One Stanza Poem O018

It takes 43 muscles to frown –
But only 17 to smile –
Is that resultant of evolution
In the past little while?
Or a feature God handed down?




Copyright by Minh Tan on listed dated of completion
and published in Perspectives, ISBN 0-9686250-0-2.



Notes to this poem…

The inspiration for this poem was an Oil of Olay commercial that presented the facts expressed in the first two lines of this poem. As I didn’t use Oil of Olay, and still not yet at this time, my mind wandered elsewhere and it was easy to be shocked by that fact because smiling came so much more naturally and easily to me. One might interpret that as meaning fewer muscles required, which would then not make the facts shocking, but I was of the “exercise” mentality, where one doesn’t get muscles unless one developed them through “exercise” or actions which used those muscles. In that frame of mind, then, the 43 muscles it took to frown compared to 17 it took to smile implied we would have had to have frowned a lot more than smile over the years since by evolutionary theory, we also don’t develop useless muscles. That’s how I understood it, at least, although I’m no evolutionary expert, having learned the theory on my own and never having taken biology at any level.

As for the God inclusion, you would probably not be surprised if I told you my family and I are not Christian. They are Buddhist and I’ve become Atheist or Agnostic. The “or” is because I sometimes do talk to “someone” above, or my guardian angels in the image of those cherubs in Raphael’s famous Two Angels painting.


However, I use God and Christianity as defaults of a greater being and a religion because I find the concepts of each easy to reference, metaphorize and, of course, comprehensible to the majority of Canadians and Americans who were my intended audience at the time, in the Jurassic Internet age when wider global distribution via blogs was still an abstract concept. Now, I’m not saying God and Christianity and simple, but the concepts I use of each, like a greater being above, Heaven and Hell, and such, are utilized as simple concepts without its finer details and complications that something as elementary as Bible studies class could complicate to hell.

Now, evolution and God given doesn’t mix too well, at least not in my opinion they don’t and I don’t buy the religious views offered to me by some, including good friends over the years, that they do. The reason I mix it in is that I wanted to give an opt out to the conclusion I was drawing that by evolutionary theory, we would have had to have frowned a lot more than smiled to have developed more muscles to require to frown… that maybe God forced it somehow in creating us that way, but also to raise the question if so, then why did God give us more muscles to frown? Was there something we didn’t know about God’s intentions for humanity? That was the sad thing I found in trying to give the opt out to the evolutionary conclusion because I was an optimistic person, hoping the opt out with God wouldn’t lead to the same sad conclusion evolution pointed to me that I eventually resigned to.

The odd irony to my optimistic attitude and attempt to circumvent the evolutionary conclusion was that the way my life was at the time, I was proving the evolutionary theory since I was frowning a lot more than I was smiling.

Finally, I also considered this one of my one stanza poem gems. Any time I could write a philosophical debate and include some of my personal views and part of my life story over a five line poem, I am usually pretty happy with the poem as a finished product.

The O-series of poems are one stanza poems composed before I got onto writing haiku and tanka, and short poetry while in action or traveling by select means like plane or ferry. These poems are 3-9 lines long with at least one rhyming couplet, and not of the short forms just mentioned. For the sake of elegance, I just called the collection One.


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