Do I like the taste of minerality in red wine because it’s a preference, or could it be my biology (anemia, lack of minerals) that enjoys this taste.
Why do people with Pica eat chalk, nuts and bolts, and other non-food substances? Is it a mental illness, or is this a condition caused by nutritional deficiency?
In a recent episode of This American Life, a feminist trans women explained that after taking testosterone while going through transition, she stopped imagining women she saw on the street as part of some larger narrative ideal (where do they work? What does their apartment look like? etc), and couldn’t help but focus almost exclusively on tits, ass, and body parts. She even said that post-testosterone, she finally understood science. Come on! Even writing that sentence is beyond absurd. No doubt cultural mechanisms hold our hands and guide us down certain paths, but perhaps we don’t even see the path unless it’s somewhere hardwired in our biology.
As a child of cultural anthropology, it has taken me 20+ years to come to terms with the notion that any sort of biological determinism exists. Certainly it can be a dangerous road to go down. But when we accept that all difference is merely shades on a scale, with no true black or white, either/or conclusions, there seems to be value in nonjudgemental acceptance of some level of biological determinism.
At least in terms of the Ego. Which perhaps is less a super structure of what we call personality than the eruption of the drives of our strongest genes.
I have to ask myself: are we, human beings, these beautifully complex and unknowable consciousnesses, or are we simply the manifestations of our DNA?
Perhaps then it is in examining our so-called preferences where we can detach from the egoic nature of our biology in order to become our more equanimous and humane selves, to embody richer and fuller expressions of our genes. We would talk less of “egoic detachment” and more of “genetic detachment.”
So what of your genes do you want most to cultivate? I’ll go with the generous one.
Inspired by: This American Life #220: Testosterone