The Cave-beast

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Most of us are civilized. We open doors for old people and self-deprecate so that everyone feels at ease. We drink whiskey on the rocks because it’s crude to drink from the bottle and always in moderation because it’s even less refined to lose control. We turn off lights in other people’s offices because we want to minimize the environmental impact of electricity generation. We make sure to leave the toilette seat down.

And all of this is fine. It’s good, it’s needed. The people around us certainly prefer we continue to do these things, which is why it’s a problem that there’s an animal inside that would really like to open the door for that friendly stranger, exchange three glances and then fuck like rabbits. Or how about the cave-beast three millimeters under the surface who fantasizes about spilling the blood of enemies, glorying in their cries, laughing as they beg? That guy who doesn’t want peace or prosperity or equality. His idea of animal rights, to the extent it exists at all, means crushing a snake’s head between his teeth before he pulls out the guts. He’s scary, deeply anti-social and he isn’t going to be moralized, civilized or monitored away. Somebody’s got to give him his blood.

I’ll tell you how this guy feels to me. He’s purity like a blizzard. Life that rubs your throat raw. A primal fury buried so deep under all the scruples and plans and humanity and cerebral cortex that it’s somehow even more base than fear. Letting him out is like carrying an annoying cripple on your back for months, dropping him on the floor and then pissing in his hair. When this cave-beast gets loose the world melts away to nothing but the absolute essentials. The sound of a beating heart, the impact of skin on muscle on bone, gusts of wind over sweaty cheeks.

He is incompatible with safety. He does not desire comfort. He wants combat and sensation and to look death in the eyes. Left to his own devices, he is a menace.

***

Upper and middle class parents are increasingly shielding their children from traditional tough-guy sports. White families are fleeing from football. Boxing, once the realm of people like Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway, has become the province of disposable, lower-class boys. Sport, somehow, has gotten mixed up with the Mario Brothers.

The genteel, understandably, want to shield their kids from concussions and broken fingers and torn rotator cuffs. Pain is bad, after all, and Junior should experience as little of that as possible. Heaven forbid little Mary suffer, realize pain isn’t so bad and overcome her healthy, abundant fears. As for the caveman inside, well, that’s what we have repression for. Who cares if they grow up to be pussies? That’s what trust funds are for.

***

I have dislocated my right kneecap six times. There’s arthritis inside the joint that will continue to degenerate for the rest of my life. My left arm isn’t entirely straight because I once caused the radius to fracture and displace sufficiently to jam into my ulna. Imagine your forearm reshaped as a question mark and you’ll get the idea what that looks like. A 215 pound wrestler with 6% body fat once threw me onto my head sufficiently hard that I kicked myself in the nose. I’ve blown involuntary snot bubbles after a steroid abusing linebacker speared me in the chest with the top of his helmet. I’ve jumped motorcycles both successfully and unsuccessfully, which is to say I know how it feels to bail off a bike 10 feet in the air at 40 mph. I’ve run until my field of vision contracted down to nothing and the world turned purple.

All of these things hurt, hurt a lot. I don’t want to dislocate my knee again or re-break my radius. I don’t particularly want to run until I lose my sight. But honestly, there’s approximately a zero percent chance I’m giving up my dangerous hobbies.

The first reason I’m not going to stop is I feel like these painful experiences taught me about myself. Despite the things the proponents of cheap self-esteem would have you believe, true self-regard is earned. I know I can function with a broken arm. I know I don’t panic at the sight of my own blood. I know that I’m a tough person because I’ve proven it dozens of times. Without those broken bones and impacts, I would hope that when things got hard, I could endure. But I don’t have to hope, I know. The amount of confidence this gives me has been a huge advantage in more ways than I can count.

The second reason is that smashing some dude on a football field, feeling the impact of a head-and-shoulder throw in a wrestling match, jumping a motorcycle and sliding a car at 120 mph feels amazing. It’s like having fifty orgasms, overdosing on heroine and listening to Mozart live all at the same time. My cave-beast loves violence and chaos, but thankfully, he isn’t so picky on the forms that violence and chaos come in. A football game or a mugging, the wild thing inside doesn’t care. A left hook in a boxing ring, or a straight jab into a passerby’s nose, makes no difference to the animal. Seems like those dangerous sports upper and middle class families are keeping their kids out of serve a very pro-social function, seems like combat sports and motorcycle racing are not only harmless outlets for the cave-beast but crucibles within which our civilized selves can earn self-regard.

I wonder how those children of padded families, so safe, so built up with unearned self-esteem and cossetted in safety – I wonder what their cavemen do.

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6 comments

  1. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied
    on the video to make your point. You obviously know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your site
    when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

    1. There aren’t any videos in this article.

  2. I wonder what their cavemen do? Nothing…or just dream about it.
    I remember making jumps on our bikes imitating Evel Knievel. I remember roller hockey on asphalt…no pads, no helmets. Nobody got hurt…and nobody died.

    1. Seriously. I read an interesting study recently. Evidently there’s a negative correlation between the number of bones you break as a child and the number of phobias you have as an adult.

      It’s almost like we’re not built to be wrapped in cotton.

  3. Do I detect a thread back to Neanderthal times? Humans are not so advanced from those times as they might think. I do suspect that it’s a guy-thing (or at least a testosterone thing), all this hunger for breaking bones and knocking heads without regard for whether someday when the parts don’t work anymore (gray matter included) from being broken or concussed enough, the nursing home attendant will have to help you wipe yourself, or feed yourself, not to mention recall your own name or where you are. Do you suppose the earning of self-esteem comes not at all to surgeons and scientists and great writers, relying mostly on the muscle between their ears? That’s not to say I would attempt to convince anyone to temper his animalistic drives. Those drives are for some a part of what it means to be fully human, just not the only part.

    1. Guy thing, testosterone thing … hmm. I think that depends on how different you think men and women are.

      As for the future, honestly, I think most of the people who end up with bad physical problems are the ones who ignore or play/push through chronic problems for a long time, which is not really what I’m talking about. I’m talking about walking away from something edifying because you might get hurt, which I think is borderline shameful, not walking away from something because your body can’t handle anymore, which is prudent.

      99% of the people doing the things I mentioned, football, amateur boxing, even motorcycle racing, will get hurt. But of those 99%, very few end up with debilitating injuries. If the choice is between avoiding the small chance of debilitating injury and never finding one’s limits – that’s not very hard for me.

      Thanks as always for reading and commenting. 🙂

      P.S.
      I just happen to have this, which discusses those doctors and authors.
      https://bengarrido.com/writers-groups-and-wimpiness-part-2/

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