Wednesday, April 13, 2005

It's a Jungle in Here: Part I: Evolution Ain't What It Used to Be

Animals get a bad rap.

They go about their lives the way we ought to, obedient to survival in every moment, and in our arrogance, we disparage the utter purity and simplicity of that. We expend a terrific amount of energy resisting limbic good sense to prove how evolved we are. We defy natural rhythms and scramble telepathic waves with cellular towers and satellite dishes, and for what, the sake of being civilized?

"Wild animals are unpredictable," warn the experts. No they're not. They react. They react to danger, or a perceived threat. They react to hunger. They react to reproductive urges. And some of the more intelligent creatures, like cats, strategize and problem-solve. Humans, on the other hand, for all our civility and erect posture, exhibit alarming, and seemingly unprecipitated reactions to our environment.

No one knows why some people, with normal upbringing in healthy families, display antisocial behavior. No one can predict who's going to snap and gun down unsuspecting diners at the local McDonald's. And what about all the variants of sadomasochism we exhibit? Those adrenalin pumping activities ranging from scary movies and carnival rides to whips & chains and Russian roulette. We like to scare ourselves. We crave unpredictability.

On a scale of one to ten, one being the least predicable, how do we look to the saner members of the animal kingdom? My guess--somewhere in the negative double digits.

We have no idea why fellow humans deviate from societal norms. We don't understand this about our own species, so how on earth can we call other species unpredictable with a straight face? God, we're stupid.

Watching the news and reading report after report of random human on human violence, especially within families, I’m convinced that we aren't progressing, we aren't evolving, we're just a bunch of deviant freaks. Humanity is the sanitarium, the psych ward, of the natural world. Cats and dogs know this. Bears and cougars know too. We should really stop patting ourselves on the back for that. Really. Enough with the self-aggrandizement; we're just bipedal, glorified brain stems. That's all.

We're disassociative(in the mental health sense) water molecules dancing with lipids in a cosmic centrifuge, oblivious to the fact that we will be emulsified at some point, and all the trouble we’ve gone to to differentiate(in the egotistical sense) was pointless.

Because I've denied the animal I am at my core, I languish in that existential centrifuge, clinging to the edge, afraid of losing my individuality, but longing for community. An animal is at ease with both its oneness with the natural world, yet makes no apologies for standing its ground and marking its territory. A tiger neither dwells on the past nor frets about the future. That tiger lives in the space of a beating heart. It lives in the space between inspiration and expiration. This tiger doesn't require faith in a theoretical future, because it basks in the certainty of right now. The certainty of being alive, of being, is enough.

Part II Animal Guides: Living Authentically will post tomorrow.


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