Stripping humanity from homo sapiens

If out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made, then if a thing is made straight it will be because humanity has been stripped out of it.

L.M. Sacasas, Embrace Your Crookedness. This is a very worthwhile reflection on the human condition.

Don’t assume that “they” will be stripping humanity. Some people strip their own humanity. Rebecca West (Black Lamb and Grey Falcon) embeds the story of one who did so:

So with his money he could follow his mania, which was for the new thing, for Science, for the machine, for the artificial, the modern. You may not remember it, for I think it came earlier with you than with us, but there was some time ago a rage for such things. It was partly due to your H. G. Wells and his imitators, and it was partly due to our ideas about America, which we then believed to be entirely covered with sky-scrapers and factories.

I went on so, telling more and more absurd stories, until I said, “And of course I was forgetting, there is the artificial woman that was invented by the celebrated surgeon Dr. Martel. That is quite wonderful.” And my old friend said to me, “An artificial woman? What is that? A woman that is artificial! For God’s sake! Tell us all about it!”

I saw that she was getting very fond of me, like a mother for her son, and I grieved, for I did not like to have brought this sorrow to her by [the silly joke on her husband about the artificial woman]. I felt very ashamed when she came to see me at a time when the cold wind had made me bad with my lungs, and it was as if I should go like my sister, who had died when she was sixteen, and I said to her, “Aunt, you are too good to me. I have done nothing for you,” and she answered with tears in her eyes, “But you have been as good to me as a son. Do you think I am so simple that I do not know the artificial woman must long ago be finished, with such a clever man as you say working on it? You tell my husband that it is not so only because you know that I could not bear to have such a creature in my house.” There was nothing at all that I could say. I could not confess to her that I had been a monkey without making it plain to her that her husband had been an ass.

It came to this poor silly old man and he learned that the most modern thing to do was to kill yourself, and so he did it. He became very melancholy for a time, working at it as other old men work at learning chess, and then went into his stable and hanged himself, to be modern, to have an artificial death instead of a natural. I think he was probably sure that there was immortality, for though he believed he was a freethinker I do not believe it ever crossed his mind that he would not live after death. And soon after his wife also hanged herself, but I do not think there was anything modern about her reasons, they could not have been more ancient.

I’ll probably be posting this on my “big blog” within the week, too.

My main blog is the Tipsy Teetotaler,