Thursday, February 23, 2017


Santayana on Chromosomes and Men

The fetus, if uninfluenced by hormones, will develop as a female, albeit an underdeveloped one. Here is a description by the philosopher Santayana, in his only novel, of the birth of a boy:
The child had been born punctually. The first grave and alarming duty of entering into the world was performed not only unflinchingly but with a flourish: for this thoroughly satisfactory child was a boy. His little organism, long before birth, had put aside the soft and drowsy temptation  to be a female. It would have been so simple for the last pair of chromosomes to have doubled up like the rest and turned out every cell in the future body complete, well-balanced, serene, and feminine. Instead, one intrepid particle had decided to live alone. Instead, one intrepid particle decided to live alone, unmated, unsatisfied, restless, and masculine. And it imposed this unstable romantic equilibrium on every atom of the man-child's flesh, and of the man-child's sinews. To be a male means to have chosen the more arduous, if perhaps the less painful adventure, more remote from home, less deeply rooted in one soil and one morality. It means to be pledged to a certain courage, to a certain recklessness about the future: and if these risks are to be run without disaster, there should be a greater buoyancy, less sensitiveness, less capacity for utter misery that women commonly show. Yet this capacity is sometimes lacking. Mysterious influences may cross and invade the system and send through it , as it were, a nostalgia  for femininity, for that placid, motherly comfortable fullness of life proper to the generous female.

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