I can recall as a child sitting in a classroom and day dreaming as I watched a neighborhood dog outside the window do what dogs do best – run and play. I also recall that I would gladly have traded places with that dog where I could be outside enjoying myself rather than being burdened with information that was always destined to do little more than fill the void until something better came along. Is it not the subconscious desire of humans to escape the world they have created mired in conflicts of their own fantasizing?
As humans have evolved from the primordial slime we once inhabited we have gained an advantage over the other species that essentially gives us great power over them and in most cases, our environment. An advantage some have not taken responsibly.
Some will attribute the development of an opposing thumb as leading the way to human primacy, making it easy to grasp tool-like objects, and form images and edifices that aided in developing culture. Others will say yes, this achieved much in our evolution but it was our complex brain that lifted humans to the top of the food chain. But I would add one final component to our climb from wigglers in the mirky mire of prehistoric times to the vast urban civilizations of the 21st century.
Without the capacity to ask the questions like How and WHY, the human animal would likely be only slightly better off than other herd animals they shared this earth with millions of years ago. And I am want to find hard evidence to suggest that such a condition would be so awful. We are always so amazed at how much we have achieved yet remain essentially unhappy and unfulfilled.
“It is [the] ‘thirst for reasons’ that is the source of the ideology that solidifies behavioural patterns of discrimination and cooperation but also of the ideology of rebellion, subversion and resistance.” – Nick Hadjigeorge
Lower species of animals, and I use that term lower respectfully, don’t ask why their habitats are destroyed by nature. Similarly they can’t distinguish between man-made hazards like the BP oil spill and Patriot Coal’s slurry spill in West Virginia’s Kanawha River. They’re not curious as to why or how tornadoes and hurricanes devastate their homes, nor do they ponder the violent eruptions of volcanoes and earthquakes. They react out of fear to such cataclysmic events, not bewilderment. The primal instinct of fear enables them to survive as best they can by running away or hiding from these threats.
But not the human animal. At least not entirely. Sure, we too depend upon fear to survive, but it is the ability to ask how and why that tries to avoid or prevent any future threats that separates us from the wild beasts of the field and forest. Sadly it is also this proclivity that creates states of mind and environmental conditions which ultimately lead to greater conflict and greater threats, i.e., transitioning from an agrarian way of life to an industrialized society.
So the first time someone contemplated the notions of how we got here and why we exist, a stream of thought began that has to this day not been fully answered. And perhaps it never will. But because someone asked, and Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking were not around at that time to answer that question, we were left with what the mind could contrive then – an anthropomorphic array of god-like characters inhabiting domains that existed in our wildest dreams. The plausibility of deified creatures was easy to grasp back then and much simpler for nomadic hunters and gatherers than wrapping their mind around concepts of the Big Bang theory. None-the-less, a fallacious conclusion was drawn early in human history that has created devastating consequences ever since for all species as well as the planet we inhabit.
Complex cultures have evolved from these ancient views and have now become institutionalized as if the knuckle-draggers who first proposed such explanations had it right from the git go. To wit we have devoted much energy building monuments to these apparitions, complex philosophies to rationalize them, and organized large-scale genocide to kill off those who simply didn’t buy into each’s explanation regarding the how and why of life as they saw it.
Now it’s not my intent here to offend people who have become steeped in one version of how we got here and why we exist over any other, or to question the existence of a some sort of being out there that gave us this life which has led us to ask how and why. I have at times, in my own life, in quiet moments of reflection – stoned and straight – felt an unseen presence that seems to put me at ease about many of the little things I let weigh too heavily on me.
Were such inward revealing moments similar with others in human history? Did they ultimately carry their inspirations beyond the self-gratifying sensation I limited to myself, formulating details and devising rituals that ultimately gave us the elaborate faith systems like Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Orphism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, to name but a few isms? Even the newer versions like Mormonism and Scientology have taken these moments of self-reflection and allowed their inner voice to take the earliest considerations of how and why to a whole other level. How much better off would the world be if woodgate-ism had sprung from my uplifting soliloquies years ago?
It’s hard to see it now but the why and how of our existence, innocently inquired so many centuries ago, has evolved to insufferable levels. It IS all about evolution too. Our universe and all that it entails is and always has been a dynamic force, not an inert creation. Nothing is really stagnant and trying to make it so only creates barriers that people have to jump over to proceed down the road to the future. We either hate change or we’re tentative about it, but it is inevitable and asking why doesn’t always ease the pain of change. It’s in our DNA, perhaps regretfully, to evolve and in so doing there is the belief that we will discover even greater insights that are supposed to lead us ultimately to a source that will answer that age-old concern of how and why we came to be.
But what if our evolution process stopped at that point that left us pretty much as hunters and gatherers. What if we never really developed a sense that gave a big shit about tomorrow, needing only to live for today? How much better off would we be? We would definitely not be troubling ourselves with such inane questions like “why are we losing gum?” or “how long will Justin and Jessica stay married?”
Our constant inquires to probe deeper and deeper into the mysteries of life and searching for ways to live more independently of each other may have given us some of the creature comforts we think we cannot endure without, like toilet paper and social media. But it has also fostered cultural animosities based on whose god was more superior or conditions that threaten civilization arising from our over use of fossil fuels.
After all, are not most of our efforts today attempts to escape the complexities of life where our labor benefits us less than it does “the man”? We engage in more make-work than life’s essentials because of a consumer economy that relies upon making things and the money to buy that next new object we think we can’t live without.
Sure there are marvelous wonders that humans have created from asking how and why like poetry, pizza and plumbing. But will they last from our inordinate obsession of having more than we need or the planet can supply, or before we wipe each other out from the belief that only a chosen people can dictate how we should then live. Who knows? But I’d be willing to bet my retirement income that when humans are near extinction, because of our excessive consumption habits sustained by a finite, carbon-based energy supply, some may still not understand how, but all will ask WHY?
But our fate has been sealed and yet here I am some 50 plus years later from the time I was that kid watching the carefree dogs out of a school class window, still tripping the light fantastic. Perhaps if we survive and somehow come out on the other end with a second opportunity to prevent the mistakes of the past we could establish priorities by asking HOW can we peaceably co-exist with each other and WHY can’t we share the earth’s bounty that actually belongs to us all anyway?
And we should shoot the first son-of-a-bitch between the eyes who objects on the grounds of what’s in his or her best self-interests. Or at least make them go to the back of the cave and scrawl one hundred times on the walls, “No person is an island and we do not live in a vacuum.”