Image No. 1 - Sitting on a foot bridge over the roaring Housatonic (near my village of Lenox Dale) -
Swallows over the river feasting on mosquitoes, exhibiting agility, coordination in flight, eyesight power, precision, and elegance that can never be matched by humans in flying machines or with the most powerful scope on a hunting rifle. I realize that I am witnessing perfection that no human endeavor, no matter how exceptional, can ever match.
Image No. 2 - On the way back from the river -
A truck parked by a house in the village with a bumper sticker (which I had seen before on other trucks) showing a gaggle of geese, saying: “Shoot ‘em in the face”. I don’t know if this is a new slogan sponsored by the NRA or a campaign by PETA to kill hunters (unlikely). The sentiment however is clear either way, rage and violence of a species that shouldn’t be here and that deep down knows it.
Image No. 3 - On a side street up the hill to our house -
A bunch of young boys, maybe 6 or 7 years old, fully dressed in army fatigue and boots, with popguns made to look like assault rifles, enacting a battle - young human killers in the making (their parents clearly spent good money buying them the complete costumes and “weapons”).
It made me think ---
Unlike the swallows, we are a species ill-fitted to our environment. Our civilization and technologies can barely sustain us. For now we surround ourselves with artificial life-preserving inventions in lieu of evolutionary survival tool. We are a species on life-support. Consider each survival skill we DO naturally possess and it is clear that we fall far short of all other living things around us. We are slower, clumsier, more naked, less organized, more helpless, and less ingenious than the ants, birds, and chipmunks in our backyards. The species we do resemble are the ones that didn’t make it, the extinct ones, because they too were ill adapted to their environment. Perhaps they too in their time thought themselves invincible, though that is unlikely because the tragic ability to see ourselves is unique to us, humans. It is what literally sets us apart from the rest of life on this planet.
An objective look at ourselves inevitably will leave us with two choices: either we realize what an unequivocal flop we are in evolutionary terms, or else we make up stories. We opt for stories every time, because they make us feel better. It really doesn’t matter. In the end, it makes little difference how you feel when you are going extinct.
There is of course a third way, though I doubt we'd ever take it. How about a bit more humility? How about knowing your place as the new kid on the block? How about some respect for the tenants whose place this has been millions of years longer than our entire existence?
Could such a sudden realization perhaps sway even a murderous human to remove that bumper sticker from their truck, or encourage their little boys to go and observe the swallows from the bridge instead of pretending to slaughter their friends?
The Kvetching Factory
"Start every day with a smile and get it over with" (W.C. Fields)