Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Glory of China, August, 2008

China is a mutt. The picture of her face that appeared after she
pulled a box containing an abandoned human infant to her puppy den
shows a dog that Jan Cox described to his students once as the type to
which dogs will always revert when to left to breed without human
intervention. You see them all over the world, short haired brown
hound types. The look in her eyes in the photograph seems to be
asking, and why am I surrounded by these strangers?

China will never understand that she is a celebrity. But she
understands the cry of a helpless mammal. There is something
programmed into women so that they respond to the cry of a child. No
woman fails to register the sob of child in a mall, for instance,
though they may understand they do not need to a act. No woman would
fail to act should a box with an infant be found in a public space.
They would not just walk by it, although they could easily, (speaking
in generalities here) ignore a hungry homeless dog. This
behavior--the response to a an infant in need-- is utterly mechanical.

At one time the model of the selfless mother seemed to me useful in
understanding human ego.
That ego could be dissolved to help another, struck me as useful in
understanding how a person might progress towards greater
understanding. I never mentioned this thought to Jan but he never
spoke of motherhood as useful in spiritual endeavors.

This, I now think, is because motherhood and its hormonal
preparations and predilections is
utterly mechanical. This mechanicity, that maternal behavior is
deeply controlled genetically, obviously is important to the very
preseveration of human life: we would have died out quickly if every
mother had to acquire external knowledge of mothering how to.

The instances of abandoned infants in no way invalidate the above
picture. These abandoning women are just the ravelled edge of an
immensely successful machine, the machine of human life. This machine
is simply efficient, and accomplishes the same end that the
numerical dimension of insect larvae do. The survival enhancement of
huge numbers of larvae are replaced in human genetics by the urge and
know-how of motherhood being genetically programmed. Same purpose,
same success.

The example of China though, points out that this maternal instinct,
to respond to the cry of an infant, is mammalian, and not just human.
The warmth one feels toward the story of China's rescue of an infant
of a different species, seems programmed also. But the temptation to
label that situation in which people pass by hungry homeless dogs as
"ironic", in view of the analysis of these notes, that there is a
mammalian instinct for females to provide for, to protect, the small
and helpless of other mammals, even other mammalian species, should be
resisted. As the philosopher and mystic Jan Cox said (words to this
effect): 'Irony is just a label to cover one's ignorance."

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