Saturday, May 14, 2011

Some Room At The Table

Some Room At The Table


Note: Some Room At The Table is chapter four of my new book Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness. It is being serialized online for free. A complete index for all of the chapters: Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness


Some Room At The Table


Millions of years ago, when you and I shared a less inhibited childhood playroom with wheat, other grasses and insects, we had quite a lot in common. Seasons changed. Winds shifted, and some of us were blown off across the prairies, others into the hills and the waters.

There, to survive, our evolutionary mechanics taught us to make the best of our surroundings, gathering nutrients from the soil when we could, but also from the wind and water. We also found security in similar places. Sad to say, but we also learned to prosper from killing and eating other living things. Evolution geared us to use food strategies, and it created ways of having sex so exciting and rewarding we wanted always more. We helped make the “she and he” thing desirable, tilting the axis toward pleasure and distancing sex from procreation. Pretty nifty, penalty free.

We learned to hunt and plant. We learned that bonding into communities insulated us from some of fate’s crueler possibilities. Somewhere in there, we learned to observe and think, and we began to see how different it made us, a disadvantage and an advantage that continues to distance our species from the others.

We were now Human and began imagining ourselves at the top of evolution’s heap. Which, of course we were. Of the heap we were standing on, anyway. Later, we grew reluctant to let the arbitrariness of evolution claim so much of the glory, and we built ourselves quite a few supreme beings, parking them in the space frightening randomness once occupied. These gods, which we dreamed gave us an exclusive divorce from nature, weren’t consistent or especially reliable, but what the hell? They weren’t as arbitrary as evolution, and immodestly, they were ours. If we could invent them, we could selectively ignore their failures.

Our supreme beings are sometimes magnificent enough to inspire soaring tributes from giants like Johann Sebastian Bach. They can instigate actions we’d never seriously consider if suggested by another human, tossing virgins into infernos, for example, or the larger tragedies of ethnic persecutions. Our gods have taught us how to divvy up the world, the slices weighted by divine attributes.

We can sustain ourselves without food as we immerse ourselves in periods of contemplation, and we write heroic lyrics that pin others in darkened spaces for long hours, just listening. In masses of men and animals, we march a thousand miles to take by force land our supreme being told us was ours centuries before. We kill nonbelievers of all ages, committing otherwise unthinkable atrocities, in god-demanded thrusts of conquest.

We also imitate a god’s compassion, devoting lifetimes to comforting those we consider less fortunate. We pass fortunes to the needy whose salient attribute seems to be membership in the family of our god. We kneel, bow, face the sun and immerse ourselves in water in our efforts to make a personal god aware of our devotion. We further separate ourselves from nature with our insistence that a god or gods be responsible for starting, managing, encouraging, discouraging and generally maintaining it all. We’re too important to risk chaotic dangers and unpredictable change. There is a plan, some think, already played out in the past and waiting to be revealed in the future.

Some of us believe that passionately. Most of us say we do, oblivious of the implications, and some of us believe there is something there, for lack of a better word, that’s just too big and ineffable to define.

David Stone

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