Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Your Pliocene legacy translated.

At 30000 feet, it all looks very half-hearted, like a childs attempt at a town with wooden blocks on a huge landscape, humouring the caprice of mankind to control his world.
Whiteness has now engulfed the plane with a brilliance that causes me to squint.
Contravening thermodynamics, in a universe of clouds of dust and gas, accreted rocks, here there is a kind of order. Water vapour coalesces into clouds, decreasing in disorder.
Rocks once crushed together to make our Earth until the hot, heavy stuff mostly sank to the middle. But it's home. Solid ground. Against all the odds, we walk on it, or fly above it.

What would the painters of Lascaux make of this. A body and brain of the same pattern as theirs, sat in an aluminium tube so high up that the craft is a mere silver splinter in the sky, powered by inconceivable and invisible forces.
I sit and type on a tablet of solidified oil residues, formed from 200 million year old equisetums and melted and solidified sand.

And yet, i do what they did: I express, I define my concepts in a form to pass on to others who may see them and similarly understand.

A body honed by the need to gather berries, kill the occasional animal, fight, mate, survive in the wilderness, finds itself easily suited to "civilisation". This is no surprise, I suppose, since we designed it around ourselves.
And yet... it is so very different from the environment in which our form was developed. How do we operate here? In clothes, in boxes made of stone, on highways of unfathomable speed.
All with minds and bodies made to hide in bushes, chase antelope, run away from lions.
So suitable yet so different.
And how did civilisation change us? I mean, on the inside, in our brains?

Generations of men no longer needing to be big to provide, aggressive to survive. generations of women no longer needing to carry enough resources on hips and bellies to produce and feed babies.
And yet..
We prize muscles even now. We seek fertility without realising. The drivers are still there.
But what of our mental life? Are we changed? Was a set of characteristics bred that differed from those required to live in African bush 100,000 years ago? Has civilisation changed what we seek in a mate on a psycological level?
"Oh, i like a nice sense of humour" she says, looking at a pert male bottom.
Was a funny man so attractive when he was required to catch and butcher a buffalo? Or was Ug the chest beater more appealing when such tasks were necessary?

About to land now. I have to end here.


Rob Hopcott said...

Mmmm, I liked that.

You have an interesting way of standing outside the world and abstracting it to a completely objective level.

There seems to be a huge difference between human's technological achievements and their biological development.

I could never build the laptop I use or the car I drive.

If I was plunged back into the stone age, all the modern education I've had would be mostly useless to recreate either of these.

We each of us stand so much on the shoulders of others.

It's almost as if our society has a group intelligence way beyond our individual capacity.

As I said before, I'll be back!

Thanks for a great blog :-)

PerlNumquist said...

Yes, yes, YES! That's EXACTLY what I was trying to say! Civilisation and its artifacts are collective ventures! Even if I knew how to make a laptop in theory, I could not grow silicon crystals and make chips or refine oil to make plastic.
Absolutely spot on!