King of the Forest, Part One

The spectacular, miraculous looking ways in which the human being can be evil doesn’t require a mad Creator or a plan no human can grasp, it’s genetics. That’s magic enough.

You reach for “strength” for aeons, you will amaze the other creatures with your strength, the giraffes have been reaching for the top branches for how long, a few million years? And honestly, I don’t think they’ve been quite as obsessive about it as we have about our . . . specialty. I always say “strength” – but today, it seems like “courage” would fit better.

Because I have the Wizard of Oz playing in my head.

How?

Genetics! What makes the aurochs into a cow?

Genetics! What makes the chimpanzee human now?

Genetics! What makes the giraffe as tall as a tree or makes the salmon traverse the whole sea?

Genetics! What makes the bear smell the falling leaf?

Genetics! What makes the tiny coral a reef?

Genetics! What makes your poor belly sore? What puts the “ape” in apex predator? What do I got it, but I want more?

Genetics!

I am sorry, for what it’s worth. Ha.

It can and does look bloody miraculous, have you seen what human dog partnerships can do, the speed of the viper strike, the hi-tech looking visual and colour displays of so many creatures, birds, fish, insects? One wants to declare that anything is possible, anything at all, simply from what we can observe today!

So I’m thinking, considering all this fantastic complexity, why not perhaps something from the dark side, perhaps inabilities that are also nearly magical in their improbability, things we are incapable of that perhaps amaze and surprise us. Honestly, it’s how I feel, combatting the idea of punishment, y’all just haven’t got the software support for “no punishment,” the whole world goes blank, deer in my headlights.

I’m currently reading a scholarly work many steps above my grades and the author seems to be taking on the same thing, breaking down the urge – Achilles’ urge, in the Iliad – to do something when a bad thing has happened. It’s about how grief drives the hero to slaughter, perhaps the Iliad is already an attempt to connect those dots, and this scholar is auditing that effort, but it’s sort of the same as being unable not to punish generally, I think we’re after the same thing, the same glitch in the human code that turns every detected crime into two crimes and turns murder into more murder . . . . and this is my answer.

Genetics! What’s a response you can’t explain or control?

Genetics! When is an individual only playing a role?

Now, I know how we hear this, and no, I’m not telling you this is what you are, because of your programming, because of all that came before, I’m saying this is what you are because this is what you want to be right now, and if you’re having second thoughts, think maybe we ought to be something else, I’m telling you: go for it! All you have to do is want it – well, maybe to want the right things, we need to understand some things too. But don’t follow your heart, not this creature’s heart – that’s what we’re doing now! Don’t practice selection and epigenetic activation for the job you have, practice selection and epigenetic activation for the job you want!

Ha. Fun.

So not a static genetics, not a “you’re born that way,” genetics, and not even a “you still have the chimpanzee in you,” genetics either.

That talk is the very opposite of evolution, it tries to say nothing changes, ever, when of course chimpanzees aren’t and weren’t ever the problem, it’s us, the new guys, and our new genetics that are responsible for the world we have today. Those are evolutionary Satanic Verses, when evolution becomes some evil Nature from the past again, our narcissism gaslighting us about the old world with the new words we taught it. Evolution as “human nature,” that is a reversal, that sort of discourse never learned evolution at all, hasn’t really processed it.

No, the point is, the giraffe has been actively reaching, not remotely simply existing in some sort of conformity with its Nature. The bear’s nose brain has been growing probably since the entire creature was smaller than that part of its brain now. Evolution means time plus desire make magic. We too have been active, have been actively chasing something, wanting something too, something it seems that chimpanzees lacked, and I think popular science is all in agreement, that something was group conflict, or rather, success in/survival from group conflict, and we have chased it perhaps from Lucy the Australopithecus to today’s human being, I wanted to say to the Universal Soldier.

I’m saying the one that wins/survives the group conflict, we want to be that; we are that because that is the goal. I feel that’s what evolution means, that if a thing exists, it’s because someone wanted it, someone chose it from the options available to them. I’m saying when you want to be the warrior, you get the war; and I’m saying, the things we want get us it – again, though, there’s a disconnect, of course, a complication, in that we are not fully conscious of what we want or why we want it.

No, it isn’t new or interesting or helpful to use the new words and talk about inherence or natures or any such old thing, but to say that because it is evolution it is no-one but us, we that are in control of our changes, we that choose from options presented to us when the environment changes. We may have used it badly, that is my thesis, but it is a transformative miracle, evolution, even selection, and it has brought us to this unlikely possible ending and so it can take us elsewhere also, anywhere. Again, it looks like magic, it can take a creature anywhere, given a desire, that is perhaps better to call a direction, and time. I mean, sure, we could take more responsibility, analyse and own our desires better. The giraffes had only that, a direction – up – and they changed radically to get there, several innovations. I don’t think we can say for sure that they didn’t have other options, a change of diet or something and that they didn’t actively also choose reaching higher over other paths. Why assume creatures fight evolution, kicking and screaming into the future? Perhaps the giraffes are as proud and as “I meant to do that” about their stature as we are about our dominance.

Or, more to my sort of point, perhaps they aren’t, perhaps it is a bit of an unconscious goal, perhaps they have an unstated, limitless goal of height that none of them ever feel they live up to, not so much a point of pride as a universally experienced failure – like us and our always reached for and never fully realized “strength.” That’s how a direction feels, a journey with no destination, right?

I sort of think our short term wants destroy our long term wishes, maybe that’s why the manipulative marshmallow test struck such a chord with us, we are stuck there in a much bigger way; it’s not a demonstration of a developmental stage for a child, but a metaphor for the human condition in this sense, that as a group we tend to eat the marshmallow in front of us and do not so much engage in long term trust projects?

More about an arrested stage of societal development than individual development.

I think this next section is a digression, even a derailment of this talk, but somehow unavoidable. Wish me luck, I hope to see you on the other side.

Jeff

Dec. 19th., 2021

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