Creating Self in an Infectious World
Publication Year: 2013
“Self” has many definitions. Science has demonstrated that 90 percent of the cells in our bodies are bacteria—we are in many respects more non-self than self. In Lousy Sex, Callahan considers this microbio-neuro perspective on human identity together with the soulful, social perception of self, drawing on both art and science to fully illuminate this relationship.
In his stories about where we came from and who we are, Callahan uses autobiographical episodes to illustrate his scientific points. Through stories about the sex lives of wood lice, the biological advantages of eating dirt, the question of immortality, the relationship between syphilis and the musical genius of Beethoven, and more, this book creates another way, a chimeric way, of seeing ourselves. The general reader with an interest in science will find Lousy Sex fascinating.
Published by: University Press of Colorado
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...a different version of “first self ” appeared in Emerging Infectious Diseases 1 (2005). different versions of “Layers of self,” “dreams of the Blind,” and “The Mysterious visions of Jean-Baptiste Pierre antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck” appeared in turnrow maga-zine under the titles, respectively, “Just the two of us” (2 ), ...
Prologue: Leonardo’s Dream
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He certainly hadn’t planned to spend his morning wandering around looking for inspirations, as though they might be startled from the shadows like mice. He kicked at a stone and sent it flying across the via Mercanti. as he walked into Milano’s great piazza, pewter-colored clouds rolled in from the mountains to the north and blocked the sun. ...
Origins: Where “I” Comes From
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Like the fossilized tooth of megazostrodon, beneath the enameled sur-face of the word “I” lies one of the great stories of our past—the origins of selves. Surely there was a time without selves. How and why did “I” evolve from not-“I”? What did the first “I” look like? Like the lizard brain, underneath the layers of more sophisticated and more civilized ...
1. First Self
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...are selves. There was a time, millions (or billions) of years ago, when there was none—at least none on this planet. So there has to be—as a matter of logic—a true story to be told about how there Slowly, purposefully, my mother unbuttons her blouse. The blouse is blue with small white flowers, and the tail is tucked firmly into the elas-...
2. Layers of Self
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...nearly a full year before a human infant realizes it is an entity dis-tinct from its mother—a self-aware creature unto itself. Curiously, the final immunological separation from the mother takes place at “Unfair,” she says. “That’s how it feels.” Her words ring with certainty.I wasn’t expecting that. Sandy and I have been friends for years, but ...
3. Self in the Soil
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I’m not one for religions or religious experiences. But there is some-thing here I cannot account for—something very old and very unusual. The carvings and paintings are part of it. They were surely done by human hands, but according to public documents no one remembers whose hands those were. The work is striking, especially in the apse ...
4. Gathering Our Selves
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It is snowing, perhaps, and cold, surely. The streets are nearly empty. The sparkling flakes that fill the stone crevices are radiant with candle and gaslight. In a small villa near the city’s center, at Beatrixgasse-Ungargasse 5, a white-haired man in his fifties has just penned the final notes of what will someday be called the greatest piece of music ever ...
Middles: Childhood’s End
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Now that we, from mud and starlight and chromosomes and bacteria, have assembled rudimentary selves, where do we go from here? Only As we move from childhood toward another phase, “I”s must often adapt or disappear. The Fisher King’s wound, Beauty and the Beast, and perhaps all fairy tales speak of the loss of the child’s world and ...
5. The Opposite of Sex
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The simple declaration of “boy” or “girl” at childbirth sets the final course for most children’s lives. And if you asked someone to tell you about his or her self—or anyone else’s self for that matter—sex always comes up near the beginning. But, in spite of what we have been told about human and animal sex, every year, ...
6. Lousy Sex
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...animals (the arthropods) sex is an even curiouser thing. For these This morning, I am escorting a wood louse out of my kitchen and onto the lawn. It is early spring. The air is warm and full of promise, and as I launch the balled-up creature lawnward, my thoughts turn to sex. Humans will use almost any excuse to think about sex. But wood lice ...
7. The Wizards of “I”
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...selves, and what we believe our selves to be capable of come to us from others. How we are treated, how we are spoken to, things we are told as truths, and whether we are loved are the bolts and rivets of the con-structed human self. Without art, science and medicine may become the wrenches and the chisels that will undo those bolts and those rivets....
8. Dreams of the Blind
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...the dark, not the sound of an elephant weeping, nor the touch of a “Victor Delgado!” a woman in a cage shouts into a tired PA system. She looks like she’s spent the better part of her life on a barstool, smoking cigarettes, drinking watered gin, and waiting on her next ex-husband-to-be. Hard and polished like the runners on an old sled. I’m ...
This Is Not the End: Facing Up to Our Immortality
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Every day for billions of years, this world has tested every gene we carry. When genes failed those tests, people (or creatures that might have one day been humans) died. That makes for very powerful and very useful genes—to a point. And that point comes when we are no longer able to reproduce. When we can offer no more sperm or eggs, we have climbed ...
9. The Mysterious Visions of Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck
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We’re seated in circled desks, so that each of us can see everyone else. We are here to discuss where selves come from. The seating arrange-ment helps to lubricate our discussions. At times, it lubricates other things as well. Janine, a dark-haired, attractive woman, has worn a dress to class today. Just now, though, she seems to have forgotten ...
10. The Rock Collector
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...stamps, lovers—collections of things we once felt we must have. But as we age, most of us find time for fewer and fewer of these things. The last of life is an exploration, an expedition in which our very selves are at risk. Now the things we choose to keep must January 16, 1912, six days before my father was born, Robert Falcon Scott ...
11. On the Lip of Immortality
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...we’ve been told by teachers and preachers, even by biologists are roaming this planet—big complex living breathing creatures not so very different from us. For the rest of us, mortality may Across the street from where I stand, four men in their late thirties—dressed only in diapers—carry a coffin bearing a pregnant mannequin. ...
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Leonardo, like most of his fellow men of science, believed mind and emotions throbbed inside the human heart. Vesalius maintained that human emotions and human intellect sparked inside human brains. ined all the things they could not see or touch or hear or taste or smell Regardless, each infused human bodies with human art and instilled ...
Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013