We often refer to the simplest part of ourselves as being driven by the "reptile brain". In an evolutionary sense that's a wonderful metaphor. Why do we demand monogamy in western marriage? Because sex is a primary desire that flaunts its power over logic at all times. Why is murder wrong but self defense okay? Because we understand the future is effected by not only our actions but our definable intentions to the people around us. (there's a long discussion to be had here about causality that I won't go into). As self aware creatures we are bound by the knowledge that we can trade today for tomorrow (even though every religion/philosophy tells us that tomorrow isn't promised). But still we return to our simplest, evolutionary programming as a base line for how much control we have over what we do. Loving your enemy requires a conscience, loving your child shows that you are a normal healthy person. All that being said, we tend to over simplify this idea of what constitutes the "reptile brain". As it turns out we're not talking about phylogeny when we discuss reptiles we're actually talking about metabolisms. We identify with "cold blooded" creatures who are so easily defined by their metabolic behaviors that we only see how they kill and eat their prey...but today I ran into a unique exception to that homonym (so to speak). There exist in the southern extremities of the contiguous United States a couple of genus of snakes that operate on a completely different metabolic level and, as such, express completely unique typical behaviors. This example is the black racer (C. constrictor). While most members of its family (colubridae) react horrible to being picked up the black racer will throw a short lived fit and then lay still in your hands and stare at you. Initially they do all the disgusting stuff like releasing a horrible musky excrement but then they simple succumb to their fate and look up at you as if to say "why haven't you eaten me yet?" The other morning I found a young black racer lounging in a sun beam and I snatched him up to see how he'd settled down. The combination of being chilly and a rather reticent species led to the most interesting of behaviors : he hid his head. If you ever jumped into your bed in a dark room and pulled your feet under the covers to hide from the imaginary monsters who might be lurking in the dark, then you understand what this poor young snake is thinking. If I can't see them, they can't see me. Not true, but it makes the reptile brain feel better.
words about things
What follows is my subtle attempt at honesty.