Your Angry God Will Not Save You Now
This much we know: Increasingly it is being proven that sexual orientation in general and homosexuality in particular are largely biological adventures, hardwired and pre-set in your genetic code by sly and well-groomed angels way, way in advance, back when you were but a twinkle in the eye of the moan.
Perhaps you've heard? That being gay -- or, for that matter, straight -- has very little to do with choice, or hairstyle, or surroundings, or even how uptight or close-minded your Mormon parents might or might not be due to all the hooch and the guilt and the secret stash of fetish porn out behind the barn?
Right. And then along comes that cunning lovewench Mother Nature to back it all up, as increasingly it is also being proven that homosexual behavior is rampant all over the kinky, feral, God-mocking animal kingdom. Bring it on.
Perhaps you've seen? How across thousands of species on every continent known to man, from lions to tigers, dolphins to monkeys, fish to fowl, insect to iguana, nearly every species has at least a few members getting it on with their same-sex brethren for all sorts of who-the-hell-knows reasons? We can be sure of one thing, however: God couldn't care less that a cluster of clenched bipeds would be all confused by the phenom sometime in the late Cenozoic.? "Girlfriend," said the Serpent to the Man, "get over your bi-curious self."
All well and blasphemous. But wait, what to make of the even more amazing, flipside news that, despite all the angelic wiring and sexual predetermination, science is also saying the exact opposite, that we are, in large part, far more a product of our surroundings than once thought?
It's true. When it comes to other kinds of not-so-tingly human torments -- mental illnesses, depression, fondness for reality TV -- these malicious phenom are largely not genetic, not due to predetermined biological factors or nefarious DNA sequences, but rather very, very much fueled and influenced by what swirls and churns, eats and burns all around us.
Perhaps you've sensed this? That we are, in large part, what we eat, breathe, hate, suck, toil, perpetrate, endure?
Here's big proof: Let us now recall, with a nod to this fine piece in the Guardian U.K., the Human Genome Project, that massive endeavor from years back that was set to revolutionize our understanding of the human animal.
Remember how scientists and the major pharmcos alike were positively salivating at the potential insights and treasures? "Surely," they thought, "this glorious master decoding will give us a million miraculous insights into all manner of human behavior, a veritable goldmine of biological pinpoints as to why certain groups, genders, ages, types are more prone to what kind of ailment, and when, and why, and then we can create all sorts of expensive, targeted drugs to fix it. Right?"
Wrong. Something funny happened on the way to the grand epiphany. Turns out after all that decoding, no reliable patterns emerged. There was no magic revelation, no radical new pathways into the tortured human mind. Turns out that genetics play only a very tiny role in some of the more debilitating, troubling ailments of modern man. Who knew?
The upshot: Environmental and social factors are much more influential in terms of disturbing and damaging the human spirit than previously thought. Which means the liberals had it right all along -- the only real way to address mental illness, depression and the like isn't with drugs; it's about improving the toxic social climate in which they fester and breed like Tea Partiers in a bathtub of Coors. Imagine that.
And now, the grand finale. For not only does environment play a devious and even deadly role in our socio-mental downfall, but we are often the agents of our own pain. We cause our own deaths, conflicts, illnesses, every single day.
Here's a tragic and yet sort of obvious idea: We made cancer. Also, we invented war. Turns out we are disastrously good at destroying ourselves.
Scientists have found almost no trace of cancer in the mummified remains of bodies from ancient civilizations. It simply did not exist. Is it because they all died too young to suffer from the disease? Maybe. But unlikely. Cancer is, it's increasingly believed, a lovely byproduct of heavily industrialized, high tech, toxic modern society. We're soaking in it.
Same goes, in a way, for war and combat, our need to dominate and defeat. Despite a million glorified military movies, a billion dead bodies and Dick Cheney's fatal sneer, we are not necessarily, by nature, a combative, warlike species, prone to battle and rage. Did you already suspect?
It's a baffler, all right. But as one fine theory posits -- with big thanks to Margaret Mead -- that war simply isn't natural. After all, plentiful are the cultures and peoples throughout time and geography that, even despite scarce natural resources, despite having all the supposed reasons to go to war, never once found a need to take up arms, or even understand the concept. it's just sort of ridiculous.
So then, to sum up: War is learned behavior, spreading like a mold. Cancer is a modern invention, the dark underbelly of our madhouse race to progress. We create -- and even knowingly promote -- many of the sociocultural factors that spawn depression and internal demonization.
But when it comes to love, sexuality, the infinite powers of the heart? It's just the opposite. We are but giddy, terrified players on a vibrant cosmic stage. The love, the sex, the chemistry of desire, while certainly influenced by the modern churn, has its roots deep in our very being, timeless and eternal, woven into our very DNA like a bright red thread into the great throw rug of time.
It's a lot to unpack. But it turns out we've had it all exactly backwards all along. You actually can't choose your particular wiring for love, but you can choose to be a warlike, antagonistic force of cancerous doom. We cannot design our innate sexual chemistry, but we sure as hell can choose whether to celebrate it with wine and song and fearless abandon, or poison it at its heart with ignorance, panic, a violent misreading of God.
Which leaves only the question: Which shall it be? Have we already made our choice?
© 2010 The San Francisco Chronicle