Forgive this little reflection on our current crisis. I don't mean to make lightly of it, but am simply tired of all the inanities surrounding this current pandemic when it appears that uncertainty and confusion rides on hysteria. Several years ago, Dr. Jonas Salk quietly well outside the limelight, taking all the time necessary, first to determine what polio myelitis was before entering protracted clinical trials led him to release his vaccine. Once it was released, he stepped quietly off stage and into the background having no desire to leverage his success into celebrity, notoriety and power. What a difference a half century makes.
WE LIVE IN “THE KINK AGE”
James R. Fisher, Jr., Ph.D.
© September 9, 2020
“The immune system in people is as diverse as beauty, height, intelligence and any other human feature.”
Molecular immunologist Michel Nussenzweig, Rockefeller University in New York. The Wall Street Journal
We have had the IRON AGE, THE STONE AGE, BRONZE AGE and several other ages down to our present KINK AGE, the age when hysteria invariably surfaces when there is a kink in man’s unequivocal dominance; a time like now, when a scientist tells us the obvious which is never comprehensible in a state of hysteria.
Long before man chose to leave the Animal Kingdom to become Homo sapiens, Nature ruled the planet doing what nature does without challenge with the Animal Kingdom falling in line with whatever was Nature’s whim. Then man chose to be human and The Old Testament became man’s ally and voice of authority.
Genesis in the Old Testament: 1:28
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
These many millenniums later, man who was driven by God out of the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit, has with his mind and heart and hands turned the earth into an earthly Garden of Eden. But at what price?
Man gave us the world in exchange for our mind. The gifts we accepted from man’s genius changed the way we live, but in doing so also changed the way we thought. It became a Faustian bargain that was sealed millions of years ago.
James Burke and Robert Ornstein call this “The Axemaker’s Gift” (1997), but it involves more than axes; it involves everything: our hopes and dreams; what we love and hate; what we fear and believe. These metaphorical axes make all the tools that have changed our surroundings; changed our culture; changed the way we see ourselves and each other; and reshaped our world with all the markers that indicate what we value and hold sacred, and are willing to die for. This Faustian bargain has ultimately changed the way we think of what it means to be human.
Originally, before we were Homo sapiens, we were hominids who had a talent to reshape stones, one piece at a time, and in doing so to create tools that could then chop up the world. The primitive brain then functioned to anticipate danger and react accordingly to survive in a climate of constant danger of beasts several time physically mightier than mere hominids. This primitive brain learned to perform precise, sequential tasks that would eventually generate language, rules and logic and formalize what would become thinking.
Burke and Ornstein designate this practice as “Cut & Control,” meaning there was a drive to discard the old and adopt the new, not realizing that always at a decisive costs. For once the old was abandoned, it was lost forever and the new introduced a whole new world that changed everything: from domesticating animals to agriculture to irrigation to architecture to mining to new ways of being, living, thinking and behaving, or a complete departure from the past.
Indeed, man has become as a consequence in his mind not only the image and likeness of God, but God himself on earth. After all, could man not change deserts into oasis, reroute rivers, build dams and skyscrapers, level mountains and forests to create cities and industries, airports and hospitals, and all other manner of things, but always at a Faustian price.
Thirteenth century lathes turned fallen trees into furniture and homes into communities; fifteenth century printing gave birth to literacy and books, The Protestant Reformation, Capitalism and then Communism; sixteenth century pumping systems to deliver water supply to our restrooms today; seventeenth century electricity powering nineteenth century telephones and then twentieth century radios, televisions, the Internet and computers; nineteenth century artificial dyes now the paint of office walls; while the command structure of the church, state, school, military, industry and business community dates back seven thousand years to the first city-states.
Man has been busy. He now behaves as if his war with Nature is over; that he has won that war; that society, indeed, civilization is now the flawless majestic shining machine that man has become in subduing Nature, but has he?
The only problem with this conceit is that every time there is a kink in this sparkling machine and its polished is marred, man collapses into a state of hysteria as with this pandemic.
Alas, with the present pandemic, there is a maddening drive for a vaccine when it is not clear what the nature of the disease is precisely. Panic is in the air as the fear is that the economy will collapse, that people in power will lose their place, that young people will become frustrated and use the pandemic to act juvenile, to riot and loot, to deface and destroy personal and public property, indeed, to behave worse than hominids ever behaved; to return to the Animal Kingdom retrogressing to beasts of Nature with fanatical justification.
We see the inured senselessness of fate when the affluent build multimillion dollar homes in the forests of California only to have tens of thousands if not millions of acres consumed by fire during periods of summer draught due to lightning strikes or human neglect and error erasing their presence from such climes.
Once a period of gestation transpires with the forests again reborn, as Mother Nature is resilient if nothing else, this affluent clientele will return to build homes as hysterical memory is forever short lived.
Nature cannot be defied; it must be understood; that pandemics, tornadoes, earth quakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and desert storms remind us that we are strangers on this planet and must practice due diligence without hysteria to cope with these calamities; that science is no match for the Faustian bargain we long ago entered; that only patience and collective calm will get us through these occasional and unexpected challenges to our existence.