Everybody's Got One
A blog. An opinion. An elimination orifice. A dream. An agenda. A past. A hidden talent. A conceptual filter. A cross. A charism (often the same). A task. A wound. A destiny. A lost love. A blind spot. A bad habit. A secret. A passion. A soul ... okay, maybe not everybody ...
Monday, January 05, 2004


Listening to NPR this morning (I was early for the classical music program and caught part of Morning Edition) I heard a listener's response to a recent piece on The Beast in the Garden, about the return of wildlife to the Colorado suburbs and the ensuing deadly complications. This member of their base audience – like most of those who write in to complain that NPR has been insufficiently rigorous or left – thought himself clever to ask, Who's really the beast here? As long as uncontrolled sprawl continues, I'm pulling for the mountain lions. Well of course he is.

Let's leave aside the questions of who, exactly, should be controlling “sprawl” or how far his preferred command-and-control structure would go in determining where people are allowed to choose to live. Also how much actual contact with nature – let alone predators of any kind, non-human or otherwise – this faithful listener has had in the past few years. (Dare I call him a chickengreen?) But it didn't seem to matter to this guy that when the mountain lion lies down with the lamb, the lamb doesn't get up again. That's (perhaps) tragic but irrelevant – and likely the lamb should know better, and stay safely with the rest of the herd.

But something else was going on here, beyond naiveté or ignorance. What struck me was the sense that this was basically a man without a center, sufficiently alienated from himself to have no natural sympathy for his own species. I don't know if this is innate or learned, but there are many like him out there, who feel no connection to their own; their native species, or country, or civilization, or customs. Not so much men without chests as men without bellies, without a core. (I would say without hearts, but they reflexively base their actions on sentimentality and emotional thinking, which they mistake for deep feeling.) Empty within, they look for something outside themselves to attach their allegiance to, whether it be idealized nature or animal rights or transnational progressivism or peace through can't-we-all-just-get-along?

I'm trying to be charitable here – these folk aren't traitors (to species/class/nation/system) so much as inadequately or incompletely developed or matured. Or perhaps just unrooted, unmoored. Is there any way they can be easily fixed, short of grinding their faces in life-and-death reality, red in tooth and claw? (Waiting for it to happen as a matter of course doesn't seem terribly effective to date.) Is this how civilizations fall, when they grow so effective at protecting their members from discomfort that many never learn that life is actually hard?

I recall hearing that there were medieval disputes about whether Adam, created fully-formed from the clay of the earth and the breath of God, should be painted with or without a navel, as he was never born to have the umbilicus detached. (This may be an Enlightenment canard, of course.) It would appear that our modern men-without-bellies, believing themselves also created with no trace of original sin, have erased the evidences of their own birth and any influence it might have on what passes for thought among their sort.

posted by Kelly | 4:30 PM link