The bacteria revolution

The following, quoted from a quote quoted at Andrew Sullivan’s website is relevant to some of my recent thoughts.

People can’t stop themselves from competing for status. It is branded into the side of the brain before you are born. As a primate, status hierarchies are a part of life, …

Now, in my previous post, I was talking about how my life in Los Angeles was in many ways filled with “material” things. A rich social life, girlfriends, culture (whatever that means) as well as, frankly, good food, good booze, some drugs etc. In San Diego, I have very little of that (true, I do have a collection of friends here, and could easily get a girlfriend if I wasn’t so tired of women’s bullshit) partly because I’m basically broke. But also because I’ve come to the conclusion that this drive for “stuff” (which can be actual things, or concepts, like a relationship) is, as the quote above states, branded into the brain. It’s a programmed drive.

So, the question becomes, if I just ignore the programming, does the wanting, the yearning, the needing go away? Obviously, as the above quote implies, on some levels, the answer is no. If you’re starving, merely recognizing hunger as a programmed drive doesn’t do much. But, for more esoteric needs, I find taking a certain long view does help. In LA, I was something of a social striver, trying to climb the social hierarchy. In San Diego, I really couldn’t care less about such things, mainly because I recognize they’re fundamentally meaningless and transient. A lot of the wants people seem to have — for more money, bigger house, a great family — seem also meaningless to me. Not because I’m some brilliant spiritual guru (well, partly that), but because I see that the need really being fulfilled is not the understood need. Nobody really needs a bigger house; people have bigger houses to symbolize their increased social status etc. My suspicion is that if you don’t work and worry yourself to death in the effort to get a big house, you could actually live a pretty comfortable, enjoyable life.

So, on some level, knowledge is power. But it can’t completely do away with the sting of defying these drives built into us. Interestingly, a section I was reading in “Straw Dogs” today talks of these very drives.

The lesson of evolutionary psychology and cognitive science is that we are descendents of a long lineage, only a fraction of which is human. We are far more than the traces that other humans have left in us. Our brains and spinal cords are encrypted with traces of far older worlds.

The point being that the drive for a big house does not come from our caveman or even monkey ancestors. It comes from primitive bacteria who themselves worked shitty accounting jobs and strived to deftly play office politics so that their wife could host fancy cocktail parties for the neighborhood. It’s time to set your inner primitive bacteria free!

2 Responses to “The bacteria revolution”


  1. John Saleeby

    I was happily at that point where I didn’t want very much at all until I suddenly fell for a woman at work and, man, that ruined everything. Money, career, booze, I gave up on that shit with no trouble at all, but CUTE GIRLS? One of them pays a little attention to me and I’m right back to obsessing on money, career, and all that other stuff all over again. Buddha was a homo.

  2. John Saleeby

    Hey, fuck Andrew Sullivan! I’m listening to System Of A Down for the first time in a while and having a DAMN GOOD TIME! Does Andrew Sullivan write about fuckin’ System Of A Down? Does that clown even know about System Of A Down? Ask him! Watch his nostrils curl with disdain! Shit on Andrew Sullivan!

    I’m fuckin’ COOL!