Specific obsessive compulsive behaviors that focus on repeating patterns often emerge when we are most stressed, when we regress.  The rhythms of the dance are seeded deep inside our contemporary souls.  OCD is often tied to disorders characterized by maturational delay, those individuals exhibiting the older, matrifocal, dance-driven genotype.  Maybe here is a clue as to why rocking is so consoling.

If there is some truth that music and dance are the original arts driving our evolution as a species through the dynamics of sexual selection, then sensitivity to repeating patterns characteristic of the practitioners of these arts could reveal how it is we are so good at intuiting connections.

Evidence of sexual selection in species other than our own suggests that we are not the only ones prepped to pay attention to patterns.  Yet, humans somehow crossed a line.

I’ve heard tell of a story where in an exhibition aquarium with a porpoise show, a trainer was seeking to encourage his charge to learn new tricks.  A young male was the subject of his attentions.  Whenever this porpoise exhibited a unique behavior, the trainer would reinforce it with a fish reward.  One by one, new behaviors were culled out from daily routine, reinforced and reproduced.

One day the subject porpoise again did something unique, and the trainer threw him a fish.  There was a pause.  The porpoise then proceeded to exhibit a long series of extremely unusual, never-seen-before behaviors, one after another, exhibiting great excitement as the creative surge unfolded.

Humans engage in pattern detection and creation in a fashion far in excess of what other animals produce.  It’s like we discovered that the creative process itself is where the fun is, not just the reproduction of the pattern.  But, in a sense, humans participating in the sexual-selection pattern-reproduction process are doing exactly what other animals do.  We just take an additional step to make it into art.

The difference between animal sexual selection and human sexual selection is that in human sexual selection, what we call art, we select for those practitioners that provide a compelling experience that does not necessarily lead to sex.  We discovered it’s not about the fish, but about the fishing.  It’s not about the reward, but about the process.


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