Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Child of Grace

Original grace, not original sin.

What a twisted concept to believe that children are born into sin and that someone 2000 years ago died on their behalf. That’s a hell of a burden to start someone out with, don’t you think? Where did that bizarre notion originate? I find it much more likely that children are born pure and are shaped by their environment. If they turn out not so good, who ya gonna call? And what are ya gonna do about it? Seems fruitless to blame the kid. Either he/she started out with less than a full basket of eggs or some got cracked along the way.


A species divided against itself is a contradiction of nature; it cannot last. The idea that we are any less than one species is, not only false, but surely temporary.

The human species is remarkable, not for its warfare or destructive capabilities, but for its capacity for cooperation. Aside from ants, termites, and bees, not many animals are capable of organizing thousands of its members for a single task. The world as we see it today is a marvel of human cooperation, voluntary or otherwise.

Which is only to be expected. Any species is, essentially, a DNA stream broken into millions of components. Components, yes, but still integral with the whole and not separate from it. Individual species units are more like detached toes than self-sustaining entities. It is the ultimate goal of any species to further its entire self, not just parts of it. It expects losses, which is part of the reason it divides into so many units, but it doesn’t encourage them. In the main, species devise ways of cooperation and social interaction between members; to do otherwise would be inviting disease into the organism. Species do seem to foster competition between members, but not usually to the death, and usually, apparently, more to keep the species vigorous rather than complacent in the quest for food and staying alive. Competition, apparently, is a way to test the viability of mutations. In the end, the only thing that wins is successful breeding over generations. It’s not who wins the lion’s share that’s important; it’s who remains to have any shares after the dust has settled. The survivors are the winner, no matter how they got there.

The recognition of “oneness” appears to be spreading across the globe. My kids and my kids’ kids are okay with the world. They aren’t worried about being taken over by anyone other than too many people; and I try and convince them that that’s not a problem. (Okay, that’s not entirely true; they are concerned about mega-corporations.) It’s not that they’re oblivious to color, but rather that they can’t see reason to rank sunsets versus sunrises. We’re a family where you can be anything you want except a Republican.

And we’re not unusual, much less unique. Granted, that may not be true if you’re living in Dallas or Indianapolis, but it’s certainly true in this part of the world; and if the polls are correct, it—this wanton permissiveness—seems to be creeping into the young everywhere.

I’m thinking, maybe that overpopulation had something to do with it. Certainly, moving into cities did. Rural divisions break down in the city. Once you hit Portland, we don’t care if you’re from Montana or Iowa. we really don’t. And soon, no one does. It’s a world-wide phenomenon.


It would seem that overpopulation rarely annihilates a species. More often, it decimates it instead. (Okay, worse than decimate, because, technically, that’s only ten percent.) The effects of overpopulation, especially in face of a food-source collapse, can be catastrophic. Usually, though, enough members survive to form a recovery population that can grow with the rebounding food-source. Evolution is a kaleidoscope of change punctuated by periods where the scope is emptied of stones and new ones entered.

That being said, the human race will never knowingly erase itself. By accident, no problem, but willingly, no. The trick is avoiding the accidents.

The good news is that, all things considered, we’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding them so far. Seven billion of us, right? Couldn’t have gotten that big by killing everyone in sight, now could we? However you cut that cake, we’ve been a magnificently successful species. Us and tomatoes and Norway rats.

To a large extent, being a highly social species has been our success. If we weren’t inclined towards getting along with our neighbors, we wouldn’t have figured out how to get so populous. We not only had to figure out how to produce more food, we had to figure out how to distribute it.


Empathy and love.

I was set to thinking when I heard the biologist suppose that the love felt by geese for one another was the same as the love people felt for each other; why invent the same emotion twice? Wasn’t love just an evolutionarily evolved bonding mechanism that increased the success rate for one’s offspring? I think we tend to think that we’ve invented emotions with our minds rather than them being primitive control mechanisms that function as survival aids. I’d vote for the latter.

And what is empathy other than love for our fellow humans? Empathy is more than just feeling another’s pain, it’s caring about that feeling. The torturer is well aware of the damage he or she is inflicting; they don’t care. Empathy goes beyond knowledge, it goes to accepting some of the suffering unto one’s self. It is recognizing the essential oneness of all humanity, that the overriding importance is our unity as a species. It’s not hard to imagine that the more empathy a tribe recognizes, the better off its members are.

It is hard to see empathy as anything that a more generalized form of love, that it, too, is a primitive emotion operating below the radar of awareness.

Love, indeed, makes the world go round. We’d never have made it this far without it and we’ll need a lot more of it to convince everyone to stop killing each other for whatever reason. Once again, it’s time to thank God for evolution. Without evolution, we’d still be boiling in the primordial soup.


Natural selection is what’s causing the world population paradigm shift. It makes no difference what sets up the conditions—moving to the cities, cell phones, whatever—DNA doesn’t care. DNA only cares about what succeeds. Those families more successful in bringing their offspring to fruition are more likely to perpetuate themselves. For millions of years, survival was dependent on producing as many offspring as possible. Large families tended to surpass small families, especially in farming communities. Hence, the human population exploded.

Now, though, it is most often more expensive to have a large versus a small family. Offspring in smaller families where the resources don’t have to be spread so thinly tend to do better than offspring from larger families. Large families are now a burden, not an aid to the parents; hence we’ve automatically stopped having them, irrespective of what government thinks or wishes. Nothing like a ghetto to inspire birth control. Those same economic realities also now tend to play out in rural areas as well as urban so that rural family size is also falling.

A word of caution: capitalism is a large ponzi scheme, it depends on an ever-growing base. Surely you’ve noted that all economic indicators measure market growth, not accomplishment. The market report never tells you what the company did that day, only how well their stocks performed.

Have you heard of the man who makes Wensleydale cheese? He readily sells all the cheese he makes; he doesn’t begin to cover the demand. He’s constantly pressured to increase his capacity, but he steadfastly refuses. His argument is that he makes enough money and has all the work he can handle, so why should he do more? If you want more cheese, go make your own.

Now, what sort of capitalist is that? None at all. He’s happy to be a great cheese-maker making all the money he can comfortably spend. For some reason the god of reason hasn’t touched him and he’s content with his life. He doesn’t want more. It’s unfortunate, but true.

As a consequence, you won’t find his stock on the exchange. His stock is his skill.

What I’m suggesting is that it might be possible to have a society built around creating great things and doing great things but not necessarily on the principles of getting bigger and huger. A society where people can expect their just rewards but not the rewards of their neighbors. I’m also suggesting that, if we reach a population maximum for this planet and our population begins to decline, we might need a different paradigm than capitalism, no matter how successful it is at amassing resources at this time. I’m just saying…

Nor am I saying that I have a replacement. My only advice would be to talk about it before rushing into anything. There doesn’t seem to be a good meta-answer on the horizon; we’ll have to be content with working on the little things, like a universal minimum wage.

Oops, there I go again.

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