Was It Evolution?
Display of Skulls Demonstrating Human Evolution
Was It Evolution? is the twelfth installment in the free online serialization of my book, Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness
What’s next for evolution when a community conquers the challenges hovering around and lurking inside, the great mass of them anyway? It weakens. It must, just as river slows when it’s banks are breached or an athlete drops out of training after the season ends.
Without pressures, the communal environment becomes a gym without resistance equipment where everyone sits around sharing nutrition drinks and telling stories, aimlessly imagining it will be enough, but not caring much either. Some members get up and get on the treadmill or the stationary bike because life without meaningful contrasts just feels shitty.
Others invent or have dangers fed to them, neither of which fulfills. Many scramble for “meaning,” a nebulous term of zero relevance when survival is in question. To want survival confirms the acceptance of “meaning,” even if the terms aren’t clear. We want to live for something, whatever it is.
This is what the world we are overpopulating today looks like. In other words, too many people idly scratching their nuts and searching for meaning is a bad sign. It proves we’ve run out of worthwhile tasks.
Populations increase because growth yields raw power and extends chemical roadmaps into future generations, but it’s probably power that matters most in any immediate way. Replicating DNA is crucial and dependent on the safety of community.
The desire that keeps complex creatures pounding away carries with it a profound sense of incompletion initiated as the first simple cells divided. They say that love makes the world go around, but that’s not quite right. Desire for love makes the world go around, and the chances for that desire ever being successfully answered are, if not impossible, remote beyond calculation.
Nature does not allow do-overs. That you can never start over is a truth sorrowfully embedded in every human cell. Are we becoming aware of this, that physical completion is not possible? Has that awareness sparked a wave of spiritual alternatives in which love is an ill defined code word? That’s what I believe to be true. Here’s why.
At a time in history when our ancestors gave up the safety of caves and began swarming the world as hunter gatherers and, later, farmers, the planet we conquered had fiercer and better equipped predators.
Big cats and slithering reptiles threatened humans who, taking guidance from wolves, began collecting in packs, enhancing both protection and food gathering. Swollen rivers, fire and earthquakes destroyed unpredictably.
Disease devastated migrating human bands with an unseeable punch of carnage. As territories were staked out and populations differentiated, enemies were created among ourselves. Dangers vivified life within and around us, forcing us to stay alert and restless. Our eyes were open, our hearts pounding, muscles tensed.
Overcoming threats was rewarded with expanding populations and safer, healthier communities. The story of civilization is one of triumph within nature, the marshaling of intelligence and imagination in the discovery and defeat of chaotic native environments.
What threatens us now? Not much. Incidents so trivial we demand that they be blown up out of proportion to keep us awake are common. We are so devoid of real things to fear that dramas have to be invented to keep our brains alert.
Can you imagine the waste of good time a reality show might have seemed a century ago, even if one could’ve been conceived? Our basic need to be rejoined has been so diluted in failure that the basic tools, love and marriage, are pale reminders of powers once held.
No wolves prowl our borders. Marauders are not sweeping south out of Bavaria to abolish civilization. Tension for survival without enemies has to be quelled with drugs, overconsumption, and diversion. We are idling in evolutionary place, faking motion to keep our energies at room temperature.
The evidence is clear enough. The increasing size of human bodies in the most advanced cultures, coupled with a decrease in muscle, looked at objectively, resembles a massive corporal bottleneck. No gases are rising to push us forward and no dangers loom to prompt aggression. What, then, do we do?
We make things up for momentary fixes. We fantasize about the mass suicide of nuclear war, and some are turned on by grisly end of the world scenarios, as if such an event might be worth watching. Our news shows have become so corrupt that no serious person watches them for information, unless it’s enlightenment about what the manipulators of public awareness are up to lately.
(Today, they are vigorously trying to make viewers think real choices are made in political elections.)
Networked sitcoms and dramas blossom with crippled characters developed as icons that hook stagnant watchers with reflective identity. Lives without risk are created that allow the illusion of danger to heighten instinctive urges. A tone of individual degradation is everywhere. Soulless icons patrol TV land.
Reality shows are worse because they’re more raw but just as rehearsed. The vicarious thrills are more accented. It’s a fix. For a little while, we can be primitives, without risks or results that need to be lived with after.
Although average television viewing is creeping up toward five hours a day for every American adult, it’s no longer true that nearly all or even most of it happens in prime time. With the addition of hundreds of channels through new technologies, viewing has extended into the strange, after midnight hours when screens once were silenced.
Many viewers are sated by old shows, sparked by nostalgia over lives lost. Some extend the weird addiction of mall shopping to channels that offer nonessential merchandise twenty-four hours a day. Distraction and detached experience are flavors of the day, every day.
Recently, I watched a pair of cop dramas that wedged intense blocks of teleplays between commercials. I was surprised at how deep into obscene violence producers were now taking viewers to keep them stuck to the screen.
My last exposure to crime shows went back to Telly Savalas as Kojak and Peter Falk as Columbo when there was still a smidgeon of character in the leads. In contrast, I saw a more imagination invested in the crimes and less interest in building characters. The stars were deboned, stick figures dependent frequently on appearance without substance, script readers.
The crimes were garish and extreme. After an episode featuring dock workers being crushed beneath heavy metal plates, disfigured beyond autopsy, I wondered what next horror Americans would demand to keep them entertained. Then, I swore off these shows forever. Although I’ve read about them and seen ads, it’s hard to imagine what a reality show must be like.
My guess is that, invoking feigned verisimilitude, they give viewers less complicated access to the vicarious lives being cooked up as their main courses.
Family Guy Peter v. Chicken
Maybe I shouldn’t focus so much on TV with so many other signs of demise fertilized in our culture. Riding the New York City subway recently, the other passengers and I were exposed to a public service announcement about staying alert for evidence of terrorism.
Such clues as packages abandoned on a train should send us scurrying to an MTA employee to make a report. This, although no terrorist has taken advantage of the relative ease it would take to blow up a rush hour train and send tremors of real fear through New York and the rest of the country.
Authorities thump their chests over the capture of an attempted terrorist in Time Square, an agent acting on behalf of Al Qaeda who, after weeks of intensive training in Pakistan and months of planning could not successfully explode a car or even come close to hiding his identity. We’re expected to fear half-assed, ill-trained incompetents and others who still live in caves and under tents.
A sign on the advertising band along the top of the train further warned us to keep our electronic devices out of sight as they were prime targets for thieves. In twenty years of riding the subways, thousands of trips at all hours of the day or night, I have yet to witness anyone steal anything or even a physical confrontation more complex than a couple of frustrated men in suits pushing and growling while squeezing in thorough a congested sliding door.
Not content to leave it at that, the MTA issued an additional warning about people with flus and other infectious diseases getting on the trains. I’m sure somewhere on the train they’d posted a warning about the risks in holding doors open or going onto the tracks to retrieve lost valuables.
They used to have one that wagged it’s finger at riders who casually leaned on doors while in transit, as if falling out of them happened every day. Or ever. Management’s greatest fear seems to be that we will lose ours. We might not need the embrace of their security so much.
Although they’ve toned it down and the gunboats have largely disappeared now that a decade has passed since the World Trade Center attacks, the New York City Police Department still keeps a few speedy gunboats racing up and down the East River as if daring Long Islanders to attack.
These are augmented by a collection of helicopters patrolling from above. In our local subway station, bored officers leaf through newspapers in booths at both ends where tunnels expand into platforms.
Your tax dollars at work, reading the Post.
Is it any wonder so many people are turning to love, oneness, transcendence and holistic spiritual cures? They’re bored with fear and hungry for nicer stimulation.
Was It Evolution? is the twelfth installment in the free online serialization of my book, Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness (Click the link for an index of every chapter to date.)