The Slovenly Beast Known As Man

Habitually unkempt and perpetually lazy in some way or another, frequently unaware of their surroundings, I find human beings boundlessly interesting. We have forgotten ourselves in the petty wants and creature comforts that we’ve grown used to, such as the constant urge to become antagonistic with a fellow person.

Have you ever watched Jerry Springer? At face value, this show is up there with the trashiest forms of entertainment in recent history. Still it is, on a somewhat philosophical level, a marvelous medium from which to observe the silliness of human nature, in it’s least polished, yet somehow still presentable, form. The women dress up — or at least, they try — and the men strut as if displaying themselves for a position as America’s top testosterone dispenser. The women scream and curse, in quite a non-ladylike manner. The men continue to strut and flex and talk like the big man on campus.

All the while, the people on stage have an air about them which simply screams: “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me.” They play this part well — the part of men and women who are self-assured and who couldn’t care less what others might think of them. But if this were true, I observe, why do they try so hard to make it seem so? Why the witty repartee, and the loud announcements of “I don’t care!” Surely they must, for otherwise the show would not be so enthralling to modern audiences.

Because what really is more boring to us than watching humans interact with people in their natural state. Would current Jerry Springer fans be so engrossed in the show if it featured the every-day acts and thoughts and conversations of every-day people. People who are unaware of the cameras, who go about their business as if there were no one watching them?

Certainly, there must be something even remotely interesting about a family sitting down to lunch and discussing the weather. But where does this interest lie? We would be constantly anticipating a fight, or an amusing social misstep, or some kind of embarrassing accident to occur. This is another intriguing part of human nature. Even someone who understands that it is okay, and maybe good, to be bored once in a while can admit to no inclination to see people in their natural, uneventful states of being.

And we don’t just want to watch these things, but we have an inane need to integrate these amusing or entertaining parts of life into our own lives. It is difficult for man to be content with sitting and counting blades of grass, simply for the pleasure of knowing how many blades of grass there are on the ground. The saying “It was like watching paint dry” means, specifically, that a certain event was boring. What I want to know is why we are not happy with watching paint dry.

The answer is that we know the outcome of such things, and so there is nothing to wonder about. Human beings need something at all times to anticipate, to marvel at, or to figure out. Watching paint dry has one outcome, unless the process is interrupted in some way. For instance, by a water balloon splashing against the newly painted wall. This would be far preferable to the observer, for at least it would cause some kind of an unexpected turn of events. It would spark a reaction from them that would otherwise not have been aroused, such as anger or amusement or discouragement.

Yet, man never wants life to be too unpredictable. We of course rely heavily on the fact that the person we are interacting with speaks our same language, dresses in a similar way to us, and is more or less a “decent” human being by our own standards. When an American hops into a taxi cab and the driver speaks little to no English, this causes a stir. The passenger panics in their own private corner, wondering what they should do, what they should say, and above all else, “why is this happening to me?”

We fail at times to recognize that we are, in fact, animals. Since birth, we have been trained to ignore the animal instincts which we were born with. The signal of dominance being meeting another’s eyes, and the signal of challenging that person’s dominance over one’s self being holding their gaze. Tipping the head back and showing the throat to signal submission, or that we are giving up an argument. Little nods and shakes of the head, hand gestures, and even special looks to indicate a desire to mate with someone else have not been forgotten completely, but their significance has been.

Nevertheless, we all live together, though not harmoniously. Are there ever reports of battles raged between groups of jungle cats or reptiles over food or supplies, lasting years and years and resulting in millions of deaths? Do animals have the tendency to shun or kill others of their own kind for being a different color, or mating with the same sex?

The reason that these characteristics are limited to humans is because we are too intelligent for our own good. We are inevitably bored with our lives, and we make silly judgments and useless connections in our minds which lead to prejudice and the need to be angry with others. We fight over food and money and land because we know not how to attain what we want peacefully. We are afraid, rather than delighted, by differences between us and other people, and so our unfortunate natural reaction is to shun.

A woman will despise and fight with another woman over a man. This is one trait that we may also see in the world of animals, where superinteligence has not dulled the instincts of its master. Still, humans love drama. A woman will not use her head, and all that extra “intelligence,” to understand that the other woman is also a human being. She sees her as an obstacle in her path to the man, and so she won’t stop at a fair fight, but will go on despising her and making her life as miserable as possible. This is one way in which I think our intelligence could truly make us a better race, but sadly has only corrupted us. We use our brains to dream of nasty things that we could do to another person in revenge. We create jealousy for ourselves because we thrive off of anger. We are arrogant and self indulgent, and so we work ourselves up into being indignant so that others around us may join in our fun of being the victim. We could use our brains to analyze one another’s beauty and uniqueness; we may look at someone who annoys and infuriates us and wonder what kind of thoughts go through their head. What kind of dreams do they inhabit? What kind of person are they in the privacy of their home, beneath the façade of being presentable in public?

It is rare that someone will look at every new person they meet and wonder at these things, but it is a constant fascination and source of curiosity for me. We all lead different lives, but do we embrace the simple things in each other. The little imperfections, the every-day musings within the head of someone else? How is this not interesting to others? It is like reading a mystery novel, one which has a plot and theme so deeply woven that the answers to your questions are never really answered. Though it may be frustrating, it is always enthralling.

And why not indulge ourselves in the need for anticipation by trying to learn about another human being. One whom we detest, or even one we know nothing about whatsoever. Ponder the tiny beauties that have somehow come together and formed this entirely separate human being. Stray from the normal obsessions with action and wonder at what is not plainly in sight. Do I need to take you as a lover to rouse your curiosity about what my deepest passions are? Must I be your dearest friend to be someone you wish to know and trust? Need I be a stranger on the street for you to marvel at my beauty, or titter at my ugliness? Would you need to be a philosopher to see, rather than my appearance, the realm of possibilities within me?

“People speak sometimes about the “bestial” cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to beasts, no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel.” –Fyodor Dostoyevsky


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