Sunday, November 23, 2014

11/24/14—Contemplating Our Humanity

Do you ever think to yourself, what would the caveman me be thinking about right now? Or what would the Native Americans who occupied this space be thinking? I do that sometimes when Kizzie and I sit outside on the porch, especially on the really cold days like we've been having lately.

Most of the time it has to do with the weather. One of the things I like most at this time of year is how profoundly quiet it gets at sunset and on into the night. All the yard working sounds go away. It's cold, so there aren't many people out. The colder it gets, the more peaceful the earth seems to become.

So last night I was thinking about how, each frigid fall, the threats changed for our ancestors who lived on the land changed. Bugs are gone. Bears go into hibernation. And while there may be fewer threats from them, if you didn't ferret away enough food and wood, and if you don't have adequate shelter, the threat of the weather takes center stage. At least it does in places where it freezes or gets cold.

While there's still plenty of fish and game to catch, the hunters and gatherers probably moved on to other tasks in winter. For them, the cold months brought on a different vibe, just as it is for us today. But with our heated homes, winter-ready cars and grocery stores full of food, you'd think that vibe wouldn't be as profound for us. Really, for us, it's just colder.

So that's the interesting thing. Because I certainly feel the change of seasons on a deep level...deeper than the temperature sensors on my skin can feel. It goes beyond that. And, of course, each season also has its particular scent and sounds. But it feels to me like it's something beyond the sensory conditioning of 50 years of seasonal changes. It feels almost I'm conjuring the cellular memories of all those whose DNA went into making my DNA, or like I'm experiencing some sort of encoded legacy, whether it has to do with genetics or not. 

When you think about it, DNA splits and is combined with other DNA each generation. But the DNA we all have in common—the DNA that makes us human—has been carried forth and refined since man's beginnings. Which doesn't mean we share early man's thoughts or feelings, necessarily, but we are, of course, built like them. So the feel of cold air upon the skin and inhaled through the nose, evoked thoughts and memories within them, just as it does us. And the wiring of the different kinds of thoughts it evokes and the different parts of the brain things go to is the same.

One time I was down by the river, thinking these things I think, and it was as if a young Indian woman appeared before me, washing clothes on the stones. Not like a ghost, really, but in my mind's a way that it was like I was seeing both through her eyes and mine. I don't know if I conjured it or "remembered" it. But, for a moment, everything about what she was doing and how warm a day it was...everything about her washing seemed so real to me. 

So many things are carried in our DNA, all the way down to "defects" that may run through our families. Legitimate news sources say that meditation can change the way our DNA is expressed within us. Of course, we know it changes over the course of millennia based on things like where you that people who live near the equator adapted to their environment by evolving darker hair and skin and those living in the northern climes evolved lighter hair and skin, based on the need to protect themselves from exposure to the sun. 

So the information carried in DNA is not just a cold, mechanical order that must be fulfilled by the body, it's more of a structured conversation that evolves (or doesn't) over time. And each of us is made up of those conversations—conversations that cause mutations or turn recessive traits off and on—each strand bearing a sort of family tree. And, I guess I get a bit fascinated with what else may be recorded, whether in that code or within our humanity. So on a night when the breeze evokes some vague sensory memory in me, I tend to wonder whether it's my memory being evoked or some ancient bit of history shared by me and my ancestors...or by all of a moment of timeless humanity. 

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