When I hear someone claim that humans are “just animals” I immediately feel insulted. Why? Well, granted we both share the classification of eukaryote and mammal, I refuse to believe that I have just about as much self control as an orangutan. And no, I’m not referencing the theory of evolution. I’m simply bothered by the idea that our dominant instincts should win out over our ability to rationalize through a situation.
Although the majority of people may not subscribe to the idea of humans being just animals, I do think a majority of people would agree with the notion of “following your heart.” This phrase sounds quite lovely and also seems to have made a successful splash in the film industry. I’m surprised Disney hasn’t tried to copyright the phrase because it seems to be a major theme amongst their movies:
“Where the dream takes you
Where your heart longs to be
When you finally found that place
You’ll find all you need.” -Aladdin
“True to your heart
You must be true to your heart
That’s when the heaven’s will part.”
“Listen with your heart, you will understand.” -Pocahontas
“Trust your heart and let fate decide.” – Tarzan
Open your eyes, your heart can tell you no lies.” -Mulan
We obviously love the idea because it keeps popping up in movies, songs, musicals and books. Yet, I do find it interesting that we fail to acknowledge that the heart is simply a blood pumping organ enclosed inside of the ribcage. If future archeologists were to dig up remnants of our time, I’m sure they would be perplexed as to why we proclaimed our pulse keeping organ as a means of finding true direction. Why not “follow your liver” or “follow your lungs”?
Passages from ancient Biblical texts reference two people knowing one another. An unknowing reader might assume this means that the two people had probably met before. But no, according to their language, knowing equals having sexual relations to someone. Hopefully, future archeologists will discover the true meaning of following your heart because I know I haven’t. But I have a hunch that it closely relates to the idea of humans embracing their animal nature.
What is it we are really being encouraged to follow? I would argue that it isn’t well thought out logic, because the campaign to follow your brain would have caught on better. How do we make decisions? Sometimes based on logical reasoning such as “I can’t eat this slice of cake because I want to lose weight” and sometimes based on emotional reasoning such as “I will eat this slice of cake because I can’t resist it even though I do want to lose weight.”
I can not begin to discuss the inner workings of our mind and how our emotions, thoughts and feelings are developed. I just know how hard it is to resist that piece of cake which, represents anything from object to affection. Guess what? If I always follow my heart- my instant desire to have something- 10 out of 10 times I will go ahead and eat that slice of cake. I’d call this an animal instinct because I have yet to find an animal who really stops to consider the future implications of their actions in the present moment.
I’m not trying to demote the importance of human emotions, they are beautiful and perplexing, I just can’t agree with the notion that our emotions can guide our every action. Sorry Mulan, but I think the heart does lie. And there’s a lie that has spread like wildfire amongst us: If we want it, we can have it. We deserve it.
Like animals, we are not thinking ahead as to the repercussions of the the gotta have it mentality. Where is the obesity epidemic coming from? Why are factory employees in places like China stripped of their humanity? Why do lovers cheat on each other? Why are people raped, violated, and molested? Why do we develop addictions? Why do my impulses sometimes lead me far away from becoming the person I hope to be?
These are terrible events fueled by an individual and sometimes a nation embracing the gotta have it mentality. (Note: I do not believe that obesity is only caused by people who overeat. I realize there are about 7 different factors, several of which we can’t control, that play in to this)
We are dismayed and sickened when hearing about about a person who was sexually assaulted. Yet, we glorify musical artists like Lady Gaga who sing lyrics like, “I can see the way that you’re looking at me. Like you’re hungry and I am the only thing that you see. Won’t tame you, love the way you’re watching me.” Of course she’s not endorsing rape with these lyrics, but this mentality doesn’t sound so different from that of someone who has got to get what he or she wants no matter what…
I find it all so upsetting and I find myself feeling so helpless in the tangled reality I live in. I am stricken with personal grief regarding my own refusal of the gotta have it mentality. Every day I wage war with my animal instincts to act on every impulse I have. Sometimes I lose and sometimes I win…
“I change shapes just to hide in this place. But I’m still, I’m still an animal. Nobody knows it but me when I slip. Yeah I slip, I’m still an animal.”