19 June 2011

Odd creatures: monologue

Humans have evolved into the strangest creatures.

Other creatures surely look on and shake their heads. They see us gather and collect things - bright, clever, useful and useless things. Far too many things to carry with us. We cover ourselves in layers of skins and trinkets. We build elaborate structures to live in, play in, work in. We collect things that have no bearing on the basics of our lives - that of food shelter, sex, safety.

We have evolved a huge frontal cortex, and use thinking to manipulate our world. How this happened was probably because of a gene mutation billions of years ago. Some might say this was the hand of God. Some might say the devil. But it is what it is - a mutation that allowed us to change. Allowed us to think so much that perhaps we have forgotten we are creatures at all. Why do I wonder this? The way my dog looks at me when I stop to put on an array of clothes before I walk out the door. Why can't I just walk out naked? The way he rolls his eyes as the conversation bounces from one human to another, waiting for the moment we will actually do something like run, hunt, forage, explore. Creature things. Dogs know us because they have evolved alongside us for over 50,000 years. They tolerate our oddities for the sake of the companionship that they treasure.

Oh yes, relationships and collaboration! They are the stuff of survival. And we have this so right dont we? With our phobias, fears of intimacy, our violence and manipulation, our greed and lack of compassion. We are ever-striving for connection with other humans, but so constrained by how we think, that we cannot enjoy the the moment as other creatures do. Can't I just hug you if I feel so inclined, enjoy that moment of connection? Not usually. Too much thinking - what does this mean, what if they think this or that, not appropriate, and on it goes.

Too much thinking ourselves into corners.

Have we forgotten a creature's basic instinct - perpetuation of the species? I dont just mean sex. A being that uses its brain to think so much can surely think more strategically about the perpetuation of the species. Yet we rape and pillage the resources of the earth with little consideration for the generations to come. Oh yes, we are exploring other planets, having given up on this one. Or perhaps I am just being too short-sighted - perhaps we are forward thinking, exploring options for when our sun dies in 30 billion years time.

On the other hand, perhaps we really are just creatures - past the prime of our world domination. Over-populated, too-successful, in a world of shrinking resources our instinct to keep going has become an individual instinct to survive, without consideration of others.

All very sobering. I'd like to think that we still strive for the connections and relationships that will redeem us. That we will use technology to satisfy our basic need for connection with others. That we will re-learn the art of feeling - through poetry, through walking slowly through the busy day, through running with our dogs, through living in the moment and opening our hearts to others, without thinking that perhaps we should not.


  1. Interesting questions. Feeling pessimistic today, so perhaps the following thoughts may have been more optimistic on a different, better day...

    I don't think that we will ever outgrow our animal natures or even come to terms with them.

    Whatever genetic mutations gave rise to our higher cognitive functions, these almost god-like abilites will not be put in service to ecology, compassion, connection, or a search for deeper, meaningful interactions, as much as they will be exploited for ever more ingenious weapons and the aquisition of wealth.

    Our two most primal drives: to survive as a species, and to survive as individuals. Art, poetry, quiet thinking about our place in the universe, these are secondary byproducts of the brain which developed to help us survive. In a world of beasts, famine and chaos.


  2. Thanks for the thoughts. Sometimes I think we are just poor silly creatures, who because of an evolved ability to contemplate and create, continue to fool ourselves into thinking we are better than the other creatures. We continually prove ourselves wrong.