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Category: Humans

On Lips
If you pay attention to the glamour of the Golden Globes and the Oscars, it is hard not to notice the lips. On the women, at least, they are painted and glossed and glittered to show them off in the most attractive way possible. If you were an alien life form (a giant gastropod from the vast seabeds of Cygnus 5, let’s say) viewing lips only in this context, it would be tempting to dismiss them (like the starlets whose faces they grace) as beautiful and nothing more — shallow, unaccomplished, dumb.

Such an impression would be false. Lips are not only the most talented of all organs, but among the most worldly as well.

Lips are not a complicated organ, I’ll give you that — just two wet strips of flesh framing a major bodily orifice. But as my real estate agent says, it’s all about location, location, location. Lips are in a position to witness every substance that enters our body: food, air, dust, flying flotsam, and all manner of prescription and non-prescription medications. No other orifice can boast this depth of experience, at least not in public.

Nor do they just lie there like slugs (no offense if you are indeed a giant gastropod). They manipulate everything we ingest — moistening, reorienting, testing for proper temperature and chewability. They monitor the speed at which these things enter the body, screen them for taste and consistency, and repel unwanted intruders. They can even serve as a buffer against impact, pursing into defensive mode to shield the teeth. Hot lips, maybe, but brave and strong. Think Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft.

Similarly, the lips act to modify and direct all that flows out of the mouth. Whistling, kissing, spitting, belching, the expulsion of bad air, and communication are all performed with the direct participation of the lips. Even when you’re texting, you hear the spoken words in your head, and I see your lips moving at the same time (yes, I was watching you). And it’s not just about audio; the lips’ ability to smile, sneer, snarl, smirk, or go wide with surprise is a key element in successful messaging to our fellow humans.

Compare, if you will, a day in the life of your lips with that of any of your other organs. Not only is there something going on 24/7, but there is an astounding variety of functionality — all of it using just those two strips of wet flesh. The day-in, day-out existence of your buttocks or your alimentary canal, though they may be interesting and worthy of admiration, just do not stack up when it comes to the non-stop excitement experienced in the lives of your lips.

I can’t say that I have ever felt genuinely sorry for movie starlets. Yes, they may have been crippled in their lives by the subtle discrimination of low expectations, but on the other hand, they’re actually in the Academy Awards, not just watching them at home on TV. In much the same way, I do not lament the lack of respect endured by lips. They may be discounted because they like to dress up and look pretty, but their world is filled with the kind of exhilaration and high adventure that other organs can only dream of.

And to those giant gastropods who might be taking in their first Oscars, I urge you to be gentle in your judgments of our organs and of our starlets. I hope that we will be equally judicious when we have the chance to view, at last, your dorsal feeding appendages. I am sure they are highly skilled and quite lovely.
Stupidity
You know, some of my best friends are stupid. Come to think of it, all of my best friends are stupid. Hell, I’m stupid.

So it is with respect that I say, dear reader, that you too are stupid. We are, in fact, bound together by our stupidity. We are all tiny specks of protoplasm wiggling around together here on the surface of this insignificant (though very pretty) planet floating through a limitless void. Why wouldn’t we be stupid? Stupidity is the natural state for finite, unsophisticated creatures such as ourselves. It’s a miracle that we can find food, shelter, or consensual mating opportunities.

Stupidity only becomes a problem for us when we think we aren’t. It is when people start thinking that they are smart that things begin to go haywire. Once you start thinking you’re smart, it becomes one of the core assumptions of all your thinking. Your thinking, then, will always begin with this same, mistaken premise, so that everything you think from there on out will also be wrong, like the fruit of the poisonous stupid tree. The resulting condition is much more than simple stupidity; it’s stupid squared.

Among the unfortunate side effects of being stupid squared is that it can transport you into universes that are not real. That might sound like fun, but consider those who believe in the coming Mayan apocalypse. If you are reading this essay while it is still fresh, then the world, according to these folks, will be ending soon. If you are reading it a bit later, then you know that it did not. The believers here are convinced that they are smart; some are so sure that they have made elaborate, irreversible plans based on the world ending. This is where being stupid squared gets you: up Shit Creek.

Fortunately, these poor souls only hurt people who are as easily duped as they are. While this is lamentable, I can’t spend too much time feeling sorry for people who have convinced themselves that they are much, much smarter than I am. Next time, I hope, they will have more respect for their native stupidity than to believe such outlandish claims based on so little evidence.

In some cases, though, the stupid squared will try to transform our reality into their unreality. Tea Partiers, for example, are trying to tell us that our government shouldn’t pay its legal debts as a matter of principle. Large numbers of Christians think we don’t have to worry about pollution because the Rapture is just around the corner. The NRA wants us to fight gun violence with more guns. I have no doubt that all these people think that they are not stupid. They are entitled to think so, but they are not entitled to have me think so, and they are not entitled to drag me along on their godforsaken journey up Shit Creek.

I’m just an ordinary stupid person, and I’m trying hard not to think I’m smart, but I do need to protect my butt. To do that, I plan to stay as far away as possible from the stupid squared. My limited knowledge of the world has led me to believe that such people are almost always the source of our man-made problems. Not only do they want to live in unreal realms, they want to suck me in, too. Sorry, but no, I’m not interested in timeshares up Shit Creek, no matter how good the price is. For one thing, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t find food or shelter or consensual mating opportunities there. And don’t try to tell me I can.

I’m not that stupid.
Tag, You're It
As a man, I have the power to make myself king. It’s a long-standing tradition among men. So, as of right now, I’m in charge. Okay, then: by the power vested in me, I hereby pass all responsibility for the Earth to the women.

The time has definitely come. The world’s population has soared, putting a strain on our resources. The rise of technology has only increased that burden while accelerating the poisoning of our environment and fueling the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Unless our attitudes about cooperation change, the vectors of these dangerous trends will soon cross, and there will be hell to pay. Everything may seem fine right now — the sun is shining, the children are playing, there’s food on the table — but it is clear that we are on the brink of something big and ugly.

I do, however, want to give some credit to the men. The same technology that threatens us has also given us wonders. Our increased life expectancy, our instantaneous access to information, the newfound pathways to understanding — these reasons for hope are all the products of the ingenuity and enterprise of men. Women have been there too, of course, but they haven’t been allowed the degree of participation they might have had under a matriarchy. So thanks, fellas.

Men have also been the prime inspirational movers behind our various religions. At their cores, these faiths often exhibit profound wisdom about the human condition and our obligations to one another. Our current patriarchal system, with its emphasis on the top-down, pyramid-style command structure, has predestined this male dominance, just as it has bestowed the power on men to administer that wisdom. It has been in the administration of belief systems, unfortunately, where the wisdom has turned sour. Even so, thanks are in order.

I will also acknowledge men for their efforts to promote the spread of democracy. This idea seems at last to have taken root in our world, and the result has been a decrease in wars among nations and a better life for many of us. I have no stats to cite, so let me simply assert that the incidence of war and violent death per capita worldwide has gone down in the last few decades. If true, that is certainly a good thing, but I fear that it may not be enough to forestall the looming crisis. Only changes within ourselves can accomplish that.

That’s where the women come in. Women are reputed to do well in a web-based societal structure. Well, the pyramid is crumbling, ladies, made obsolete by its ineffectiveness in coping with an increasingly complex, interdependent world. The worldwide web is fully installed and ready for you to move in. Here’s your shot. I know that you probably could have accomplished this without my help. Hillary’s a shoe-in for 2016; that gets us to 2024. That’s when Elizabeth Warren (or Kirsten Gillibrand or Tammy Baldwin or Amy Klobuchar) will take over. After that, there’ll be no going back; the healing will have begun, and we’ll be on course to a safe, sustainable Planet Earth. Still, I wanted to be sure.

One last note to my fellow men: we won’t be obsolete. We’ll still be in total charge of our own private (though tiny) pyramids. The women will run everything else. Which means we’ll be left to do whatever we want. Think about it.

And that brings me, ladies, to my one condition for this grant of power. Well, not a condition so much as a royal request regarding your treatment of me once you’ve assumed control. All I ask is that I be left alone to work on my little projects, whatever they may be. That’s all men really want anyway, unless you count world domination, and I’m proposing to give that up here and now.

So here, take it. Quick, while I’m still king.
The Future of Hair
Have you ever noticed that, in the movies, humans from the future are depicted as hairless? It’s the same with most humanoid aliens. These super-human beings, it seems, have either shed their coats through natural selection, or they’re all deeply into electrolysis.

To a point, I agree with this vision of evolutionary destiny. I can’t imagine a good rationale for armpit or crotch hair, for instance; those sorry patches will surely be selected out of existence in due course. In fact, most hair from the neck down has no good reason to be there. Even the heaviest thickets of chest and back hair would be a poor defense against the cold if we were caught naked out in the wild. Indeed, they serve no purpose other than being the butts of cruel jokes. Good riddance, I say.

From the neck up, the value of hair becomes more debatable. I will assert straight off, however, that beards are destined for the evolutionary scrap heap. If you have a beard, you probably think you look good in it; dashing, even. I am sorry to report that you do not. There may even be some women in your life who tell you that they like it. The truth is that they are just trying to make you feel good. And if you’re sporting one of those five-day-growth stubbles now popular in Hollywood … well, let me just say that any woman who claims to admire this homeless bum look should not be entrusted with the keys to your Ferrari.

Beards, in my view, are admired mostly by their owners. The other functions of a beard — to intimidate animals or other men — are no longer called for in our world. The only other possible excuse for wearing one is that it makes a good mask. Weak chins, bad acne, and other forms of facial disfigurement can be effectively hidden with a beard (though only if it is thick enough to be opaque; wispy growth will only make matters worse). In any case, I don’t think evolution will keep beards around simply as a favor to the painfully shy among us.

The demise of the beard will also doom mustaches, mutton chops, soul patches, and all the other patently ridiculous subgroups of facial hair. Sideburns, which have a foot in two different hair universes, will no doubt be sorted out as they have already been with women.

It is here, just under the nose, where I depart from science fiction’s prediction of hairlessness for our descendants. From this point on up, in fact, hair becomes an indispensable factor in the survival of our species.

Take nostril hairs. These humble watchmen, along with their cousins stationed at the entrances to the ear canals, help fend off unwelcome intrusions by dust, insects, and airborne embers into our delicate inner regions. It is unglamorous work, to be sure, but it is enough to spare them from the evolutionary axe.

If it’s glamour you want, we have the eyelashes and eyebrows. Their usefulness in communication and their role in attracting mates mean that they too will be spared. As long as sex plays a part in reproduction, there will be hair around the eyes.

And then, there is the mane itself: the topknot, the crest, at once the most beautiful and the most ridiculous feature of our physical identity. This grand thatch — theoretically infinite in length and configuration — can do it all: attract mates, enhance lovemaking, provide warmth, even act as a raw material for clothing and fine household furnishings. Natural selection would not dare to strip us of such a wondrous growth. It might make for good science fiction, but we’ll never get to the future without our crowning glory.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee