The Self Experiment: Part 5 Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll
It has been some time since I have been able to return to the Self Experiment. First my latest thoughts about self then what I have come to realise about the importance of this experiment and in fact about challenging myself and my need for ‘me time‘.
I suppose it had to happen at some point! Sex, drugs and rock and roll, the fundamentals of self! The sex speaks for itself, male or female. The drugs is the overcoming of nature, finding a way of overpowering biology. The rock and roll being how we demonstrate our self image to others, the physical attributes and behaviours that say who we are or who wish to be recognised as.
The issue of identity is intrinsically linked with sex. Not the act but the biological definition, XX or XY or even XYY. Who we are starts off with the label of boy or girl, male or female, but when and how do we learn which we are? Do we learn it from within, a biological drive, or from the way we are treated, nurture? The whole ‘nurture or nature’ debate has been going on for some time. From Darwin to My Fair Lady (based on George Bernard Shaw’s book Pygmalion) the desire to understand why we are the way we are and if there is a possibility of overcoming nature or bringing about change is undeniable.
As far as our view of self and sex is concerned influences start without our permission, we are merely mirrors that reflect how we are treated. The name we are given and expected to respond to, the clothes we are dressed in and even the colour and style say something about who we are expected to be. Further they indicate to others how we will behave. These things are also very much part of the identity of the society into which we are born and the time we are brought up.
As we grow we are expected to play in same sex groups, further reinforcing behaviours and our self identity. In many ways this play is preparation for the society into which we will take up our part. The need to belong will be a powerful drive for us to take up the stereo types and reflect them. We may convince ourselves we are individuals but we need others around us to give boundaries to our individuality, to help define us as individuals by ‘not being like’ others in various ways. What happens when our ‘individual’ behaviour is copied and becomes ‘main stream’, when we become more like than unlike others? Is an XX, XY or XYY chromosome combinations enough to determine who we are sexually and therefore our behaviours and attitudes? Biology alone is not enough to define us. Nor is the body’s production of one enzyme or hormone enough to account for how we behave.
At this point the book gives examples of how individuals have behaved according to both nature and nurture. How they have had underlying biological components that should have indicated certain behaviours but which have or have not occurred possibly as a result of nurturing. It is hard to dispute both the biology and the recorded behaviours, often excessive and therefore the focus of societies records through news papers or academic research and account. The impact or effect of nurturing is not as clear cut. The true nature of relationships between individuals may never be truly be demonstrated or acted out. Resentment and fear can be buried deep and actions of charity or love can be interpreted in many different ways. It is not until we go looking for explanation or reason for extremes of behaviour that we try to determine exactly what impact nurture may have had by trying to understand what took place. We were not there, we did not see or hear what was said or what was done and even if it is written down or given a verbal account we will miss the nuances that can give such a different interpretation or meaning to actions or words. It may be fair to say that upbringing can to an extent exaggerate or minimise biological effects, that they can be negated in the extreme by love. In some cases it is also true that we can alter behaviour by altering the chemical balances within our bodies. There are certain drugs that can help individuals behave in ways that allows them to be part of society, to fit in, and those that allow exactly the opposite. Whether these drugs are masking the self or releasing it from confinement imposed by societies rules and the need to belong is a rather large debate. Is our drunken self our true self?
Expression of ourselves, the ‘rock and roll’ aspect reflects our moral compass, how far we are willing to go to be an individual and how much of societies rules and expectations we are willing to challenge. By pushing we find our boundaries, both those that are self imposed and those imposed by others. If we never push we never find out. If we push without others who have experience then we risk never being able to return. I would compare this to undertaking a voyage of discovery without a compass or guide. However we can still push, still explore but we can do it much safer if we do it a little at a time and return to evaluate after each push before returning to where we got to last time. It is also better if we take others along with us. If we do not allow this pushing of boundaries then we risk pushing too far and finding ourselves somewhere where we do not want to be and without a way of returning. We risk belonging.
This has been a long post so I will break for now and return with my discovery for my need of ‘me time’ later.