Take it or leave it.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

ON HUMAN INVENTION

The first humans left the trees about 6 million years ago. For nearly 3.5 million years, nothing happened. Then stone tools were invented. Another half million or so years passed before our ancestors finally discovered fire. What else were they doing with their time? Chasing down food, and avoiding becoming food, sure. But they must have had a lot more spare time back then. Just to smell the flowers. There were many more breeds of roses in prehistoric times, you can be sure, before deforestation induced mass species extinction. Or just to delight in being. What we modern folks would call just chilling. Kickin' it. Remember that phrase? Hardly anyone uses it nowadays, since like the forest flora kickin' it has pretty much gone extinct. Gone in favor of networking and multi-tasking and outsourcing. Who cares if you're running into a wall or off a cliff, run as fast as you can seems to be the mindset. Unlike our ancestors. Abiding in secluded haunts, drinking from streams, eating shrubs and wearing the bark of trees. Their movie was the rising sun, and their symphony the sounds of nature. Talk about renunciates. Then again, what did Cro-Magnon man have  to renounce? The Spartan existence was the only way. These cave dwellers were all sages - when they weren't running from dinosaurs of course.


Unlike today. When we started drinking coffee - in the 9th century, which was also around the time we started shooting each other, thanks to the invention of gunpowder in China - things really got going. And in the last 100 years alone we have invented the television (1925), transplanted a heart (1967), walked on the moon (1969), invented the Internet (1980). Thereafter followed Facebook (2004) and the iPhone (2007) and the driverless car (2014). Good, because with Facebook and the iPhone, who has the time to drive?


Much of this information I pieced together from Time magazine, though you're probably too busy to read. Like, who has the time for Time. Put down your phone, close those other windows. Stop multi-tasking. Are you listening to me??? You say oh but I use my Twitter account for work, and I can't get by without email. Warren Buffett does. He's sent a total of 7 tweets and 1 email in his whole life, and he's the third richest person in the world, so there. Not that I'm celebrating making $70 billion (his net worth). That's all fine if it's your bag. So he doesn't have to worry about where his next meal comes, and he has enough to commit to giving 99% of his wealth to charity, but if I were him, those 700 calories worth of Coke consumed daily would be what's keeping me up at night. It's all about priorities. Where are yours?

All this invention has a price, and we forget about the downsides. Of electricity. And gunpowder. And TV. And pizza. Not to mention the ubiquitous gadgets we carry around with us. How much further will relentless progression go on? How much longer can outwardly directed attention drive us before we become starved in spirit or just destroy each other in an explosion that takes it all away and wipes the slate clean? They say this has happened before you know, numerous times. The Flood story is part of most every religion. Are we to be the next Atlantis? Is all this technology making the world a better place, or just more crowded, distracted and noisy? In the age of information overload, can stillness of mind even be achieved or did that go out the door when humans left the trees? Sloths stay put, and they look pretty peaceful to me.


Of course stillness can still be achieved. It is after all our nature. But it must be a personal choice, and you must do it yourself.

A few years back the tennis pro Serena Williams was fined for an outburst against an official. After being called for a double fault she marched over to the little Asian lady, pointed the racket at her and unleashed an angry barrage of verbal abuse. The official claimed our tennis darling threatened her life, which sent Serena into another tirade. The result was a fine of $80,000 and forfeiture of the game. Sounds like somebody needs to take a chill pill. Maybe she had too much coffee that day. Should we remind her it's only a game? Even better, maybe Serena should devote some of that time she spends whacking balls to watching thoughts, to meditation. She can learn from our friend the Dalia Lama, who meditates 6.5 hours per day. With only three hours on the courts, she has some time to spare. Just keep her away from coffee - and reruns of Parks & Recreation! That goes for you too. And me.

My long-winded way of saying always remember yourself.

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