i just read a blogworthy sentence in the december 2008 Harper’s findings, which is my favorite part of the magazine. it used to be harper’s index near the front, which – some months – would be the only page in the magazine i read. then i found the Findings on the back page, and my heart leapt. the conclusions, the minor benchmarks of science and math, the accumulation of research of the sort i would never do, as it takes years and degrees (and i have no intention of spending the former to get the latter).
at some point i realized that i couldn’t find any sources for the findings, no name of who collected the information, they could be made up and i would still believe. i like to imagine that collector in a trench coat, sidling up to secret laboratories with a notebook, flipping through files with a camera hidden in his/her watch, submitting each month’s findings as a bullet-pointed handwritten list.
often the findings give me hope, or at least an explanation for some illogical behavior i observed myself or other humans engaged in. but this one…:
“a prominent geneticist concluded that human evolution has ended.”
i didn’t think this was possible. evolution is the only exit strategy i believe in! the idea of being stuck with this many arms and this pattern of behavior is mindnumbing. if we cannot change at the gene level, then my whole language for learning and changing has to morph. is the gene level where we advance our capacity to emote? does compassionate behavior evolve over time? that is, do living creatures learn to be more compassionate, more accommodating?
our story since our nights in the caves has been one of establishing territory, and then spending our lives protecting or expanding that territory. but i thought that was a temporary calling. i thought at some point we would start to see earth as a only a starting point, a galactic womb, that we were Octavia Butler’s ‘earthseed’. and that we would have to evolve in certain ways in order to make it possible to go into the rest of the universe. alongside my dream for us to begin to see each other as fundamentally valuable (which would literally be like an On switch at the molecular level, jolting us out of the darkness of competitive mindless accrual), i’ve envisioned the addition of capabilities in our anatomy that make us opt in and out of gravity, or have an expanded ability to experience very high or very low temperatures, or a knowledge in our hearts of how to process the vast matter of space as if it’s breathable air.
the popular or experiential education models i engage in have always been grounded in the idea that reflecting and learning wasn’t just tied to things we already knew, but to learning in ways that expanded the knowledge of the collective, building off the wisdom of ancestors, towards the great discoveries of the future. if human evolution has ended, if this is it…
well it would account for that funny feeling i get sometimes, when it becomes apparent that a person or group of people is reverting to the lowest common denominator as a mode of bonding, i.e. racism that allows patriotism and the sense of belonging to a set of ideals (even if those ideals never manifest, i do write this as an american after all). or that other feeling that there is nothing new under the sun.
i have scraped myself out of that hole of meta-familiarity with the cycles of life by remembering that the internet came into existence in my parents’ lifetimes, and so i can at least be patient and creative because something i cannot possibly yet imagine will most likely change my world completely before i die. but assuming something is evolutionary because it is fast or easy or awesome might be my error…maybe the internet has only made us lazier, and less likely to evolve! what i have experienced as a different way to defy time and physical constraints in terms of communication has perhaps begun our process of devolving, our bones forgetting how to survive, our hands and spines shriveling into new shapes, running without purpose or distance, our memories and eyesight deteriorating, even our language reduced 2 tha shrtest pssble thng u cn txt.
this one line makes me rack my brain for evolution stories – we crawled out of the muck, went through an awkward monkey phase, and developed a capacity for reason instead of flying. birds share the bone structure of some small dinosaurs, and when certain frogs are left in a monosexual environment they develop a skill for immaculate conception (makin’ babies minus all the fun part). maybe our species just isn’t up against the wall of extinction yet.
perhaps its because we treat every sort of different human like a mistake, and it’s stunted our cellular creativity. perhaps our concepts of normal and beauty have convinced our genes we are not interested in evolving anymore.
the only way i can read this sentence as uplifting is if the “human” aspect is seen as a flaw, or the distinct characteristic of repeating mistakes – with mistakes being grand things like war, domination, nation building, jealousy. if we’re “only human, born to make mistakes,” then i can let it go. so human, as a distinct species, has reached its endpoint, and now the next evolution will be to shed the useless tendencies which only lead to our ultimate self-extinction. and a new species is set to emerge from us – enlightened in some way, bound by new rules. yes maybe we are the matter for something utterly different to come forth, butterfly style, a new word for a new DNA, cocooned in this moment after crawling around for years on 100 tired legs.
human could then be a term like limbic, a phase of development we move through, post reptilian, post-mammalian, carried in us but not nearly all of the brain, and we move to accessing 50, 60, 80% of our brains, the next species focused on completely different experiences.
i can get with that.
on a much less geeky level, i took some friends to Butta tonight, the oakland convergence of lgbtqwoc. the level of grinding and popping and push-up bras and stud posturing and winding hips and role play and role reversal and spilled drinks is truly intoxicating, and for a few hours there is a completely merged space where class walls fade away, everyone in an undulating mass, massive butch, femme and everything-in-between-and-beyond smiles in all directions, beautiful gay men deferring in corners. whenever i am in this space, or another space categorized by a gender challenging, sexuality-embracing post-normality, i think that we are not done evolving, because we still think the world is a this-or-that world, black-or-white, male-or-female, us-or-them. its such an untruth, its such a vibrant gray world, all things can coexist in constant transformation. the biggest threat to our survival is not external, its the internal surrender of the knowledge that humans are complex, that all things physically and emotionally possible in all of humanity are possible in each human, given the proper accepting space.
if we were an accepting species, then we would not war with each other over difference. knowing the pain it is to Be all that you are, the lifelong journey of developing belief systems and survival skills and a tendency towards joy, we couldn’t begrudge another life, couldn’t take life, couldn’t judge so much. in an accepting world – even a temporary one – it becomes easy to see how beautiful everyone is, which unilaterally improves the experience of life.
i am not a geneticist, but i have experience of genes, and i have something in me still yearning for the next internal, psychological, spiritual evolution.
or maybe that’s just the feeling i get when i dance.
i cooked a lot of carrot soup today, as i hold a dated belief that it will help me regain my 8 year old 20/20 vision. its delicious.
tomorrow is MLK, Jr day, and i’ve so far seen over 20 different groups claim their work is the continuation of king’s ideas. was he a genius, or are we taking him out of context…after all, radical agape is hard to find anywhere right now. perhaps tomorrow i will write on that.
no promises, i promise.