Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ideas and Antibodies

Think back, if you will, to when we salamandered forth out of the primordial soup to become underfootlings of T-Rex, and the Mastodons. By the time we left the jungles and knuckled out onto the great plains, we had become quite the organism.

Our physical characteristics were adapting ever so gradually to the routine of our existence. Our cellular makeup was like a laboratory of invention, finding solutions for the dangers that faced us. Along the way, advanced life had developed ocular facilities, and the phenomenon of vision, as a invaluably efficient and secure way of navigating our environment. Then maybe we began growing eye lids, and lashes to protect that sense. Down the road, fingernails to protect the phalanges, the thumb as an adaptation... We were solving problems related to mortality. All evolution is a means of preserving or extending life expectancy. It is something innate in our very cellular composition. Even the most microscopic bodily functions are concerned with self-preservation. White blood cells and antibodies are the solution to infection or viruses. Foreign bacteria are recognized and preemptively annihilated by antibodies matched to the task. like little soldiers at war with invading forces.
As these highly complex organisms, the human species established itself as top predator on Earth. We overcame our environment. Our "inferior" ancestors continued the species by seeking shelter from the elements, from the dangers of large predators, etc. A subsequent generation was able to conceive of, and build shelters. Yet another utilized this ability to construct habitats convenient to food sources, to water, away from the hunting grounds of other predators. We moved from the jungles to the plains, where we developed the science of cultivation, and the art of the hunt. The development of tools and weapons ensuring more safety, more respite from harsh conditions. We were outsmarting the seasons and the saber-tooths. Language was accelerating at an exponential rate: from "want (food, fire, sex, etc)" we moved onto and the ability to start a political system. Tribes became communities with a hierarchy of intellect, instead of physical ability. The evolution of language was as much a survival mechanism as the immune system. Language was a tool which took these separate beings, the members of a population, and reconnected them as if they were fungus with a common root system, or fish or fowl that move in schools and flocks, like frogs or fireflies that keep in touch with grunts and winks. Territorial pissings being the passive aggressive communication of loners, like wolves, and the nattering and cooing language of lovebirds being the other extreme... Language was all around us. We needed to evolve beyond.

I think the first words were onomatopoeia. But it is quite likely that the first word was actually "ouch".
It was probably first uttered accidentally right after some other accident, and it just fit. From there it must have progressed something like 'it' 'that' 'eat' 'this' 'sex' 'hush' 'sleep' 'me' 'you'... 'kill' 'take' 'RUN!' 'rock' 'trap' 'dog' 'poo-poo' 'beetle' 'bee' 'fungus' 'swine' 'tasty' 'mine' 'lawsuit' 'boat' 'hell' 'boss'....

Before you know it, we have a massive exchange of ideas, and a mass of bodies in some level of synchronicity, like stem cells coordinating the construction of a baby's nose in the womb, or army ants digging to china. It was the ability to share ideas, and to expound upon experience which allowed us to become the advanced beings that we like to think we are today.

But at the same time, these ideas have become routines. We have mindsets, we have schools of thought, we have laws and statutes, and faux pas, and taboos. We went from everything being relevant, to the idea that some things are best left unsaid. Trends became societies, opinions became cultures, and cultures began censoring opinions. Now we have organized religions that are as much in opposition toward their neighboring religions as hutus and tootsies waiting for an excuse to hack each other apart as if they were simply a physical manifestation of the concepts and ideas they represent. Not to mention the cold war, and countless other open displays of distrust and disdain.

And then there are your crazy, misanthropist types.  .... ahem.

What is interesting to me, is how words and ideas seem to have taken on the exact same characteristics of  blood. When an idea that is foreign is expressed, it is shot down with words. As if it were poison, and we have the antidote. Our mindsets have become the new realm of defense mechanisms. As we mature, we grow "thick skin", so that we aren't as emotionally vulnerable to the harsh capabilities of words. But  ideas can creep into our minds, just like viruses into the bloodstream. And so we have developed vocabularies of words that are meant to attack those ideas before they reach the heart, the brain, the soul. We are immune to outside ideas.

How many cavemen do you think were killed over disagreements? I imagine the knee-jerk answer is "a lot", because the idea is that they were barbaric, simple and immature. But when you think about it, probably a lot more human beings have been killed in the past couple generations over disagreements than may have even existed in our concept of what "caveman" constitutes. How did we become so closed minded? Monkeys killing monkeys over territory, resources, etc. I guess I can accept. But have we devolved to the point that we kill each other over ideas? Are we "forward thinkers" if we refuse to think about the ideas of others? Have we got all the answers? are new ideas, or ideas which modern society has branded as archaic, or barbaric or unrefined so VERY threatening that we have to shoot them down on an individual basis? Are we becoming a species of "backward thinkers?"

I do my fair share of shooting down ideas, and yes, I'm going to try to justify myself.

I feel that I do it in the name of forward—or at least "free"—thinking. I feel like as a human race we are so incredibly separated from that cooperative, biological sensitivity that language was developed to facilitate, that if we continue as we are, we will bring about our own self-destruction. Why is there such poison spread throughout the whole of human existence? marriages are torn apart by lack of communication. Countries are divided. Living human beings, and their bodies, are obliterated because of differences of opinion, or religion, or skin color, or social class. can we not transcend these things by simply opening our minds? To agree to give each other not only the benefit of the doubt, but the space and freedom to express their ideas, and themselves, without judgement.

We can do it.

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