~ Marc Bekoff, The Emotional Lives of Animals
Once upon a time I was an anthropology major. A quirky little field of study that to this day shapes the way I think. The most profound discovery early on in my studies was this simple statement from one of my professors: The study of humans makes clear that there is no one right way to solve the "problem of living."
There are, in fact, so many it's mind boggling.
His point continues to be the framework from which I see most everything. It was liberating to hold such a view, to be able to look at behavior and beliefs with as little judgement as possible, especially as a freshman college student! I could observe so much more without jumping to a right-or-wrong point of view. Instead, I saw "different," "original," "interesting" and maybe even"shocking, but fascinating."
I didn't end up opting for a profession in anthropology. Although a wonderful professor took me under his wing my freshman year to groom me for a future graduate student, I couldn't see myself narrowing my focus of study the way one must to get advanced degrees. Frankly, anthropology expanded my worldview so largely, I knew that breadth of knowledge would be my pursuit -- not the depth of it.
And that's why I became a journalist and, for all intents and purpose, a Generalist with the capital G.
The long and winding road of my career has taken me through the fields of news reporting, mental health, higher education, medicine (primary care, sports, orthopedics, obstetrics and gynecology, and geriatric), youth development, disaster preparedness and response, and emerging infectious diseases.
The Emotional Lives of Animals, and it yanked into place threads from many fields I've dabbled in and studied, including my passion for dogs and mushing.
As I pondered Bekoff's point about the power of humans to affect the world any way we choose, I had to wonder how we got to this point, which is so far beyond the days when we had to worry about mastodons and being gobbled up by big hulking carnivores.
It's interesting to think that while humans are now at the top of the food chain in the grander scheme of things, having killed off or safely removed ourselves from environments with predators that can hurt us -- the large ones like bears, tigers, lions and such-- we have increasingly made ourselves vulnerable to the tiniest of predators.
|Haven't read it but I plan to!|
The human approach always seems to be first to wipe out our predators, rather than learning to live in balance with them. Why is that?
When you look at the natural world, it seems like nature finds a way to achieve balance and homeostasis. It's not as if plants and animals ponder how to reach this balance. It just happens. Or does it?
I know some of you will see this as heretical, but I've come to believe that humans are no more God-like than any other animal, and yet we, by virtue of our brain development over time, seem to have removed ourselves by and large from the natural order of things. In doing so, we've created damage. A LOT of it.
So, falling back on my original biological sciences/anthropological world view, I find myself with so many questions.
I have to ask whether this destruction is, in fact, the "natural order of things."
Is what we as a species choose to do simply part of the inevitable evolution of our planet?
How have we managed to drift so far away from our connectedness to all of creation, to the point of thinking we are the master creators.
How do we move ahead as a species?
Do we simply allow nature to take its course as we wreak havoc on our planet and ultimately on ourselves?
Is it arrogant to think any of us can stop this "progress" of humanity?
Is it really just incumbent on individuals to live their lives morally and hope we each regain connectedness to the natural world and make peace with it rather than trying to hold dominion over it?
Will the microbes and tiny creatures ultimately alter the course of human development? (They sure seem to be right now!) Will it be that the tiniest of predators ultimately hold sway over the world, rather than the creatures whose brain development has led to a belief that their species has the God-given right of dominion over all life on this planet?
|Ebola virus electron micrograph|
Is it possible that these tiny cellular forms that have organized themselves for so long now grasp on some level that the organism they've collectively empowered to function homo sapien has drifted so far from the natural order of things that they've got to do their part to restore a universal balance, as in, take us down a notch or two? (I know, talk about the ultimate conspiracy theory!)
And here's where all this "unsupervised thinking" leads me: that, ultimately, the best thing any of us can do is to quiet our minds and bodies, in meditation or prayer, and try to plug into to that universal energy, balance, order of things, God, if you will, and try remember that we're all in this together, we're all connected, and that the only way out is through, together.
And so with that peachy-keen thought, I believe I'll take a stroll through the beauty of creation still available to me. And pet my dogs.
May you, too, find such beauty.
Easter Island by goccmm
Wooly Mammoth by Johnny Lightning
Book cover of Wicked Bugs
Ebola virus from CDC
Ginsberg by Kathleen Kimball-Baker