Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Every time I drive my car, I notice that people are getting stupider. We are devolving, which seems the opposite of how our human journey should be going. I have witnessed automotive maneuvers which indicate either a collective false sense of security or a massive death wish. They all share delusions of invincibility which could only be attributed to the widespread wearing of superhero cloaks.
I have a theory. We no longer need the survival skills of our forebears, mainly because theirs were so acute. They had to be extremely clever and work hard every day to provide themselves and their families with things we take for granted: shelter, food and clothing. They had no time or energy for entertainment so it wasn't a big issue. As time went by, they invented machines to do the work of men and large animals, and eventually, stores to buy everything they needed so they would not have to labor to acquire them anymore.
When the wheel came along, life got much easier. It became the basis for vehicles that would be pulled by oxen or men, until finally engines were invented. The wheel had become the cornerstone of life in so-called "civilized" nations.
This was Progress.
Unfortunately, the less we were forced to exercise our brains, the more they atrophied. Most jobs could be performed by machines that were faster and more accurate than we were, which left us with huge blocks of time to fill with more pleasurable pursuits. Soon, we began to show signs of helplessness and confusion, traits which would have consigned our ancestors to abandonment by their clans since they could not contribute their share. While I would never advocate letting our helpless fend for themselves, I wish that we could have a wholesale reawakening of the magnificent powers that must still lie within us, our cellular memory of when using our brains was a life-or-death matter.
I wonder if there are spiritual consequences to not fully utilizing our excellent brains and extraordinary bodies. We go to gyms to work muscles that used to be active in the daily course of fighting off physical threats -- large, hungry animals, warriors from other tribes who wanted our share of the scant provisions offered by the environment, exposure to the elements, and to build shelters with our own hands, hunt and gather food, spin and weave fabric to make protective clothing, natural medicines... there was no leisure. There was only self-reliance and constant improvisation.
Perhaps the saddest loss of all in modern life is that so few people think for themselves but judge the merits of a thing by how popular it is, which is the kind of mob rule that should have been left behind in high school. Such prefabricated thought processes are junk food for the brain, readily digestible and so little effort that we barely notice how un-fulfilling they are.
We tend to believe that we are the pinnacle of Creation, the most powerful race of humans to ever walk the earth. We treat each other badly, and in every situation assume that we have the right of way. We have forgotten any semblance of fair play, of how to share the world with others. In our mindless arrogance, we see only our own objectives, regardless of who is standing in the way. Worst of all, we take our immense good fortune to be living in a time of such limitless possibility for granted. Instead of giving thanks for all those who worked themselves to death over many centuries so that we wouldn't have to, we feel entitled. When we could be using our excellent brains to develop ourselves further, most of us are content to do nothing but rest on laurels which are not even our own.
I think a little humility is in order. And a lot of driving lessons.