Come together, right now

8 02 2012

With all apologies to morons, Representative Louis Gohmert is a moron:

“The court, as I understand it today, struck down a law that said marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s interesting that there are some courts in America where the judges have become so wise in their own eyes that they know better than nature or nature’s God,” Gohmert said on the House floor.

“Nature seemed to like the idea of an egg and a sperm coming together because of pro-creation,” he continued. Drawing a parallel to Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 2009, he said, “Apparently they thought the sperm had far better use some other way biologically, combining it with something else.”

If nature really wanted sperm and eggs to come together, why keep ’em so far apart in the first place?

In any case, given that as few as twenty percent of all fertilized eggs result in a live birth, nature may want sperm and egg to play together, but not stay together.

h/t Jennifer Bendery, Huffington Post


All things weird and wonderful, 10

4 12 2011

Critters, critters, everywhere, in shapes we I could not have dreamed up, yet they exist.

Nature is amoral, red in tooth and claw, fragile, a human construct, scary, comforting, everything all around us. . . whatever else nature is, she is a mother:

Southern white rhino photo credit: The Wilds

Giraffe photographer: Tibor Jager

Malayan tapir photo credit: Edinburgh Zoo

Okapi photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher

Distant cousins. . .

Emperor tamarins photo credit: Drusillas Park

Cotton-topped tamarins photo credit: Drusillas Park

. . . and near cousins:

Orangutan photo Credit: Tad Motoyama

Gorilla photo credit: Wilhelma Zoo

I take nothing away from religious people, who find gods in all the weird wonder in the world, but I see all at this of the world, of nature, of existing for no other reason than existence itself.

Nature has no need of god, nor does one need god for wonder.

That’s not an argument for or against god, but an observation that there is already so much, on its own, already here.

(All photos from ZooBorns.)

Are spirits in the material world

8 08 2010

I don’t believe in life after death.

There is life, here, in this world, and death both is and signals the end of life.

Now, is there something else, after life? That, I don’t know.

If there is something else, it doesn’t seem that it would conform to notions of Christian or Muslim heaven; those seem so earth-bound, so reflective of what we already have here, only someone’s version of better.  (A multitude of virgins or streets paved with gold? Really?) If there would be something else, wouldn’t it be. . . something else?

Backing up: I think of life as bounded by this earth, but I’m fudging on the whole existence thing, that is, we exist in life, here, and if our existence continues, then it would be in some other way.

Furthermore, that there could be something else doesn’t mean it’s supernatural. I don’t believe in the supernatural; I think everything—everything—is natural, and that that which is called ‘supernatural’ is simply something for which we lack understanding.

(And woo? Woo is a cover, a con: obfuscation masquerading as understanding.)

This isn’t rank materialism. I also don’t believe the (natural or social) sciences are sufficient to make sense of all worldly—universal—phenomenon; I’m not arguing that understanding necessitates a reduction of all things to the latest brand of physics. It’s simply that, if there is nothing beyond nature, then we’ll need new ways of understanding—new sciences—to make sense of that which current scientific methods cannot.

Does this tend toward a Theory of Everything? Perhaps, but since TOE is conceptualized in contemporary terms, it may be inadequate to describe all that there is.

And ‘is’ itself may be—hell, already is—called into question, along with ‘all’ and ‘that’.

*Sigh* It’s late and I”m not making sense.

I’m wondering about death because a little over a week ago Bean died and a little over a year ago Chelsea died.  I don’t think they’re in pet heaven or regular heaven or whatever. I don’t know if they’ve gone some place after death, if their existence continues, or what relationship that existence has to any worldly one. Maybe there’s nothing, maybe there’s something. I know they’re not with me.

But I would like to think, that if there is something, that they neither forget nor are constrained by life. This existence on earth, this life, is powerful, and if there is something else, I’d like to think it offers us more without taking away what we already were. Perhaps there is no full understanding on this earth, no way for us to comprehend all there is; perhaps life is to get us started, but it’s not enough, not enough for us to know.

I don’t know this, of course. And maybe this is it, and this life which is not enough is it. Perhaps this life is enough.

My methods are insufficient to determine one way or the other.

(Almost) No comment

30 06 2010

“The challenge here is . . . to see what could be done to restore this baby to the normal female appearance which would be compatible with her parents presenting her as a girl, with her eventually becoming somebody’s wife, and having normal sexual development, and becoming a mother. And she has all the machinery for motherhood, and therefore nothing should stop that, if we can repair her surgically and help her psychologically to continue to grow and develop as a girl.”

Pediatrician Maria New, in a 2001 presentation to the CARES Foundation, a ‘nonprofit organization committed to improving the lives of families and individuals affected by Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia.’  Girls affected by CAH have been prenatally exposed to higher-than-normal levels of androgens, and can lead to ambiguous genitalia; there may—emphasize may—also be a link to bi- and homosexuality.

New has been experimenting—without any institutional review board approval or the usual experimental controls—on pregnant women, dosing them with the steroid dexamethasone. Notes Alice Dreger, Ellen Feder, and Anne Tamar-Mattis in a recent Hastings Center Bioethics Forum post quote another paper by New & her colleague Saroj Nimkarn:

“Gender-related behaviors, namely childhood play, peer association, career and leisure time preferences in adolescence and adulthood, maternalism, aggression, and sexual orientation become masculinized in 46,XX girls and women with 21OHD deficiency [CAH]. These abnormalities have been attributed to the effects of excessive prenatal androgen levels on the sexual differentiation of the brain and later on behavior.”

Dreger et. al. note that ‘It seems more than a little ironic to have New, one of the first women pediatric endocrinologists and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, constructing women who go into “men’s” fields as “abnormal.”’

(h/ts: Andrew Sullivan, Dan Savage, the Bioethics Forum)

Friday poem: Wild Geese

1 01 2010

Mary Oliver is lately known as a nature poet, not merely chronicling ‘the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground’, but tuning her sight into it.

Lately: She’s been writing for over forty years, the last twenty or so which light on the natural world.

This is when I came to Oliver, in The Atlantic and The New Yorker, and watched as she picked up flowers and mice and (figuratively) bears and skunks and turned them over in her hands.

Taken one by one, these poems are a wonder, a pause in the rush of life.

I admit that I prefer her poems this way, one by one, rather than piled up one after the other. The images fade into a kind of nature-walk report, losing the distinctiveness of her attention, of that pause.

I offer two poems this week, the one meant for Friday, the other for a friend.

The Friday poem appears in a kind of fulcrum period of Oliver’s writing. Her early works are full of people and direct questions of the world; those later works take in all creatures except the human, drawn around owls and egrets and hermit crabs.

But in the middle is the mix of humans and animals and questions pointing toward answers. She is still attached to the specifically human world, but beginning to loosen us from our own centrality.

I went back and forth between this poem and another, finally deciding on the one below because it was the one I said Yes to first.

As with other poems by other poets, the one I choose is not necessarily the poet’s ‘best’ poem, the one with the most precise rhythm or exact language or most indelible imagery. But, as with those other poems by other poets, something about this poem snagged my attention, today.

Perhaps it is the new year, which yesterday I disdained as any kind of marker (even as I marked it). The poem is a bit more incantatory than I usually like, but the juxtaposition of a specific life mattering in the general disinterested universe, well, that works for me, today.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on you knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild gees, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


The second is a poem for a friend. I hadn’t been thinking of her as I thumbed through the pages, but when I scanned it, then read it again, slowly, I thought of her. So, for you.

A Visitor

My father, for example,
who was young once
and blue-eyed,
on the darkest of nights
to the porch and knocks
wildly at the door,
and if I answer
I must be prepared
for his waxy face,
for his lower lip
swollen with bitterness.
And so, for a long time,
I did not answer,
but slept fitfully
between his hours of rapping.
But finally there came the night
when I rose out of my sheets
and stumbled down the hall.
The door fell open

and I knew I was saved
and could bear him,
pathetic and hollow,
with even the least of his dreams
frozen inside him,
and the meanness gone.
And I greeted him and asked him
into the house,
and lit the lamp,
and looked into his blank eyes
in which at last
I saw what a child must love,
I saw what love might have done
had we loved in time.