So I haven’t written much lately, and the reason for that is that my best work is always based on some kind of musing, something that sticks in my head and that I feel the need to resolve to myself. Then what I do is to transcribe my own thoughts for your review.
That’s really what this page is all about, it’s just a record of my thoughts. I don’t think good writing is something that is made, it is something that happens. So I like to make my writing happen, when it is made I am usually not very satisfied.
And one thought I have considered for a few months is about neurodevelopmental psychology. I won’t go over my credentials again, I have discussed them before, but I have been a counselor, and I have a certificate that states I am educated in what is known as psychosynthesis. Which is a little bit like a mix of Freudian and Jungian psychology that attempts to, as the word would suggest, synthesise them.
And today I want to talk about orientation, namely sexual orientation. Don’t worry though, it won’t be a particularly vulgar article. I have no interest in cheapening my name with attention grabbing passages about common filth as though I am writing some sort of magazine for people who wear glossy jackets and expensive telephones.
This is meant to be a respectful and scientific view on the matter, and I wish to guarantee my dear reader that you will be completely unstimulated and hopefully even bored throughout the reading.
Because there is a lot of pseudoscience surrounding the subject. At least in the vulgar circles of psychology. There is the conservative idea that you choose to be gay, and the liberal idea that you’re born gay.
And of course, this also, by extension, implies the same about all the others. Heterosexual, asexual, pansexual, bisexual, omnisexual, parasexual, metasexual, cuandosexual and neosexual etc…
(I made up the last three by the way; Cuando isn’t even Latin.)
So what is the truth here, how does orientation work? Obviously the answer is a little bit muddled, because we’ve put sociologists in charge of it, and sociology is just astrology for people with money.
There is a lot of research and case studies and so on, but this cannot entirely capture precisely what the ontology of the matter is. It can only capture the causality. What I am curious about is the ontology. I am very Pavlovian in my own bias with regards to ontology. I do believe in the cognitive-behavioral cycle of human pathology and neurodevelopment.
And the reason why really is because it’s pretty straightforward and accounts for a lot of the evidence and research we do have in modern times. We pick up on a lot of strange and curious habits and behaviors through the most fickle and obscure of stimulus and memory. I believe memory is more organic than we give it credit for at times.
I have covered this in another article, but quick rehash so we’re on the same page:
Neuroscientists and psychologists often see memory as a kind of databank that we just access, but I think the relationship is far more two sided. I think our memory frequently accesses us as well.
Who we are in the mind can be defined as the consciousness. We are the thing that experiences, thinks, communicates, dreams, desires, and so on. That’s sort of like the part of the mind that is relevant to our notion of living. But we don’t make our hearts beat, we don’t replicate our cells, we don’t heal our wounds.
We don’t need to put conscious energy into this, nor can we really do much to stop it. Circulatory, respiratory, neural and similar bodily processes seem completely ambivalent to our thoughts on the matter, we cannot think ourselves into making our heart stop, something else is in charge.
We often call this the hindbrain, or the subconscious, or some other similar term depending on what field of study you’re examining it from. But I think there may be a similar thing with our memory. After all, when we dream, we are not conscious, or are we? We see things in the dream, we feel things too, perhaps not in a tactile sense, but we can feel emotions in dreams. We can be scared, or sad, or happy, or calm. Our minds light up when we sleep. So we are conscious.
And then there’s lucid dreaming, which is very interesting. But also tangential to the point I am making. Because my question is about when we are not lucid. What makes the dreams? Who is the author and director of this strange story? Dreams are very fascinating in this regard, because they’re not entirely arbitrary. They often reflect our emotions and experiences, and yet they seem distorted.
For instance, if you watch a scary film the night before, and you have a nightmare, the nightmare seems real. But that’s not a very rational interpretation of a film. You might be a bit on edge, or feel paranoid, or anxious, but you know it’s just a film. You know you’re not in danger, and yet the dream seems unaware of this caveat. As if it’s experienced by a thing which struggles to make a rational distinction between a film and real life.
So if memories are just this kind of databank, then who is directing the dream? Who is attempting to make something out of this? How can dreams even have allegories, and communicate things like trauma, fear, anxiety or even repression? Are we simply communicating with ourselves? I don’t think so, because if we did, then dreams wouldn’t scare us. We would be both the monster and the person being chased. I believe something is chasing us.
That is not to say that we all have a little spirit living inside us all, but it is to say that it almost feels like it. Because it is an autonomic thing, that’s the science word for it. The memory is an autonomic thing outside of our conscious mind. It uses the same brain as us, and it is obviously part of us, but it exists in that uncanny valley between highly efficient computer, and AI.
Whether or not it can be categorised as a being in a physical sense, it is very useful to categorise it as such in a metaphysical sense. I have calibrated algorithms for AI so that it can perform various autonomous tasks, and it’s similar to that. It can convincingly behave in such a way as to appear lifelike and independent.
And then the question as to whether it is becomes somewhat pedantic to my view. Is a roach alive? Is a dog sapient? Who cares? End of the day, they are what they are, and we can struggle to make sense of the gradients of it all.
Dogs are said to have the intelligence of a human two year old, so is a two year old sapient? Again, I don’t know, I’m pretty sure they are even if they’re frequently incompetent. What I do know is, dogs are good company. They should qualify for citizenship. Obviously we shouldn’t give them suffrage rights, they’re still functional toddlers. But they should be second class citizens with limited rights under the law, just like kids. I think after supporting us for 20.000 years of anthropological history, it’s the least we can do.
Now some of you might accuse me of being a bit tangential here by going on long ramblings about various things dogs do, but I remind you: I have a Pavlovian bias. I disclaimed this. You only have yourself to blame.
So, let’s discuss the dog of the mind, namely, memory.
We have a lot of memories, too many to recall in fact. We have repressed memories, deep memories, surface memories, lucid memories, faded memories, distant memories, frequent memories, you name it. Your head is like a folder cabinet, and you haven’t spent a day categorising all of them. Something else is doing that.
And there is an interesting piece of evidence to suggest this being the case. They have started to use drugs that erase memories in order to combat PTSD. And what fascinates me there is how it even works. Our memories are stored in an infinitely complex sponge, governed by microscopic electrochemical processes, and we can just throw a chemical at it, and accurately remove recent memories?
Think about that for a moment. How this strange linearity exists on some level. Like a timeline. Why would the brain have a timeline for memories? Arranged in such a way as to actually be stimulated by an external agent? How does that even work? That’s surprisingly convenient.
I won’t speculate too much on why or how this happened, the simplest answer is just to say natural selection. My question though is when this happened. Are there species of organisms that have no such organised memory? That just experience a flurry or recollections in arbitrary fashion? Perhaps, but that’s not us.
Point is, for a piece of human tissue beyond our conscious control, the brain sure seems to have a lot of intuitive approaches to things.
So obviously we are not alone. Every human is a household. Call it sentient, call it autonomic, call it what you want, but we all know what it is I am referring to.
And this thing is what explains a lot of neurodevelopmental behaviors, including our sexual orientations.
(Remember how I was supposed to discuss that?)
We are neither born with it, nor are we choosing it. Rather, it is a task which is delegated to this thing, this autonomic thing of our minds. It cannot see, or hear, or directly experience, instead it gets an idea of what life is like through our memories.
Our attention, our emotions, our stimulation and our experiences become attached to a series of sensory input, as the memory struggles to make sense of it. It is precisely this limitation of the memory, this subjectivity of observation, which explains irrational fears, pathology and similar things.
Your memory is smart, but it’s not playing with a full deck of cards.
This is why things like heteronormativity for instance is effective. Why neurodevelopment can exist. I think when we are born, we have little frame of reference with regards to sex and romance. We are sort of blank slates. There are no straight babies, or gay babies, or… I’m not going to recite all the possible babies, my skin is already crawling, you get the idea.
Rather we experience things. Some highly Freudian things that are too uncomfortable for me to discuss and still feel as though I am being polite, and others more innocuous things. These things all become part of our memory, and the memory in turn attempts to produce some kind of instinctual response. It invokes in us a capacity to associate dangerous things with fear, and pleasant things with enjoyment, and so on.
The Jungian notion of subconscious instincts only goes so far. Homo habilis never had a fear of cars, or burglars. And I don’t buy into this archetypical emulation theory, that we see a burglar and think “Oh no! It’s a burglar-shaped wolf! I must immediately fight or flight!” I do think there is a collective unconscious, and that there is some kind of organic basis for our behaviors, but it cannot be explained in such simple terms. The collective unconscious is the frame, not the painting.
We have some kind of rational advocate on our side, but it’s a rational advocate who isn’t always given the full picture.
And it is through these memories, through these habits of building instincts, through the thankless work of the memory, that we begin to get shaped into people. It is our quirks, our desires, our passions, our fears, or aversions, and not to mention our preference of partners. And it is not always cut and dry. Sometimes there are curious instances of romantic and sexual orientations working in parallel. Other times they are more helictical.
But we are not born as such. I do think humans have a reproductive instinct, but if we put our minds to it, and just kind of knuckle down with only one purpose in mind, as to propagate our species, then it doesn’t have to be a very sexual process. Even gay people who desire a family are sometimes willing to lie back and think of England so to speak. In the days prior to artificial insemination, reproductive and romantic sex were very different things… often to a disturbing extent, I won’t go in on that too much.
Point is, there’s clearly a dichotomy between urges of reproductive sex and recreational sex, romantic or otherwise. So I don’t buy into this evolutionary psychologism notion that sex only exists to reproduce. If that was the case then it wouldn’t be so complicated. If you’re struggling to maintain a low calorie diet, then I recommend googling how termites reproduce. That’s how a purely reproductive species have sex. It’s very straightforward.
Rather I think we have a somewhat different paradigm to our mode of life. Humans survive as collective beings. We’re social animals. We exist in villages, cities, settlements, communes and similar arrangements. We have for most of history have had large extended families, and thrived with groups who had diverse abilities and a capacity to do lots of different things.
We do not require this individualistic approach to sex where literally everyone must reproduce or the species dies. We’re not sea turtles. Instead we just need to make sure that, on average, there’s around one kid for every adult being born within the span of some 20 years, and we’ve successfully assured a new generation of humans.
And if one person wants to have three kids, and two people want to have no kids, then good enough. In fact, this is a big advantage for a social species since childrearing is very demanding and requires a lot of effort, resources and opportunity cost. It takes roughly two decades to raise a kid, and you can raise several at once, so it’s not very effective to have literally everyone doing this.
We lucked out in evolution by how we relied on so much logistics in order to survive. It’s really carried us.
Moreover you can’t really assign intent or purpose to the course of evolution. The only criteria you need is “lived long enough to reproduce.” And that criteria does make room for people who didn’t reproduce. They helped others reach that point. So let’s give some overdue credit to all the gay cavepeople out there, they weren’t useless appendages by any stretch of the imagination.
In fact, one can even make an argument for how there’s a use to redundant households. This means that orphans always have a surrogate family, and humans love surrogate families. It’s huge in most extended family structures.
So I don’t think sexual orientation is some kind of fluke, I think it was produced by natural selection, because we cannot account for natural selection by just examining the individual habits of our progenitors, we must examine their environment too. An environment built by communities. We are a species of communities. Being gay is not a choice, nor is it a gene, but it doesn’t have to be.
We cannot merely be explained by direct genetic coding, because such a coding does not exist in a vacuum. It is rather a thing which is defined as a process, and such a process involves a lot of important people doing a lot of important things.
It is precisely because we have such a capacity to be a peculiar species that we conquered the world. If we could not perplex all the other animals, then we would be no different from them.