In the second century ad the physician Galen wrote: ‘The testicles are more important than the heart; the heart serves to keep us alive, the testicles to make us truly alive.’ Being ‘truly’ alive takes its toll. In that respect eunuchs were men without ballast. If one studies the operation of testosterone closely, one has the impression that it is a very cunning invention. The hormone drives one to fight, to be aggressive, and weak­ens the immune system. It seems as if men are doomed to have to prove how strong they are to women. They have to show in some way that the genetic material in their sperm is good quality. Partly because of that, testosterone leads to useless antlers, tail feathers that are yards long and in men to premature baldness.

The ‘noble’ parts are in my view ‘casual staff’. They must be treated properly or they inevitably down tools. Excessive alcohol consump­tion, smoking, anabolic steroids, intensive pursuit of sports (marathon runners almost invariably have poor seed and racing cyclists have numb genitals after a long ride), underpants that are too warm, tight jeans, frequent saunas and endless hours in a warm bath are things a man should avoid.

More and more frequently men become alarmed about imagined abnormalities in their genitals. Usually these are innocuous ailments. Even prostate cancer can be included among these in many cases.

Worshipped in ancient religions, then demonized by the Church fathers, secularized by learned anatomists and physiologists like Leonardo da Vinci, Reinier de Graaf and Anthony van Leeuwenhoek, and then for a while subjected to psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud: the ‘noble parts’ have been through quite a lot. After being praised to the skies by psychologists, abused by feminists and shamelessly exploited in pop culture, in the twenty-first century they are in danger of becoming totally medicalized. The erection and reproductive industries are developing apace. The ‘noble’ parts must not fail, the repeated resurrection of the flesh must continue to manifest itself. In cases where the reproductive mechanism fails there is support, as if it were perfectly normal. Darwin is defied, the human race can only become weaker, with debilitating ailments, en route for the end, the apocalypse.

Human suffering, bell-ringing, testicles, sperm, testosterone and testament are woven by poet Frederik Lucien de Laere into a harmo­nious, apocalyptic apotheosis entitled ‘Creation’:

It has been made, the testament.

The final testicle’s produced the final seed and testosterone has sired a bald head.

After each big bang millions of cells were hurled into space (cell shock, good God!)

They fought their way through the expansiveness in search of Columbus’s egg.

The pure globe shapes

once housed the origin

till the gong

boomed so loud

that it all blew up

and the dust of stars

spread across the heath,

the far and wide of the woman.

Now the emission has stopped it hangs there quietly, its peal of bells laid down by the music of the spheres.