Saturday, March 17, 2007

foundation to the human journey

what is it to be human? IS there an answer to this question? there has been a birthing crowd of humans going back generation by generation back to the first inklings of redox reactions on sunny muds or boiling seavents. can we say at what POINT in history they were human? no. can we tell how much longer we will be human? no. is an idiot savant human? is an infant human? is an old woman suffering from alzheimer's; memory unhinged, human? is a baby born without a brain human? are siamese twins joined at the hip one or two humans? can we tell when someone is a male or a female? is a zygote human? is an embryo human? can we know each other at all?

but oddly with this mosaic of genes in a mosaic of humans on Earth TODAY there does seem to be a statistical norm, most males are male most females are female, most children surviving infancy are not joined to the hip and have their organs, their sanity intact, and spend most of their lives in human society, approximating some norm of humanity.

is to be a human a statistical concept?

why are there only ONE species of human alive today? how much of our humanity do we share with chimps, dogs, dolphins, elephants, all of life?

is the human mental experience outrageously qulitatively different than that of chimps dogs dolphins elephants...?

(i can't even ask these questions the WAY i am asking them without being in the tradition of science)

so what's the statistical norm of humanity today?

living eukaryote metazoan vertebrate mammal primate ape human each of these imparts an onion layer of quality to the human experience. or... is our basic oxidation reduction fatty chemistry at our core or is it our experience of being lost in this tangled labyrinth of 20billion neurons at our core?

we are ephemeral dances played on the congealing and expiring chemistries of Earth breath. How many molecules does it take to dance one of us living creatures? even the simplest among us, a bacteria takes about 100billion molecules to dance it in half a dozen levels of hierarchy in a couple thousand different reactions. so we are VERY far from the basic properties of physical law; quantum behavior, wave particle duality, elactromagnetic forces. we already start out as abstracted from the physics that is our ground. so we are not objects, we are dynamical mathematical dances being played on... we are ephemeral, taking part in a long journey of evolution of the forms of this dance. genetically even we are not individuals. yet we cohere. it is an odd mix. science does not yet have a good handle on how this maelstrom of chemical cycles coheres. There is alot of math involved.

Life is danced on 100s of billions or more dancing molecules, and life has been dancing LONG. 3.6billion years, almost as long as this Earth has been cool enough to have us. the dance steps take place a billion times a second. a billion billion dance steps danced by a million billion billion dancers. Organized. with physical law way way down below. and mathematics. that's the stage we were born into. there may be more stages...

we are momentary coming together places of breath in the grand cycles of Earth breathing. what one critter exhales another inhales, what one critter puts together into it's body another will take apart. therefore life eats life to live.

we are creative, each of us can be the place where new form is invented, the beginnings of a clan of new creatures that can spread accross the Earth and change it. On the flip side we are also vulnerable to horrific physiological failure, not even making it past being a zygote. basically we are the experimental thougths of this evolving journey of life on Earth.

our coherence is vulnerable.

we belong to LOOOONG family lines. lineages of grandmother after grandmother after grandmother.... a BILLION generations long. these populations weave in and out of that long history spliting, sometimes joining, The space of forms we can explore is is unimaginable. our exponential growth allows us to explore this space very thoroughly, reaching all sorts of odd corners of it. But much more forms are possible than can fit on this finite Earth, so 99.99% of our possible selves become EXTINCT along the way.

hence what exists at any particular moment are bands of organisms isolated by long histories of extinctions between them. the members of each band related to each other, the bands different from each other, seperated by extinction. Coming along for the ride with us are more than 2million different species of life on this planet today. so ignorant are we that we don't even know if it's 2million or 200million. the incredible range of the ways to be alive, most of us are ignorant of. We can relate to dogs, parrots, turtles, Cichlids(fish that take care of their kids in families) as pets. these are all vertebrates. vertebrates are just ONE of over a 100 basic different clans of living creatures. the creativity is immense.

are species coherent? this is currently a mystery, the verdict is out. it appears that many are somewhat coherent, each remaining stable for only a few million years out of the hundreds of millions of years of play, then they transform, split into many or disappear.

our branch of living creatures (the chordates) appearing more than 100million generations ago hit upon the idea of individuals that can be born and that can birth distinct individuals and that can die, unlike many squishy sea creatures and plants that are more amorphous masses of many headed many fissioning siamese twinning connected lives.

so we are born, we give birth, are blood is easily spilt, we die.

then we became vertebrates. birth, some childcare, eating, killing, being killed, social groups, communication, sensuality, mating, raising kids, death.

then we became primates. complex ecosystems, social groups, intensely visual, vocal, jungle dwellers. again, we are large. If the simplest life, a bacteria is dance of a 100billion molecules abstracting it, distancing it from that level of reality, then we are a coordinated confederation of 100billion bacteria abstracting us, distancing us from the basic gut level of how life works... by now we mostly live in our mental world... perhaps already forgetting that we are ephemeral dances on Earthbreath. perhaps already most vertebrates think of themselves as THINGS.

then, quickly, we became human. the climate wobbled abit, chased us around, we danced with it, left the forest, swelled our tangled neuron nets to 20billion, in order to cope? childhood lengthened, bacame risky, husbands became useful, we ate more flesh. we learned rhythm. we learned winding narrative. we became Homo aggressivusteamplayerus capable of banding together into some of the largest frighteningly coordinated hoards on Earth. we bagan to leave our mark...

we discovered communal ecstatic states.

all of a sudden each of us woke up alone under the skydome the skullvault of such a labyrinth that every time we use it to contemplate itself, it's limits expands ever further from itself. We invented all manner of frightening and mesmerising infinities...

along the way... well, primates were never as diverse as ungulates (hooved animals) or rodents or even bats... they never really left the tropics. the apes... not a very big clan at all, a rather risky experiment. for awhile, a few million years we experimented ourselves. there were perhaps a few different kinds of us in africa and asia at the same time, for awhile we were not too dissimilar from our other ape relatives. not certain if any of us noticed.

but by the time we became Homo aggressivusteamplayerus, we tolerated no one. whether they fell by the wayside or whether we murdered or ate them, our relatives started to dissappear. all hominids are now gone. and the other 5 ape species are loosing ground rapidly. we tolerate no one who is different. we tolerate no one who reminds us of our animal past?

so we are basically alone. not quite. we soon enough took up with wolves, horses, cows, sheep, goats, chickens, hogs... but really alone. the wolves turned dogs are the best chance we have of an animal companion to remind us from whence we came, perhaps to teach us some sanity? have we made dogs more insane than they've kept us sane?

to be continued.

possibly with:
eve eats the cerebrum fruit

where new ideas can evolve

weaning ourselves from this mind

initial cosmic rebellion against flesh


Reb Deb Gordon said...

Many thanks, barry! This is wonderful!

Refocusses me on the awe.

barry goldman said...

wow that starts off REALLY abstract! I need to work on this!