Today I took the leftover tile from the doorway entrance project and mixed up adhesive and started putting tile in along the kitchen countertops. The whole process was a lot like spreading frosting on crackers. While I spread adhesive, I started thinking about the movie we watched last night, The March of the Penguins.
Two things in particular fascinated me about this movie. One was the extent to which the behaviors of the penguins are dictated by biological imprint. Somehow, the penguins know when and where to go and what to do every year. The second was my curiousity about the depth of the penguin’s pain- in particular if he or she is not chosen to be a mate or if a chick is lost to death. Could they really feel it as deeply as a human would? The narrator implied that they did. Perhaps they would not need to know language or to have human consciousness to feel deeply. I know that the most painful experiences of my life surpasses any language center or intelligence- it hits you in the guts.
I believe the difference is that penguins do not have defenses like we do. We intellectualize and rationalize and distort and suppress- and ultimately prolong and complicate- our pain, because we do have the capacity. Penguins, however, are faced with the unbearable. They are forced to feel it and survive it.
Then I started thinking about both biological imprint and capacity for pain. Biologically speaking, for continuation of the species, it makes sense that we would be wired to feel agony when we are not chosen and when we lose a mate or child. And things get a lot more complicated with humans because, unlike a penguin, we often try so hard to get around it.
While thinking along this line, I was hit with a memory. The dances of our adolescence and young adulthood are a microcosm of the universal dance of the species. Of choosing and being chosen and an inexplicable bond when the right connection happens. My memory in particular was of the last annual dance I would have with a group of friends. This was of watching a close friend choose a different friend for each slow song. I sat out for each song and by the end of the night when it was clear that I was not picked, not even by my friend, the pain was gut wrenching. Even now, the memory has the power to hit out of the blue and affect me like that still. I felt dumb for being affected like that. Why wasn’t I chosen?
In light of biology, it makes sense that I was affected like that. It makes sense that there are always girls crying in high school bathrooms during every dance. The dances of our adolescence is a cruel set up for the universal dance, the powerful biological need that goes beyond words- to be chosen, even if just for a song. This explains to me not only why being chosen is such a powerful validation, but also why it even hurts so much when we are not chosen by people we don’t even LIKE that much. It doesn’t always matter WHO, it is the act of not being chosen that is unbearable.
No wonder things get complicated in this human dance when we interpret the pain to mean more than it does. I can remember a friend of mine being so puzzled when a guy she wasn’t particularly interested in dumped her- why did it still hurt so much? Did that mean that she liked him more than she thought she did? Why did she want him back? Then we get pulled back toward relationships that are not particularly good. It doesn’t always matter who, it is more about the impact of not being chosen. It is so deeply personal and not personal at the same time.
I do not know why my friend danced with others but never with me, even though we were close for years. Maybe it was not personal, maybe he did not even notice. And maybe my pain was not only personal, it was simply universal, wired to be unbearable.
Apr 23rd 2006Introspection & the Past