You are here: Home » Reports by Year and Month » 2011 » ERTHAWARE Report #203 “Sex and Holy Dancing”
Jul 152011

Dear ERTHAWARE Watchers,

 SEX and Holy Dancing? What does this have to do with our awareness of the Earth?! And why the play on “Holy Dancing” versus “Dirty Dancing?”

 Our tiny home planet careening through Space attached by an unseen gravity-tether to the nearest star, which in turn is tethered to a Black Hole at the center of our galaxy, is a rare fecund bedroom of prolific sex. We know of no other place in the universe like our planet. It teems with sexual activity – as the world turns. Is this the soap opera of the universe?

Where life abounds, procreation abounds. It drives our living biome community along with the need for energy/nutrition within adapting feedback loups related to supportive habitats. The wonder of this living planet could not exist without sexual activity everywhere on this globe. It is essential in order for life to continue and flourish.

Biologists studying the survival behavior of creatures in their natural settings recognize the powerful drive for each of the millions of species on Earth to successfully transmit their genes to future generations. The study of sexual strategies and selection among plants, fungi, insects and animals is utterly fascinating, going from the extremely bizarre to the seemingly ridiculous to the utterly strange and the sometimes lethal. Of course, such judgments about nature’s varied sex activity are unfairly made by using human monogamous sexual behavior as it has been historically interpreted and regulated by various cultural authorities as a normative baseline, rather than seeing sexual strategies developing through long-term biological adaptive behaviors for reproductive success. There is nothing “dirty” or immorally bestial about it in a creature’s normal environmental context.

But among many animals there tends to be two general strategies of sexual selection for mating.

1) intrasexual selection – Rivals of the same sex seek to intimidate, drive away or defeat the others during a triggered mating season. Generally this is among males while the females are passive. This allows the strongest male to have almost exclusive access to a number of fertile females when they become sexually ready for successful copulation. This process of selecting the strong tends to pass on the most virile and healthy genetic pool to the family or herd. For example, in the wilderness I’ve watched bull elks with magnificent antlers in clattering, crashing combat while a future harem of females to be inseminated by one triumphant alpha bull are quietly grazing in a nearby alpine meadow. The losers become celibate wanderers until the following year when the battles for mating rights begin again.

2) intersexual selection – Animals of the opposite sex engage in a courtship routine during which a satisfying partner for copulation is selected. Often a female in estrus will secrete pheromones that trigger the amorous advances of a male(s). She becomes the active selector of an appropriate mate that seemingly meets her criteria or fancy. Then it is the serious business of a male through a genetically scripted choreography, with minor regional cultural adaptations, to convince the female by his colorful attractiveness or powerful display or strong vocalization or appropriate gifting or establishment of territory that he is a suitable mate for her major physical investment in producing a family. This is often seen among birds.

 I have given you this preface to put the following 7 pictures in context. Three weeks ago I was sitting in this attic corner working on my computer when I noticed several Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) sitting in the top branches of our dying cherry tree. Through the gable window to the left I noticed a male Cowbird suddenly go into a fit. Then it happened again. What is this behavior? Something was driving him crazy. I very slowly raised the venetian blind for a clearer view. Sitting 3 feet to his right was a female busily preening herself. In the picture below this handsome male dude is totally focused on her.

Cowbirds are primarily mid-Western birds of the prairies. For thousands of years they accompanied huge migrating herds of buffalo where they would feed off the thrashed seeds of prairie grass and disturbed insects as the herds continually moved – perhaps one reason Cowbirds do not build localized nests for their eggs. However, with the great disturbance of their eco-system in the last two centuries and new corridors of deforestation through barrier mountains, some have moved west. So, for the sake of our following story, let’s find for this proud stud a mid-Western name – Clarence Andersen. Let’s call the female Adele Swanson.

Move over Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), Clarence is going to win your heart Adele by his awesome dance routine.

How about that first terrific and scary fluffed move on one foot. Coool!

Now the spread wing display – “Adele I am so imposing and should be king of the Prom. Will you be my queen?”

It’s total wildness now. Look at that maniacal, fierce eyed, hunched back, aggressive let-me-clutch-you move. “Adele, let me over-power you with my brawny manhood. I am as virile as a guy can get. Just look at me! I’m crazy for you!!”

Then the gentleman suitor always makes a respectful gracious bow to the courted lady at the end of the dance.

Clarence than folded his wings and stretched his head skyward as if proud and satisfied by his Academy Award winning dance. “Adele, ain’t I the sexiest, most handsome dancer on this old tree? Please, will you have my babies?”

I watched this almost identical dance sequence at least a dozen times, from the original fluff move to the ending stretch skyward.

Clarence  Panorama (click for full-size view)

Meanwhile I was also watching Adele.

The whole time she was preening herself and didn’t look at him once. What’s a man to do? Courtship is tough when you seemingly don’t have the goods that she wants. Or perhaps she was just subtlety teasing him on by her nonchalance. Or maybe the active preening was stimulating hidden scent glands to drive him even crazier for her.
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In the ancient Hebrew epic-story of origins that undergirded much of pre-modern western culture and religion, the god (elohim – [pr] aye-low-heem) on the 6th day of the creation week called all creatures into being with a sacred command. His second sacred act was to bless all these creatures great and small, thus giving them special approval and status. The third sacred word was a command to practice their divinely ordained sexuality – “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” The ancient Hebrew concept of filling was not simply numerical prodigiousness, but a flourishing quality of life and health. These primal sacred “words” had little to do with religion, as we perceive of that cultural construct. Or maybe this is true religion. It had everything to do with relationships and “getting it on.” Sex has sacred approval. It is holy. Elohim ordains all creatures to act sexually as an expression of the divine beauty and purpose. It is a worship-response for the gift of life. It is a “YES!” to erotic physical life, not a “NAY!”

I wonder if the ancient Church fathers had developed in their creed, “I believe in God, maker of heaven and earth, and in the sacred sexual goodness of all creatures…” that somehow the pained psychological trauma of generations might have been altered, even healed, and thus history affected towards a more healthful openness. Perhaps one version of the sung doxology should be: “PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL DANCINGS FLOWS; PRAISE HIM ALL CREATURES HERE BELOW….”

Our little home planet is a ballroom of amazing dancing creatures. Let’s keep it healthy and whole.

On the journey,

Hugs from Lynn and me

The L.E.A.R.N. Group (non-profit)
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Hello. Welcome to the Blog version of Erthaware Report. I have been photographing nature for over 40 years and writing about it for almost that long as well. I hope you like the content of this site and come back often!

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