Thursday, February 2, 2012

And hominy grits? Oh, about 40 or 50!

"Disgust is one of the six basic emotions—along with joy, surprise, anger, sadness and fear—but it is the only one that has to be learned, which suggests something about its complexity."

That's a quote right out of a Wall Street Journal article by Rachel Herz, an article entitled "You Eat That?"  It describes some, well, disgusting food items that are consumed, apparently with relish (or other condiments) by our fellow citizens of Starship Earth.  I won't make you toss by telling you the details, and I would not advise reading the article if you're just about to unzip your ZipLoc baggie and have lunch.  Let's just say, there are some good Italian cheeses, and then there's Casu Marzu, a big rotten favorite over in Sardinia.

I'm not going to go on about foods other people like because Heaven knows, some Sardinian might find my hominy (dried corn soaked in lye, dried again, and then cooked up with sausage.  Ummm UMMMMM!) to be repugnant, and my stewed rhubarb to be out-of-bounds.  What I am thinking about is those six basic emotions.  

The REAL Mario Lanza
Think of a baby, and think how he or she just shows exactly how she or he is feeling.  They'll let you know right away, all right.  If they feel joy because a mobile is circulating above them or some adult is making goo-goo eyes at them, their little faces light up and they burble with joy and happiness.  If all of a sudden, from behind that adult another person leaps at the baby and begins singing "The Loveliest Night of the Year," the baby will register surprise, for this might be the first Mario Lanza impersonator in his or her young life (but surely not the last.)  Anger comes along when there's no meal served along with the song, and a baby shares anger by demonstrating lung power and turning on the old water works.

Sadness is demonstrated when the baby gets a little bit older and finds out that life doesn't always go the way we want.  I can't count the number of times that I or someone I love went all-out for something, only to have it not work out...and then, that not working out turns out to be for the best. "When one door closes, try to see if there's an open window you can climb into somewhere," goes an old saying, and for good reason.  Or take the community-wide sadness of the weekend before last, when the Ravens lost that playoff game.  It was late on a Sunday, and most of Bmore went to bed sad, but a funny thing happened overnight.  The earth continued to spin, and when we got up and pulled on our sox, we found that the sun had come out as it always has. 

People who study such things say that humans developed fear out of a well-founded sense of wariness when they found themselves living near saber-toothed tigers. No kidding.  That was a fairly smart thing to do, as tigers are known to be carnivores and would regard most people as a fine dinner.  Fear the tiger!  

Most fears like that make sense.  We also have irrational fears that should be examined thoroughly...fear of Friday the 13th, fear of loud noises, fear of falling, and worst of all, fear of making a loud noise while falling on Friday the 13th.  

But...disgust has to be learned?  Not so fast, social scientists and anthropologists!  Let's go back to our baby example.  Let's give that baby a name. How about, we name him Jimbo?  Let's make Jimbo happy, first.  So put him in a warm room, wrapped up snugly, free of diaper rash, and all powdered up like a fine donut.  Then let's put on some sweet, tender, vivid music...Brahms is good.  Jimbo, all fed and happy, is ready for an afternoon nap.  

Then, break the news to him that his full name is Jimbo Kardashian, and there on his little pink face you will see instant disgust

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