It’s not funny to discover, after many years, that you have been following a ‘less-than-best’ route. You may get lucky, discovering the error while there is still time to re-route yourself, or you may not find out, going on in ignorance or puzzlement or sadness, to a sub-optimal end-point.
One of the features about being human, being part of Mankind, is that we do not enter this world as fully wired, as well stocked with essential knowledge, as most other living things do. We are required to learn stuff, to find out by trials, to experiment, to burn our fingers and to take lessons from teachers, books, doctors, policemen and from hard study, often via some hefty scientific apparatus.
When people put out a tray of seeds for the birds in their garden, it will often be a mixture that one of us humans think is suitable. Then you may discover that 50% is not eaten, or that only two or three of the seed types are accepted. If you watch closely, you may see, right from the first time, that specific birds pick out specific seeds only. They know what suits them, one generation after another. You could say their parents taught them. But what if you eliminate the parental guidance or copying link?
Think about Monarch butterflies; their life-cycles allow no time or chance for a parent to teach the offspring anything, whether by copy-able demonstration, or by leading the youngster on flights to feeding or breeding territories. There are several stages in the life cycle of each individual, and several generations in each year, each of whom do different things up and down the length of the America’s. Each stage does what it must do, where it must do it, to produce the next generation which will fly to where it must for the season that is coming. No flying stage is alive to show it’s flying off-spring where it should fly, or where the eggs should be laid at the other end of America. There is no living flying stage that has flown the return journey to North and back to South, yet from thousands of years ago, the new Monarchs fly the ancient route faithfully. They “know” throughout the cells of their body what to do and where and how.
Animals in the grasslands of Africa eat the food of their species, not the food eaten by other species in the same grazing area. All the young zebra, young wildebeest, young buffalo and baby elephants can see what each other is eating, and what the adults of the other species are eating, but they tend not to deviate from the plants that their own species eat. They do not fiddle with the selection of the foods their tribe has eaten down the ages. The species know what to eat. You can say “it’s instinct”, and leave it at that.
In our case, we who “have chosen to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge”, we are blessed, or cursed, by being born without much knowledge or physical ability other than to find and suck on our mother’s breast. Unlike other living creatures, who become skillful, knowledgeable and strong in a few days, weeks or months,we have to spend many years learning and developing our knowledge, skills and skeleto-muscular strength and abilities.
Our comparatively long and under-programmed developmental phase permits us to pick up variants of all manner of skills and knowledge. It allows us to adapt within a single life-time, or between one generation and the next, to cope with changing circumstances. We are also blessed, or cursed, with a mind that can and must dig into “why” and “how”, and so build new knowledge pathways not found in previous generations. This flexibility, this ability to step off the beaten path of knowledge, is not all sweet-smelling and rosy; it makes us vulnerable to picking up some harmful knowledge, opens us to false knowledge, and to ways of life that damage our physical and mental structures.
Looking back to my previous post about “Beliefs”, one can see how untested information or data could sneak into our stash of new knowledge through the open and un-programmed nature of our learning and developmental years. Even as mature adults we are prone to accept convincing data or arguments that are neither true nor beneficial. There are some unfortunate consequences flowing from our choice to ”eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge”. Let’s start by examining our current state of health, and how this has been influenced by our learning habits.
About 200,000 years ago, mankind had evolved into a reconcilable human, with a body and brain, hormones, organs, cellular structure, mitochondria, receptor sites, digestive acids and alkalies that we find in ourselves today. This had come about by millions of years of building and adapting to what nature provided or threw at us. We became a successfully functioning walking, thinking, consuming chemical processing being. Our processing and control systems, and our raw material supplies matched each other just fine. We ate fat, meat, marrow, insects, shell-fish, ancient fruits, shoots, roots, seeds etc, and thrived. After spreading out over the world, and during those times, we learned to keep certain animals, and to cultivate certain ancient grass-like plants. That’s only about 8,000-to-12,000 years ago, depending on where in the world we were to be found. The concentration of certain types of food increased significantly, whilst others decreased. In areas where civilizations ate greater amounts of cereals, products of wheat-like grasses, and less fat, fewer insects etc, evidence of damage to health appears in the ancient records (dental caries, smaller stature, obesity). In other areas where wild bison were hunted, people were tall and strongly built. When those diets were changed to more cereals and European foods, those people became less healthy and smaller.
Despite these disadvantageous changes, the rate of change was not all that rapid or widespread. However, our learning habits produced some big technical changes in about 1880, when grain refining roller mills became available in the industrialized world, at the same time as industrial production of sugar. We believed that these edibles were good food, and were persuaded to eat them in increasing volumes. With the spread of urbanization, the stresses of war-time and massive migrations of people, plus the persuasions to smoke and drink, disease and death changed it’s ways to heart attacks, T2 diabetes and allied ailments.
We had experimented and fiddled with our selection of food stuffs faster and faster. In the last 50 years we have believed, been persuaded, failed to think properly about what we put in our mouths at a rate totally out of sync with the body we developed over millions of years. We believe we know what we are doing. We believe in the persuasions but we do not know the facts of our own needs and how we developed. We believe that we should reduce our cholesterol levels. We do not even know what they should be or whether there is an optimum set of levels. We believe that the doctor knows, and we fail to challenge what the doctor says. We take pills that we are told will fix our illness, but we don’t know that even the doctor is just doing what he has been told.
We do not know how the Universe works, yet we construct belief systems and religions that claim to take us to Heaven, to be with our Creature, without any idea what the rest of the Universe is about. We crowd into one or other belief system, and happily believe that we are in the right space. We really do not know the facts of life. We are dedicated swallowers of beliefs and fashions.
Have a good think about what you think you know, and have a good day.