On A Pale Horse: Death & The HardonBy Shawn Baker / Saturday, April 23rd, 2011
The poetic French euphemism for it may be more apt than you ever realized.
La Petite Mort, The Little Death.
Sex and death have always been inextricably linked paradoxes, active and brilliant Yang to passive and morose Yin.
Every mythology has played off that dichotomy. Think Lakshmi and Kali, Cain and Abel or Alec and Stephen Baldwin.
The Greeks gods reveled in lust and slaughter with favored or unlucky mortals.
Shakespeare’s works are replete with desire and death.
Era-straddling androgynyne Myra Breckinridge famously averred that every red-blooded American male had, lurking within him, a strangler ready to snap a neck during climax.
And really, what would cock-blocking buzzkill, Friday the 13th’s Jason Vorhees be without an endless supply of nubile, bimbotic summer camp counselors to hack up? Just another Carrie Nation.
Any way you slice it, one side of the coin needs its polar opposite to maintain its self-definition. Sometimes, they even act in a weirdly complementary and utterly lurid synergy.
Here’s something you were probably never told in tenth grade biology: as a corpse decays and its basic cellular building blocks break down, the organic compounds responsible for its ultimate obliteration are the very same ingredients that grant semen its distinct taste and smell.
We’re talking Death and the Maiden here, two figures normally antagonistic who when united become the one in the same.
Putrescine and Cadaverine (again, the twinning of two entities) are the corpse chemicals that take root in the bone orchard and devour the dead; yet, in a living body, those same organic compounds serve a necessary function that aids in the life cycle. Essential in defending sperm in their voyage through the vaginal canal — the highly acidic nature of which is actually deadly to the little guys — the two chemicals reverse their roles as the milk and wine of the Conqueror Worm and instead protect precious DNA from disintegration in order to ensure conception.
Double agents in life and death.
These are the perverse ironies of Nature.
As the Dodo was hunted to extinction for being unfailingly monogamous and refusing to abandon its dying mate, sperm must answer the Song of the Siren and brave the Vagina Dentata, risking destruction in order to serve its life function. To top it all off, the very biological components that play integral roles in decomposition end up serving as the guardian angels that guide them on their merry way.
It’s a Mobius Strip of victory and defeat worthy of MC Escher — a perpetual waltz of wills between the Scorpion and the Frog wherein our sperm bears the first glimmerings of life and tiny slivers of death hitching along for the ride.
Death rides a pale steed indeed.
©2013 Nightcharm, Inc.; All Rights Reserved.