I am surrounded by information. Each day I see, hear, smell, taste, touch and read, read, read as much as life allows. On my bedside table this week: Nick Humprhey’s Soul Dust and Douglas Hofstadter’s Surfaces & Essences. Stockpiled on my kitchen counter, this weekend: National Geographic, New York Times, Popular Science. In my browser, this moment: CNN – “Bananas Thrown at Italy’s First Black Minister.”
Bananas have been thrown at Italy’s first black minister… What does that mean? Politically, sociologically, psychologically, culturally it means unacceptable racism. But what does this mean in a larger, say, evolutionary sense? It means (as I see it) that many of us are still pitifully blind to our own origins. I am a modern day ape and knowing this has helped me cultivate my “zen” more so than any Buddhist teaching.
Not all of us are so blind to our origins: the Neural Tribe is expanding. Just recently India has made a ground-breaking decision to ban captive dolphin shows positing that dolphins are non-human persons. The radius of identification (and, thus, compassion) has been finally expanded! It makes sense that this kind of wisdom would emerge from India, which is home to the ancient Jainist doctrine of ahimsa - a nonviolent stance towards all sentient life.
So, here we are, at our paradoxical best: de-humanizing and re-humanizing. Some – intoxicated with ignorance about their own origins – are throwing bananas at each other. Others – evolutionarily sober about their shared kinship – are expanding the radius of planetary personhood.
I want to close this Sunday morning blog with an excerpt from Nick Humphrey’s excellent (albeit not easy) book Soul Dust in which he cites the findings from the Gombe Stream Research Centre in Tanzania:
“Gombe scientists have [...] observed examples of [...] Byronicsensation seeking [among chimps], as when a chimpanzee emerges into the open in a thunderstorm and dances and stamps and screams as torrents of rain run from his back and lightning forks the sky.” (1)
Throw a banana at me anytime: the modern-day ape that I am, I love bananas. Particularly, when they are free.
Related: Neural Tribe https://neuraltribe.squarespace.com
Reference 1: N. Humphrey, Soul Dust, 2011, p. 84.