But what about recent research?

I loved the show. Okay, I loved it and hated it. I thought about it for days afterward, which does not often happen because, believe me, after this many years of seeing theatre, I have a quick and dirty brain function for deleting shows that should be forgotten. This one was painful, dark, and sticky. The phrase I repeated endlessly to my partner was “really f&%^&g clever.” It was like a hot chile pepper that you don’t know is hot until you finish eating it and reach for a drink of water. But here’s the thing that stuck in my craw: I had just finished reading Sex at Dawn before seeing the play, and…I don’t know…I was pretty convinced by recent thought in evolutionary psych that those early human puppets would have been much more content, connected, and less neurotic than we post-agricultural variety. So, I felt unsatisfied by the cliche premise that unhappiness is a “hard-wired in our brains” kind of thing, instead of a “we have really, really left our natural environment and social system behind” kind of thing. Forgive me for not speaking sooner. I only saw the poster on closing weekend, booked a last-minute babysitter, and literally ran to the theatre.

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One Response to But what about recent research?

  1. Judd Trout says:

    Sorry to take so long to respond… we’ve been having some drastic technical issues with the website. At any rate: bless your heart for writing. Here’s a defense: the connectedness and contentedness described by Sex at Dawn (okay, I keep meaning to read that one, but I haven’t, so I’m kind of going off what you say about it) could well have existed — but the play is about the moment we stepped away from it. The characters are doing exactly what you describe — leaving their natural environment and social system behind. Now, whether the natural environment and social system were an Edenic bliss or not, I’m not sure. I was pretty inspired by Freud’s view of it in Totem and Taboo — obviously not current research, for sure. In his version, if I can sum it up, the social system was totally triangular, with the ‘primal father’ on top, and the first revolution (in which the mateless younger males gang up on the big guy) liberated us at the same time as it destroyed our sense of security and social coherence (once you kill the king, you realize that kings can be killed). As far as I know, Freud didn’t have a whole lot to say about what all this meant for the women, but I think something big and dreadful probably happened when we realized the connection between sex and pregnancy… women had previously been goddesses walking amongst us, spontaneously creating life (probably pregnant from the moment they were fertile until their deaths), and then suddenly the ugly hierarchies of male socialization got involved. Point being: somewhere in there anxiety and neurosis got invented, and while you might debate when and how it happened, it’s pretty clear that it did happen. Or maybe the entire evolutionary chain of being is wracked with angst — it could be that the fall-from-paradise idea (of which I take Sex at Dawn to be a variation) is wishful thinking — another way our imaginations plague us with a sense that the world isn’t as it should be, but might be, or once was.

    I mean, I think there’s tons to be said about how we’re physically and emotionally designed for a different world, but I’m not totally sure that we were ever really at home in the old world, either.

    But the main thing is that it’s interesting and entertaining to speculate about the whole thing. Not to be facile, but we’re pretty happy if we got to start some great conversations.