I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Humans are pretty amazing, but we’re pretty much monkeys in shoes.
It probably wouldn’t be good for us to return to the lifestyle our ancestors had. It wasn’t more ‘wholesome’ than what we’ve got now. It was hard, and tragic, and confusing. Infant mortality, famine, predators, insularity, brute strength being the rule of law, vulnerability to the elements – none of those would improve our quality of life.
I do think that we’ve gone too far in the other direction, though, and I see that mostly as the fault of capitalism. You don’t need your house or your skin to be 99.9% free of bacteria, for instance. Most bacteria are benign. Some are beneficial. And while some are harmful, killing off most of them leaves only the strongest alive, which allows them to pass on their genes. It wasn’t science that sold you the idea that you should always be clean enough to perform emergency thoracic surgery on a stranger. It was ads for cleaning products.
I’ve also been spending a lot of time with kids lately, and it’s been pretty liberating. As adults, running is something we do for exercise or in an emergency. Kids run because they like the feeling of running, or because they’re excited to get somewhere. As adults, we ignore things that interest us because we tell ourselves we don’t have time to stop, or we would look weird. Kids want to stop to look at things, feel them, smell them, wonder aloud about them.
And while that can make things tricky when you’re trying to make it somewhere on time, or when what they want to touch is a bit of half-rotted rabbit guts, curiosity is a beautiful part of our nature. It’s kind of sad that the pressure to fit in (and by doing so, stay in the tribe) makes us control that impulse to investigate.
So here’s a poem about the effort we make to set ourselves apart from our history, and convince ourselves we’re somehow superior to other life-forms.