Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Paradox of Scopes

Telescopes, as everyone agrees, extend the vision, bringing what is distant near. But in direct proportion that they enable us to see what is in front of us at a distance, they reduce the vision of what is in front of us directly. Microscopes, conversely, enable us to peer into the smallest spaces. But in doing so, we leave the macro world around us behind. What appears to increase our view, then, paradoxically decreases our view of that which is immediate, of that which is at hand.

Perhaps that phenomenon is why God put our eyes in the front of our heads instead of on the back. The rest of the body is oriented toward the front, in the use of the arms and hands, legs and feet. If we were more in need of looking backward, or manipulating and affecting what is behind us, we would probably look much different.

Think of telescopic and microscopic views in terms of time, of distance as time. Again, that which is in immediately in front of us is now, the present. That which is at a distance is some time removed--in the future, or in the past, for we have moved from where we were at a previous moment.

I guess that what I'm getting at has to do with the design of machines that can multitask (we aren't designed to) and take us from here to somewhere else in time and space in some way. We can't act directly upon tomorrow or yesterday, only now. And we can only act most directly on what is most immediate and proportionate to us, what is in front of us in our "eternal present." When we attempt to extend our influence upon the distant, the future, without or within, we reduce proportionately our influence upon the now, and lose our opportunities rather than increase them.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

95% Sex before Marriage? Something's Bogus Here

I read today that 95% of adults, men and women alike, admit to having had premarital sex, "calling into question the federal government's funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for 12-to-29-year-olds...which have received hundreds of millions of dollars under the Bush administration...." Further, the study found the same percentages going back to the 1940's; nearly everyone, it seems, has been doing it--or freely admits to it at least.

The surprise, it seems, is that it had been assumed people of former generations had been more chaste than people growing up today. But I wonder if the study considered the later age at which many now wait to marry, than a few decades ago. Several factors, in fact, seem to have been ignored in this report.

For one, the biological age for childbearing, for most, can be said to begin at puberty and not end till perhaps middle age or even later. Since the continued propogation of the species depends upon sufficient sexual attraction between males and females to assure sex, sexual activity is going to take place regardless of laws or mores or whatever taboos society places upon those who participate.

But being sexually active and getting married are very different things. If people in the 1940's--especially women--got married, as they often did, right out of high school or before their mid- twenties, that is one thing. It might have been easier to have waited a few years till marriage to have sex. But if people today wait throughout their twenties, and perhaps their thirties or even their forties to tie the knot, I don't find it so surprising that they wouldn't hold off on sex as well. That's a lot of time to be a single adult with an active social life and normal urges.

Further, the more recent appearance following the AIDS epidemic of more effective birth control methods like the widespread acceptance and availability of condoms and other contraceptives, the morning-after pill, the protections of Roe v. Wade under the law, and the possibility for adoptive placement of infants into loving homes, all mitigate worries about unwanted consequences of being sexually active for today's generation. Sex and its former taboos are not the scarlet-letter-branded issue of shame they once were, nor is it considered something that one should keep as secret as it used to be. Quite the opposite seems true today, in fact. The norm, now, is to freely proclaim that one has lost his or her virginity as a badge of honor, and to have remained a virgin till one's later years is now the cause for social shame. One's sexual status has completely reversed itself!

Is it any wonder, then, that a study done today concludes that almost everyone claims to have done the deed? Do, in fact, 95% of single Americans have sexual experience? Or are some too reluctant to admit they have not, like in The Forty Year Old Virgin and are just lying? And if 95% have indeed found sex before marriage, has that had an effect on pushing the bonds of matrimony and responsibilities of child-rearing further and further into later life? No, I think something's not quite right in this report.