Saturday, January 10, 2009

Becoming human: we woke up to rich mental lives and found no mechanisms for them!

First of all, our SENSORY world alone is extraordinary. 1000s of shades of color, textures, detailed environment we find ourselves in. we see millions of details around us. in one visual scene we can move our eyes focus our attention on ... i don't know what's the number of pixels? could one count the number of details in one visual scene? the number of leaves on all the trees? the number of edges, intersections, the number of culices in each cloud, the nmber of cracks in the sidewalk...

details of clouds, sunsets, bugs, birds, rocks, pebbles, shades of staining on a sidewalk...

there is music around us the howling of the wind, the light tinkle of leaves or ice against each other, the wealth of birds robin, crow, bluejay, english sparrow, cardinal, chickadee, mourning dove, catbird, mockingbird, chipping sparrow, song sparrow, white throated sparrow, downy woodpecker, tufted titmouse, seagull, red tailed hawk, starling, redwinged blackbird, wood thrush, scarlet tanager, bohemian waxwing,... and already there are musicians among them

and the crickets and grasshoppers and katydids, the nye nye nye bugs...

and the tones, we start making them ourselvese and we discover octaves, and 5ths and we sing songs ourselves and usually play them on what seem to be scales of from 5 to a dozen notes per octave, and rhythms...

and the smells of hyacinths, roses, fresh cut grass, cow patties, wormwood, dry grass, honeysuckle sea breaze and the tastes... tomato, strawberry, potato, carrot, turkey, oregano, cheese, cinnamon, mango, chocolate, blueberries, grapes, broccoli, oranges, greapfruits, apples, pears, cherries, almonds, peanuts, shrimp, eggyolk, salt, pepper, milk, caramel... 100s of plants and spices to eat.

and the stars at night, we can make patterns in 100s of stars and the patterns of the paths of the 7 planets and their resonances. we can count. the day repeats, teh seasons repeat the position of the sun repeats, the position of venus jupiter repeat, we count the resonances, complex, they drive us to count more and more detailed ratios.

and touch and athletics and sex

and the wealth of activities that human life explodes into: weaving, sailing, woodcarving, smelting, exploring, hunting, tracking, farming, digging, climbing, running, swimming, wrestling, throwing, bow hunting, racing, games of chance, board games, dancing, playing flutes, strings, drums, rhythms, sweating, kissing, eating, shitting, massaging, combing hair, birthing, being sick, vomiting, dying, crying, laughing, clinging, rubbing, breathing, orgasms both female and male, and nursing,

and the wealth of stories humans get into from these activities, growing up, pain, falling in love, jealosy, breaking up, making choices, journeys, learning, discovering, choosing, dilemmas, contests, hating, organizing, building, villages, families, feudes, disputes, arbitrating, sleuthing, policing, fighting, war, nations, organizing farmland, organizing roads, organizing irrigationworks, organizing postal systems, organizing men,

states of mind of fear, wonder, pleasure, puzzlement, confusion, ecstacy, awe, concentration,

and all the while, we experience, act while swimming in a swirling sea of strong emotions, desires, lusts, exuberances, fears.. our emotional lives, both private and communal can seem like forces that can twist steel, explode mountains, bring down cosmic floods upon mankind

this is an incredibly rich sensory world we woke up to. did it happen relatively suddenly? don't know.

and the amazing part of the story is that we could MATCH our sensory world. in detail, in intensity.

we could draw, paint, sculpt, weave.

but our greatest match in intensity was language/music.

we easily excelled all birds in melody and rhythm. and we gave a good shot at matching them in tonal texture with our bewildering variety of musical instruments. and in ecstatic states we could easily out sing dance drum any bird for longer than it could stay awake.

and the complexity of language, we were able to match thing for thing with words. given any thing in that complex visual environment we could match it. acute angle which nevertheless doesn't come to a point between the two spikes in that dark leathery green oak leaf with the embossed surface 4" long and thinner than a fingernail, supple but not drooping...

if anyone attempted to catalogue language, write a dictionary, we found that there were 1000s of words of dozens of parts of speach with complex particular rules of combination and we could combine them in an effectively countably infinite number of ways.

and with this language with which we could describe every visual thing...

and we attempted to describe feelings with language too, which was very hard. and to do it we invented song and poetry. human poetry is our attempt to map out feeling states...

and the stories... we wove long stories of individual's lives, of conflicts with familily, friends and enemies, longer stories of the lives of states and history and ultimately tackled the life of the cosmos itself. these narratives were longer than any birdsong, any whalesong if we were even listening then...

we could give a name for every different sounding bird, looking insect, tasting plant, and we could make order out of it, cataloguing these organisms finding order making patterns...

we mapped the stars, and named patterns in them. we timed the days and planets and found patterns in them deeper and deeper and we could predict them.

we classified legal disputes, kin relationships, and told stories.

eventually with our powers of imagination some of us were able to outsing any bird, out mathematize any planetary ratio, out count any number of real things, imagine more and more complicated stories between complicated lives...

a human storyteller could CREATE characters more compelling then real people. we DID bring dumb clay golems to life.

at some point in the ancient literate world our powers of imagination outstripped the sensory world we were paying attention to (not that we were capable of ever imagining that there WAS more to sense, 8 THOUSAND differnt birds? 16 MILLION square miles of earth to explore? SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND species of beetles?) but at some point our creativity outstripped our DESIRE to explore the sensory realm, and then the trouble began.

this happened because literate societies moved out of rich jungles onto desert flood plains and people moved into cities.

deserts, floodplains, cities are depaupered sensory worlds. and the density of population, the speciliztion in crafts over took the sensory world and all the complexity moved into human interactions and imagination under the dark night sky.

and there lay the trouble.

and once we begun to band in cities powered by floodplain agriculture, all hell broke loose. we began to amass wealth, we began to organize men, the minds and intentions and wills of men in 1000s in 100s of thousands. and we were able to transform landscapes within the time of historical memory of a place. we organized the flooding of the nile and the euphrates. we checkered the landscape for miles in irrigationworks and fields. we organized the lives of dozens of species of plants and animals to our wills. we built walls that went for 1000s of miles, we build small mountains in egypt, we built our own jungles of urban landscapes, we built large ships to travel oceans, we waged wars of 10s of thousands of organized fighters against each other.

human mind became powerful in the world.

we denuded hilsides in our quest for agriculture and earth finally rebelled. the floods began.

but they didn't stop us.

and now that the human mind was able to build walls and pyramids, organize irrigation works, cities and wars.. we begun to ask "where does this powerful complex deep mind come from?"

it made more songs than all the birds, it wasn't there. it made more words than all the insects, it wasn't there. it told more stories than the nuances of cooked fruit and vegatables, it wasn't there. look inside the split flesh of a freshly killed hero in battle where is the vitality? where is the keeness of his mind? where is the complexity to weave the stories he told at night?

we did not see it.

and so we invented spirits gods and demons. but they weren't really explanations.

in fact we were lost. we failed to discover, to understand who we were.

that discovery had to wait till the rise and fall of several more empires, civilizations, till a curious combination of semitic sacred storytelling about a one pointed power in the universe a one pointed historical sense joined up with a curious greek sense of universalism and logic spread across a rambunctious european puzzlework of nations.

and science was born out of the christian european trade economy. and once again we began to explore our sensory world. and it exploded. the decimal points (from india) of exact calculations of the movements of planets, the hacking out of algebraic laws of motion, the cataloguing of 2000 different minerals into 56 cryastal structures, 96 elements... the 1000s of man hours of grueling cooking experiments it took to fathom the chemistry of the elements, and then we found more than 1000s of differernt organic molecules.

then the sea explorations 1000s of plants and animals, 10s of thousands by lineas' time, 100s of thousands, 2million current count, but when one team of scientists REALLY tried looking they found hundreds of species of beetles just on one of a 100,000 different species of tropical trees. just HOW many can there be?

and the geological strata..

and pushing chemistry to the limits with microscopes and radiolabeling and cleverness and 1000s of 1000s of hours of experiments till we come to learn the confederation of a 100billion cities with all their moving parts that can make up the vitality and mind of a human.

but the story is barely evident. for the first chapter of this story has 30,000 years of records to back it up. and we've only been on the 2nd chapter of scientific journey for a mere 400 years, and only a small portion of humanity has been traveling it. It has hardly been told...

in in the meanwhile human life has exploded into another dense urban network, this time the whole globe in seatravel, air travel, world wide commerce and finally instantaneous electronic communication and the density of humans 6billion of us and we are realizeing that we are warping our whole world's climate and ecosystems...

the pace of change has outstripped the traditional generation time of human storytelling...

back in ancient times our brains became conscious of their own intellectual powers. but now this new global brain of instant world wide communication and invention has yet to come to consciousness.

we are lost again.