Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Body's Double-Duty Systems Approach, and Guy de Maupassant

Sometimes I think I'm so smart. I take such pleasure in my ideas. Doesn't matter what the subject is, except physics – I understand relativity, get excited about it, and then I can't remember exactly how it goes. But other things? I'm a bear for my own ideas.

So, when I had my prostate laser vaporization surgery on February 9 and had to recover from that, it led me to thinking about the urogenital system, and the double-duty that the name implies. Some smartasses had suggested that God made an error in designing the body, putting the excrementary system too close to the recreational system. Take the penis: if it's erect, it's in recreational mode, and the pee system shuts off automatically – try to pee when you're erect and you will find it pretty much impossible. It's an on-off instrument, one unit employed for dual usage.

But if you think about it, what's the alternative? What would you do with two penises, one for recreation and one for peeing? The engineer would be rightly condemned. So I was thinking that the critics, the smartasses, who maybe had the female anatomy in mind instead of the male anatomy for their criticism – what would they suggest instead? And this doesn't include the amazing system of ontogeny, how the male and female system develop in a very similar way, with just some adjustments made under hormonal influence, to produce the two systems that then fit together so neatly.

So, as I said, I relish ideas, and reflected on the system as I recovered from the vaporization, necessary because of what I have declared a condition of “too much man,” I thought about how neat it was to have designed a dual use system. But I stopped there.

And then I turned to the book on my bedside table and took up my French reading, which is part of my project to learn French beyond the level I achieved to pass my undergraduate foreign language requirement. I'm reading Guy de Maupassant, the 19th century short story writer who is well represented in the dual language books, among them “My Uncle Jules and other stories.” Among the stories is “L'inutil Beuté, ” or “Wasted Beauty.” And amazingly, just as I was thinking about double-duty engineering, here is what I found. It's a long paragraph, an intellectual discussion between two cutouts to give Maupassant a platform to discuss some of his ideas. Here is the paragraph in full:

Yes, but I say that Nature is our enemy, that we must always fight against Nature, because it always reduces us to animality. All that's clean, lovely, elegant, and ideal in the world was not put there by God, but by man, by the human brain. It's we who have introduced into creation – by singing of it, by interpreting it, by admiring it as poets, but idealizing it as artists, by explaining it as scientists who make mistakes but find ingenious reasons for its phenomena – a little grace, beauty, unknown charm, and mystery. God created only coarse beings, full of the germs of disease, who, after a few years of flourishing like beasts, grow old and infirm, with all the ugliness and impotence of human decrepitude. It seems that he made them only to reproduce themselves filthily and then die just like mayflies on a summer evening. I said, 'to reproduce themselves filthily,' and I emphasize it. In fact, what is more vile, more repugnant than that excremental, ridiculous act of reproduction, which revolts every delicate soul and always will? Since every organ invented by that thrifty, malevolent creator has a double use, why didn't he choose others that weren't unclean and besmirched, to which to entrust that sacred mission, the noblest and most exalting of human functions? The mouth, which nourishes the body with physical food, also disseminates words and thoughts. The flesh is renewed by it and, at the same time, ideas are communicated by it. Our inhalation, which brings the air of life to the lungs, also gives the brain every scent in the world: the fragrance of flowers, forests, trees, the sea. The ear, which lets us communicate with our fellows, has also allowed us to invent music, to create dreams, happiness, infinity, and even physical pleasure with tones! But you'd say that the Creator, sly and cynical, wanted to forbid man ever to ennoble, beautify, and idealize his encounter with woman. And yet, man has discovered love, and that's not bad as a retort to that mocking God, and he has adorned it so finely with literary poetry that woman often forges what physical contacts she is forced to make. Those among us who are powerless to deceive themselves by their own enthusiasm, have invented vice and refined upon debauchery, which is yet another way of hoodwinking God and paying homage, a shameless homage, to beauty.”

OK, so I like my own ideas. But I stand in awe of a really superior intelligence, even though (and maybe especially) I'm not sure I understand all of it.


Budd Shenkin

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