We humans lead complicated lives. It’s the way we like it. It’s what our large primate brain has been honed for. It’s just that, well – it’s just that sometimes it’s so exhausting.
I can grasp (& I’m sure you can too) how this big brain thing happened over the 7 million or so years of our struggle for survival on the shifting forests & plains & lakesides & coasts of Africa (& later Eurasia)…I can grasp how over hundreds of thousands of human primate generations, random mutations enhanced our survival-based ability to obsess about complex relationships & build up our tech toolbox.
I can also grasp how our ancestors found it advantageous to more often waddle out of dwindling forests on two hind legs: all the better to find food on drier grasslands; all the better to smell & see other animals waiting to eat us; all the better to eat & carry fruit (& youngsters & eventually scavenged meat) along the way; & wow! -> less energy spent moving around meant more energy available for that growing brain of ours. I can grasp all of this with this big brain of mine. Together with an admittedly meagre ability to grasp how long a few million years is, I (as you know) unashamedly promote this fantastic account of our early stroll on the path to becoming brainiacs.
I marvel though at the youth of the human primate: life itself is way older than we are – about 3.5 billion years older, at least on this planet. Ergo, I ponder that maybe our youth is why our brains don’t yet adequately appreciate the art of being realistic.
Being realistic is not a highly regarded value in human culture. During our recent history (over the past 500,000 years or so), being realistic probably meant no meat for dinner – bummer! & even though we mostly survived on snails & sedges & snakes & shellfish (most likely gathered by females with babies & grandkids nestled in those handy forelimbs), our human disregard for boundaries helped us get to where we are today… plentiful & ubiquitous, delusional & hopeful, anxious & realistic.
& even though I’m one of those latter types, there’s a feeling of immense relief when this one-in-7-billion can manage to climb out of a deeply familiar but deeply unsatisfying neural groove in that messy brain of mine & burn down one of those boundaries. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I can almost feel the rest of my brain happily scrambling toward new, shinier pathways…the fruit trees just over the next hill! the newfound friend just waiting for a walking-date invitation! a new contract for the perfect project! Our unrealistic nature helps us keep moving on…& that’s (usually) a good thing.
So, here’s to burning the fence once in a while…
…& to zephyrs tickling music from weathered bamboo.
I get it. The unrealistic thing. Seems we humans swing between being realistic and dreamily ambitious. Conflict comes when we are not swinging together. Your wonderful writing helps me remember that we are programmed for a reason – like finding dinner- and that only a small part of our brains are modernly rational.
I always like how your essays set me to thinking, Linda!
In the link provided, the writer said “Being realistic comes with a sense of security, comfort, and a natural inclination to find the path of least resistance, discouraging risks.”
I think there is a difference between being “realistic” and being “rational.” Rational thinking is very much involved with evolutionary success; that is, observation of circumstances (evidence) and a choice made to act in the interest of the “security” and “comfort” he mentions. Plus, it always takes less energy to “find the path of least resistance,” and energy efficiency is what nature does, naturally.
That said, diversity is the spice of life, so tossing caution to the winds on occasion can be fun and rewarding. Still, I think I’ll climb over the fence, rather than burn it down. That way, in case I make an error in judgement, I’ll be able to backtrack :o)