Part 1: In a Nutshell (Kindasortamostly)

Natural Selection has made us who we are. We’re not that far from the ape in the tree. We live in the moment doing the minimum to survive/cope with what the present presents us. Our eyes see clearly only as far as we can throw a rock or launch an arrow. Our ears are sensitive to the cry of a child, and the rustle of a snake crawling through the grass. Many of our memories last only as long as they are useful to help us find the next meal or a dry place to sleep for the night.

But there is more to us than our animal self. Language. Language has distanced us from the rest of life. And a consequence/creation of language is culture. Unfortunately, culture does not know who Darwin is. Evolution in culture is exponential. How do we live in a world of constant change when our DNA is still back in the savanna?

Part 2: Cracking the Nut (Yourethenutnoimnotyouare)

In a cave in France, there are markings of an outlined human hand. Hunted animals loom over charcoal figures wielding spears and bows. Suns and stars spiral a rocky sky where sunlight never reaches. Deep down, underground, barely accessible, it is a hard to reach place, where a torch offers a meager beacon against the darkness. Yet, it is here he has come, again and again, over countless seasons to make his mark, to reach out across time.

What does he say? Is it gibberish? Unknowable? Foreign? Strange? Does my hand not fit where his rested so many years ago? Does he still not whisper in my ear when I am still and quiet? Listen. Listen for his heartbeat in my own chest. Hear the cry of the predator beyond the firelight. Feel the pangs of hunger, the same desire in the loins. Death is still a mystery in a life so similar. Wonder. Joy. Pain. Love. Fear. All here in a handprint.

Part 3: Making Meal From It (Ingreatlakesindianethnobotanywemademealfromacorns)

Civilization was created in the cornfield. Once we learned how to domesticate plants and animals, we could stick around in a place longer than a hunting season. We had a new thing: a steadier source of food—security. Is this then what we crave more than anything? Security? And if we feel more safe—safety in numbers—is it only an illusion? Delusional manifestations of a hungry heart? Something desired, but never achievable? We have time to ponder, time to write, time to paint, time to draw, time to dance, time to sing, time to sculpt, time to climb mountains, or time to jump from a bridge on a rubberband. But is it just a waste of time? Is this just another thing to be thrown in the midden heap and forgotten?

Do we think we are fooling anyone? Or are we just fooling ourselves when we do it? Why bother? “Talk to the hand,” she says. Who’s listening out there? Should I try so hard only to be snubbed by a stray bullet? The outlined hand says, YES.

(August 12, 2003)


About Pat R. Steiner

Author & Illustrator

Posted on October 30, 2011, in Essay and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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