Life, photos but not the universe

Every community should have some

Some things without which humankind would not be what it is today:






Some more things – of a different nature?






Yet more things – the difference being  in a whole order of magnitude






I’m not a scientist or a philosopher so my categories are very rough and ready.  I’m sure a trained thinker would order these things a little differently and more appositely but I liked them to be in fives.  I know there’s a fourth category which some would call God and some would call religion.  I might call it adaptiveness, or seeking understanding or something like that.  And a fifth called curiosity or deduction.  Or something like that.

But let’s not go into metaphysics or the deeper questions.

Just, at times, all the above have been considered essential.  At times, a nuisance.  At other  times, dangerous, even in some cases, wicked.

The only thing that binds all these inconsistencies together is humankind.


Oh well, let’s go into deeper questions after all.

I was thinking, many of the things which I and most of my friends and aquaitances, revile and loathe and fear, like violence, cruelty and callousness have been essential survival tools for humankind for millennia.  As the above listed things have been essential resources.  Compassion and imagination has also been an essential tool and resource for the growth of communities during that time and I strongly suspect that our ancestors indulged in these at least as much as we do both for pragmatic and comfort reasons.  Co-operation doesn’t work well without them and one of the things that humans do almost as well as animals, is co-operating.  Another is survival.

Another thing which we share with the rest of life on Earth, is a kind of fatalistic drifting up and down on the tides of bounty and deprivation which the Earth offers us.  As we multiply and are perhaps a little too fruitful, the uncountable billions of other people in the world merge into our perception of those tides.  We’re not really equipped to understand the concept of each one of those billion ‘others’ being an individual.  So the compassionate, imaginative and co-operative skills of many are being gradually eroded by sheer numbers.  And so are the skills of violence, cruelty and fear.  The impulses remain but the ability to use them appropriately becomes more and more diffuse and confused.

I suppose, being brought up with Desmond Morris and Darwin gives our generation a tendency to look at ‘the whole world’ with a degree of  detachment, somewhat dispassionately.   But confronted with an individual, we are still, suddenly awash in a sea of emotions and needs in which our navigational aids have become entangled with each other.

On the other hand, the sudden outburst of communication via the internet and the subsequent sense of  intimate connection to physical strangers in far off communities has given us the opportunity to see another view.  A view of ourselves on the other side of a mirror.  The view that used to tell us that we are we and other is other.  Across the sea the map used to say ‘here be foreigners‘ and they’re not a lot different from dragons.  Now the map says,’ here be you‘ and you look a lot like me.  And you can peer into the mirror looking for things to define the difference between you and the ‘other’ but the mirror only shows you yourself – just as it always did.

And perhaps it’s worth noting that most of us think we’re the only ones who are really trying to make the world a better place – even terrorists, thugs, murderers and all those ‘others’ to whom you and I are merely ‘other’.  A whole lot more of us are trying to keep the world as it was because we think it was better that way.

To go back to that list then.  I missed out communication.  Not intentionally – I just hadn’t thought about it.  Those tools and resources which we’ve had for a long time, together with communication (and probably a few other things I didn’t think of) haven’t made us all that special really.  Like birds, we flock and squabble and peck.  Like Apes, we gather and groom and chatter.  Like Elephants, we plan and remember and protect.  Like dolphins and whales we sing and talk across oceans.  We treat  the stuff on that list (as long we have access to it)  as part of the Earth’s bounty.  And we mistreat most of it too.  And yet, now and then, we use some of those things wisely and now and then we indulge in mighty outbursts of compassion, imagination and co-operation.

So it’s not all good, how we use our tools and resources and I don’t need to go into any detail about that,  but it’s not all bad either.

And since I am not particularly good at thinking, that’s where I give up and return exhaustedly (after so much thought) to the bounty of my own patch of Earth.

Well a borrowed patch from the Grand Onion Canal in December.

January 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 3 Comments