Saturday, July 24, 2010

Six Billion Great Apes

A soft, gentle, cloudy morning. I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore. That kind of morning.

I need to go out and get massage from some new people: I'm too settled. I realized last week that, although I'm gifted with vibration – some people have a knack for it and some don't – I have not been using it much. But it makes for a really nice, efficient microstretch after a trigger point release. I wonder if I could train my left hand up to it? I can only do it presently with my right hand. It wears you out pretty quick: you have to be stingy about deploying it. If I could do it left-handed I could do more of it.

I've started reading Roy Porter's “medical history of humanity,” The Greatest Benefit to Mankind. He confirms what I suspected: that the advent of herding and agriculture was a medical disaster for our species – it was not a glorious advance so much as a clever but desperate response to having exhausted our hunting and gathering resources. He notes that “neolithic skeletons are typically some inches shorter than their paleolithic precursors.” Famine is characteristic of farming peoples, not of hunter-gatherers with sufficient range; and most of our troubling diseases we picked up either from domesticated animals, or from living in our own shit and multiplying our parasites (or “urbanization,” to use the elegant term.)

I love cities. I love Portland. I gaze at her in ecstatic admiration. Age cannot wither nor custom stale her infinite variety. She is a living creature of her own, a more complex, more intelligent being than you or I. Coming over the bridge at dawn I always feel as Wordsworth did on Westminster Bridge: “the very houses seem asleep, and all that mighty heart is lying still.” Felix culpa: a happy fall.

Still, we will never be happy or healthy on this planet until we return to a sane population. This planet is not designed to sustain six billion great apes, and nothing we can do will change that much. The fundamental, intractable problem is that there are at least a thousand times more of us than the planet can support. If we don't address that problem, nature will address it on her own. I don't think we will like her solutions.

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