I am an Animal

I am an Animal

A Chapter by Paul

Section 1 of The Me Primer





I am an animal
all thought begins and ends with this understanding
my evolutionary advantage is imagination
I create to survive
at times I have imagined myself more than an animal
 capable of wonderful things

and awful things
I imagine there is a better way to do wonderful things

I am an animal



            I am an animal. I am an end result of millions of years of evolution. My sweat glands, my opposable thumbs, and my large brain are each part of what makes me well-suited to exploit my environment. These things help me dominate other animals. I know what I am and how I work best. In this writing I am content to sound naive and obvious. This will be a touchstone should my thinking become cynical and convoluted. I am not a doctor of any science and my credentials do not allow me to be an expert on anything, except myself.

            As an animal I am driven to eat, to reproduce and to find a safe place to eat, reproduce and rest. I affirm that under all of the layers of ideas, on how and why I do these things, that I am driven like any other animal. This is a simple-sounding conclusion but believing in this premise puts me at odds with many other sweating, thumb-wielding, large-brained animals. In fact, they may say I am wrong in calling them animals. I am not an expert on any of these others, who are seemingly like me, any more than I am an expert on insects, fish, birds and other mammals. I will relay my observations on other animals with confidence in my ability to observe and deduce. I will reserve my most confident tone for how I function. No footnotes will be necessary. No doctors of anything need pay attention unless they have an interest in this particular animal. I do not fear repeating well-worn ideas because I only seek to be understood and to understand. I am confident that I am an expert at explaining myself to myself.

            I accept that what drives me comes from inherited desires, desires to meet certain needs. The brain I have has evolved over millions of years to manage my bodily functions. It drives me to seek nourishment and to attempt to reproduce. My brain’s thought patterns have evolved over my life time to make these things seem more complicated than the simple acts of satisfying desires. Over the course of my life I have been taught that I am more than an animal. This has not only come from religious teachings but from secular philosophy. I have been taught that I am under some obligation to make more of myself than a desire-fulfilling upright mammal. This of course, as any true expert on me will attest, is wrong. As an animal I am under no obligation to do anything but remedy the hungers that exist in me. There is no reprimand at the end of a wild animal’s life for spending each day in pursuit of the next meal and the next mate. Why then do I worry about how I am perceived in pursuing my next meal, a mate, and a period of secure rest? I have been told that there are right and wrong ways to do these things. That this is so because I am somehow innately different from other animals. I will not begin from a foundation that has no proof for me. I will begin where I am sure of myself. I am an animal.

            Understanding that I am an animal allows me to answer so many questions about myself that I have to wonder why it seems so odd to have as a guidepost. I am certain many others have also come to this understanding. Did they then ask themselves: what if everyone acted like an animal? what if everyone believed that they had no more moral responsibility than a dog? And this stopped these thinkers from this line of inquiry. Is this how to arrive at answers, rejecting an idea because, if it is true, the consequences might be ugly? I do not believe so but I believe this has happened all through the history of philosophy, psychology, political science and kitchen table arguments. As an animal I have no obligations to believe in right or wrong sex or a right or wrong way of getting nourishment. If I am attracted to another, I try to have sex with the other. If I am hungry, I try to eat something. However, as the animal I have become I have been taught how I should get things that I want. I am leashed. There are rules that I have been trained to follow. I must recognize that this mentality has been formed by the society I live in and by my place in that society; not because it had to be formed, but because it was formed and seems to work for much of the time. These rules were made long before I was born and I believe in most of these rules. I also believe that when the rules are not followed it is not an aberration, it is an animal acting like an animal. In an extreme example, what if I were a human-animal that had a habit of rubbing my genitalia on strangers? I should not need to hear, “What is wrong with him?”; I instead should hear, “He has not been trained properly”. This is how I would judge any animal that I would see doing this. I would say that this animal was not taught how to suppress his animal desires in order to fit into this circumstance, “bad dog”. This simplifies many ideas of individual treatment. I would be treated for inappropriate behavior in a circumstance not for sexual deviance. I would not have to work backwards. I would not hear, “let’s see why you are such a degenerate, how have you become this monster”, but instead would hear, “you need to suppress your animal desires so that you can live in this society.” The person offering this advice could offer ideas on how to become trained. That person may even have ideas on why the training was never accomplished to begin with but this would all come down to me having to say, “I want to be in this human animal society so please train me properly” or “I like how I am, deal with me”. This needs to be more than just an exercise in behavioral psychology. It needs to be more than tasering me every time I think about rubbing my genitals on a stranger or giving me a biscuit when I sit quietly in the corner. There is a binding here. There is an agreement to be part of a human society and to abide by its rules. I am an active participant who is willing to suppress my animal instincts but I will not pretend that my animal instincts do not or should not exist.

            This simple understanding of mine is only strengthened by science’s advancing knowledge about genes and how the brain works. There are animals that cannot be easily trained or perhaps trained at all but this does not disprove my understanding. A genetic predisposition to be more violent than the average animal, a chemical imbalance that causes some extremeness, would only mean that this had to be addressed as part of the training/treatment. A brain that is physiologically challenged when it comes to setting limits on behavior must be addressed as such. It will come down to types of training not a metaphysical crisis. It has been my observation that mental illness, or any behavior deemed abnormal, is exacerbated when an individual aligns their behavior with a notion of evil. Animal desires or misconceptions about reality should not be labeled as evil. They can be labeled as wrong per the society's rules. But if I believe that I am evil, or that what I desire is evil, then this takes on a power all its own. The terms good and evil have a sense of magic about them, an unnaturalness. If I believe that good and evil are universal, objective terms, and that my desires pull me to act in an “evil” way, then what hope is there for me outside of the world of magic? By believing that I am an animal dealing with instinctual desires I can see through the layers and seek simpler answers. By thinking this way therapy is not rendered useless nor are society’s rules now impotent. Believing that I am an animal dealing with desires merely changes the focus. For me it makes treatment much more palatable. Thinking this way, I am within the realm of my animal nature not in some netherworld of magic. If I accept that I am behaving like an animal, if I accept that I can be taught/treated to control this behavior, then successful habilitation is more likely for me. I can be part of this society.

            I know there are human-animals before me who have made these kinds of statements. They have reasoned that moral beliefs are relative, subjective. I know there are thinkers who say that there are some beliefs we must be born with and that those beliefs are universal. I know that I was not born with any notion of an evil or good way to get food or satisfy sexual desires. I know that I learned how to wait my turn. I know that there are times in my life when I would have done great physical harm to another but only stopped myself because I had been taught that it was wrong. I feared the consequences of such action in my standing with human society. I know that for animals there is no universal moral understanding. I know that I respect the laws and rules of the society around me because I want to continue to live in this society. I know that many who hear these sorts of statements are appalled at the pathways that are opened with this type of thinking. They believe that an all-powerful something is the best source for the rules that keep us from stealing each other’s food and spouses and bashing each other when angry; a something that cannot be questioned. I understand this way of thinking and why some believe it is necessary but I state that ultimately it is not true to an animal.

            For me to be convinced that there is more to ethics than choosing when and where to limit my animal instincts, I must call out to the world of magic. I am using the term magic to describe more than a belief in a supreme being or in religious dogma. I am using the term regarding any belief that tells me I am somehow more than an animal. As an animal it is not evil to kill another animal, human or not. This bothers individuals who have no religious beliefs as much as the most fervent believer of any of the major religions. I know that killing another human animal is not an option for me. I was taught that this is not accepted in the society that I live in. I know that I am often good to others. I am good to others because it makes me feel good. I was taught that this is what good people do. I was taught that following the rules and abiding by traditions makes me a good person. I am an animal properly trained to live in my society. When a scientist proves to me that there is some gene that predisposes me to help others survive, I know that this is evolution at work. I know that this gene was once a mutation and that it has survived because it works. It is no more magic than the gene that predisposes me to be anxious when I am in unfamiliar surroundings.

            Skeptics of my statement that I am nothing more than an animal come from all sides and all belief systems. They do not bow to my expertise on me, they cannot. Faith in their special place in the world makes them right and they are made right by faith in their special place in the world. I know that I am an animal and an animal I know that I am. We can exist together: myself and the believers in the magic of a supreme being, myself and the believers of magic in humanity. We can do this if we all believe in the practicality of abiding by a set of rules. These are rules aimed at maximizing tolerance for individuals. As an expert on me I know that this is how it has always been and should always be. I know that the rules are refined over time, sometimes to accommodate magical beliefs and sometimes because magical beliefs have been shed. I understand this and I will fight to change rules but abide by rules as I do so. This animal has been leashed, by parents and teachers originally, but now I am leashed because it is how I choose to be. This is true peace of mind.

© 2021 Paul

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Added on April 24, 2017
Last Updated on January 27, 2021



I am writing in the Mid Atlantic area of the United States, mostly non-fiction at this time. I am a song writer as well. http://songsongsongs.com Also of interest could be- http://bookstore.trafford... more..

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