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Monday, August 25, 2014

Ignore for the moment, the incessant call of the doomsday naysayers.

 I will admit that I do enjoy the role of the devil’s advocate. I do it so often that I do it without consciously thinking about it. It’s kind of a verbal exercise in which I make statements concerning things that are at the same time both factual and not entirely true. The goal of the exchange is to elicit a response an then perhaps  friendly debate.

 Last weak  as I was preparing to be away for several days, I had need to communicate some last minute instructions to my coworkers. After having written a fairly complex set of instruction to one particular coworker via email I asked if there were any questions I could answer before I go. In response Dana who sits beside me in the next cubicle posed a question. “What does it all mean?” To which I answered automatically, “To consume and to be in turn consumed”.  She responded with her usual sarcastic tone. “What about love?” I must admit I was uncharacteristically caught off guard.

 Days later while sitting in my beach chair by the Jersey shore my mind wandered back to this question. Gazing out along the black rock jetty I imaged a long ago time when life as we now know it began to flourish. Encrusted there upon a craggy spring-tide edge a rusting patina of bio-film held precariously. In those hard times had spontaneously arisen a fundament of a body.


              Roland Thaxter - Thaxter, R. Botanical Gazette 17(12):389-406 (1892

 Cells had differentiated perhaps by accident preserving resources in the process. Cells over generations continued to specialize in myriad experimental expression. In the process blind alleys and dead ends would be exposed and eliminated by natural selection. After a near infinity of trial and error a configuration akin to a system of tissues was achieved. A fruiting body  would then rise to perchance preserve its fragile survival until the hard times had passed. In Parallel we too must survive the rigors of this world. We however through the lenses of everyday life tend to be blind to the struggle.


 Animals have been documented by science to possess many amazing senses and abilities that far outpace our own. Our brains it would seem had needed to reorganize with nature selecting to replace or abandoning others deemed less valuable survival mechanisms. Through some chance genetic bottle neck the landscapes of our minds were altered. A race in tune with the well fare of its kind created a new way of life in which we could sense for the first time our essential oneness with others. 


Valuable senses were lost in the process. Dull to the world around us we are surrounded instead by a ring of family bound by love. It was perhaps on the edge of a sea not unlike this one where our ancient ancestors were busily collecting crab and fish first felt these budding emotions. They in time would become so tightly bound to our new way of life that they became integral to it. It was then that to protect and care for each other went from a weakness to strength.

In the breadth of time on Earth in which life has existed what we think of as purely human emotions are relative newcomers. In comparison within the billions of years prior to the advent of our line life’s only goal was survival.  The first order of life did so by, consuming the abundant chemical and solar energies that were so readily available. As competition grew fierce an arms race was triggered in which it was far more economical to let someone else do their work of collecting energy for them. This way of life persisted as the primary mode of existence onward up until the end of the last ice age.

If you imagine these ephemeral ideas such as the emotion of love as being creations of the sentient mind or recognized from the primordial wellspring, either way these notions are new to us. So why then do we insist on placing them squarely at the top of our existential spectrum? It is I think not merely the fact that this is a human-centric world. Can it be that simple that the desire to love and be loved merely a mechanism through which we by extension increase our genetic survivability? By recognizing the essential oneness with those of our kind we have gained a powerful tool that allows us to more easily able to share and exploit common resources. Enhanced over millennia there traits have been ingrained into every aspect of culture. When all is said and done the equation To consume and to be in turn consumed, still rings true. It is also true however that Together we survive and alone we perish.

When looking out upon the roiling sea I am reminded of when in my days of youth how complex it all seemed. Through the eyes of a young artist I was obsessed with trying to capture in graphic form what I was experiencing. With my limited abilities I could not achieve anything approaching a facsimile of experience. It would take me a few years of trying before I realized that such a feat was unachievable. 

Our experience of the natural world through our senses has been altered to where we can only reference it through abstract patterns. We must infer meaning of imagery through the sieve of the mental and cultural images we have already created. This is the nature of Art and this is why it is so important to us. It is our nature then to weave from these emotions a landscape of connections.  Despite the incessant call of the doomsday naysayers there is one unavoidable fact. Never before in all of the history of our species have we lived in an age of such abundance. Take a moment now and again take note of it.

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