, down the chain of societal, cultural, social, ethical/religious, and preferential conditioning (in no particular order). The end result could be something entirely different than what a strictly evolutionary perspective would seem to suggest, but it is invariably a deeply-embedded subsystem through which sexual stimuli is necessarily processed.
There are many subsystems through which stimuli are fed, hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions. (Recent and current studies on evolutionary and social psychology continue to disprove the empiricists, much to their chagrin).
Boil a person down to their essence, remove all the human conditioning, experiences, everything. The bare fundamentals of the soul. What is left?
Every inch of my body feels like it shouldn’t be there, as though all the parts are wrong, improperly constructed. Not one thing in particular, but somehow everything. Deep down, to the bone. My face feels incorrect, somehow; as though it doesn’t truly represent me, so much as it represents itself, and I simply happen to be facilitating the representation of itself. I look in the mirror and I see a familiar face; it is my face. I see green eyes, black hair, a slightly-crooked jaw. Familiar. Mine.
What is “mine” contextually? The consciousness inhabits a frame which possesses a set of proportional characteristics necessarily constructed as dictated by human genetics. The inhabitation of this frame makes the characteristic elements (predominately the ‘face’) a possession of my consciousness. The frame, however, seems do the “possession”, of the consciousness. Looking in the mirror, feeling as though “my” face is not truly mine; it is not a representation, so much so as a makeshift way to roughly communicate concepts of one’s consciousness through the frame. The face expresses itself, the consciousness is simply facilitating the expression, riding along as though it is in control.
It’s all biological. I socialize. I laugh. I experience “enjoyment”, but does that equate to “happiness”? Such an emotion is impossible to quantify because it’s so damn subjective. My every impulse, compulsion, emotion, instinct, desire, I have to ask myself, what parts of me are truly the product of “me”, and what is simply a compulsion perceived as a “choice”; am I truly “me”? When I socialize, when I laugh, am I truly happy or just fulfilling my biological compulsion as dictated by my baseline instincts as a social animal?
If I remove everything, all my humanity, and examined my basic elements, I don’t know what I’d find. I don’t know if I would like it, or if I would hate it. Undoubtedly I would be terrified, of what I’d find or perhaps by what I didn’t find. I want to get my hands under my cheekbones, my jaw, and pry myself apart. Reduce myself to my most basic elements. Boil my body until the slurry of flesh and blood is gone and only the “soul” is left. But I can’t; I will never be able to. Which terrifies me, paralyzes me, chokes me. Corporeal existence perpetuates until it doesn’t, I will never truly know what I even am, and I just have to live with it.