02/7/13

The Age of Myth – Chapter Four

Cro-Magnon, the first anatomically modern man, began to move into Europe about 40,000 years ago, with the skeletal remains of one of its population, found in the cave Pestera Cu Oase, in Romania, and radiocarbon dated to 37,800 years ago. They had broken away from the main group of Homo sapien survivors of the eruption of Mt Toba, 30,000 years previous, who had come out of the Ethiopian highlands and had replaced survivors of the earlier species, Homo erectus, throughout Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. And though they had also made their way to Australia and the Far East, the majority of the Cro-Magnon population lived around the lakes of the Mediterranean basin, which was not a sea yet, North Africa, the Canary Islands, and the Eastern Mediterranean. They had become highly specialized hunters and gatherers and had developed speech, and soon, their own languages, while the environment of wherever they had ended up on the planet would dictate the race of human they would become, with random mutations in our DNA providing the basis of variation.

Moving north Cro-Magnon began to run into the Neanderthal, who would eventually be pushed to the edge of their world, with the last few Neanderthal tribes’ remnants found in Western Spain and Gibraltar. Before Cro-Magnon, the Neanderthal population was perhaps 15,000 to 20,000 individuals, living between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains and though the Neanderthal species would perish, it was not their complete extinction, for many were undoubtedly assimilated into the newer species. Some theories suggest the contributing factor in the Neanderthals demise was simply, “when limitless imagination replaced robust physiques.”

Just recently, Swedish archeological geneticist Svante Paabo completed mapping the DNA of the Neanderthal and found that many people today, except for most all African descendents, have about 3 to 5 per cent of their DNA in common with Neanderthals. Interestingly, but then considering the harsh environment in which the Neanderthal lived, the genes we share with them are all in the parts that make up our immune system.

With the demise of Neanderthal, the Upper Palaeolithic period (40,000 to 10,000 years ago) began and represented a gigantic step forward in our species consciousness and abilities.

Illustration by Zdenek Burian Early modern-humanCro-Magnons were taller than other Homo sapiens and the earlier species, with a more erect posture, prominent nose and chin, lower brow ridges and unlike the Neanderthal and Erectus’ backward sloping skulls, had a rounder skull, with a more vertical forehead. Thus a bigger brain, which was crucial, considering being stupid usually got you killed, while ingenuity and intellect was needed for survival. And with a higher forehead, more muscles formed in the face, with more control of eyebrows and forehead skin, which aided in communication.

They wore clothes of softened leather sewn with bone needles and thread from an animal’s gut and wore lots of necklaces, bracelets, and amulets made from shells, flowers, teeth, and bones. Their quilts were animal pelts and they often lived in pit-huts, similar to North American natives’ tepees. During the winters they would live in semi-permanent settlements, usually in narrow valley bottoms or caves, while over the summers, and using lightweight, portable tents, they would follow the herds of their prey. Their campsites contained oil lamps and hearths that were very complex in themselves, with much forethought made every time they camped. For instance, each tent would typically face the east, to catch the morning sun’s warmth. They had developed many tools which could work bone, antler and hides. They had darts, harpoons, fish hooks, rope, eyed needles, and hunted with spears and javelins. Unable to store or keep food they were typical hunters and gatherers, constantly on the move.

Over time, family size groups of these earliest modern humans, perhaps ten to twelve individuals, would grow to thirty to forty people. With the group replenished most often with arriving males from other tribes. Eventually leaders would arise within these larger groups and were either dominant males and females or elders who held wisdom in the form of the collective memories of the group. Their basic, isolated way of primitive life began to change and would evolve into the hierarchy system, and because the populations of many areas had grown, for the first time groups started coming into closer contact with each other, intruding on each other. But at the same time the increased interaction between groups also meant the sharing of ideas and exchange of raw materials.

A leader and other strong members of the group would become the most active in protecting their particular group, as well as settling any squabbles within their own group and between others. This is the time many believe early man began to fight each other. Mostly for two reasons, to establish dominance in a group or to establish territorial rights over a particular piece of ground. But if fighting ever did break out, very rarely did anyone die.

As to the individuals with psychopathic natures, which does not necessarily mean violent, but individuals who would attempt to steal, cheat or bully were suppressed by a consensus process amongst the tribe, which had the power to ostracize, banish or even kill. Any psychotic behaviour had to be controlled, because to survive, the cohesion and stability of the group needed cooperation amongst its members to exist. Only after farming was developed, thousands of years later, would psychopaths no longer be held in check and would rise in power, right up to the present day.

Though over time the whole life of a tribe would revolve around its leader, these earlier humans had become more co-operative hunters, and the leaders of these ever growing groups found out that often times dominant authority had to be curtailed somewhat to retain the loyalty of the group. Each member was just as strong as the next, with the dumb, weak and frail rarely surviving into adulthood. Even the children, who of course were not passively entertained by video games, television, their phone and movies, would spend their waking hours actively doing something, such as talking, playing, learning to hunt, and helping out in gathering. Constant interaction with nature and each other, they had much more childhood stimulation and activity than most children today, which promoted mental development, confidence and better health.

Having to get along with more and more people within the group, as well as with other groups, a leader could not be feared so much anymore and instead, had to get everyone on his or her side by getting them to want to help him or her. Eventually as the populations grew, with everyone having their say, leaders had to become just another member of the group, because they could no longer command unquestioning support, obedience and/or influence. But with the groups growing into ever larger populations there was still needed an all powerful figure who could keep the group under control and over time there came the invention of a god.

Early modern man did not fear nature or feel helpless against it, but instead made the forces of nature into things with whom they could associate with and even regard as equal. They all thought very independently and yet were never intimidated by each other’s intellect, and did not feel submissive to anyone or anything. There were few illusions and most all instinctual impulses they would have, never disregarded the relationship of any other individual to them. These early peoples focussed more on living in equilibrium with their environment. Assured that their existence in the world was the same in the past, and would be unchanged in the future.

Symbolic behaviour would become ever the more prominent and was linked to animism, humanity’s oldest belief system, the belief that natural objects were conscious forms of life, and that they affect humanity. They viewed the forests, mountains, oceans, even the wind, as spiritual forces, and displayed a reverence for the natural environment. They believed a soul or spirit existed in every object, living, as well as inanimate and that in a future state, an object’s soul exists as part of an immaterial and universal soul. These early beliefs were based on instinct, emotion and intuition. Most tribal religions, even today, are different in form and ritual, but all seek to explain the mystery of life by insisting that nature is animated by spirits. Though these early peoples began to have supernatural beliefs, they did not serve to justify any central authority, transfer of wealth or maintain peace between unrelated individuals. Nature and humans were to be respected equally and would live in complete harmony with one another. Humans at this time did not feel separate from nature that belief would arise later with the first civilizations.

But the ego was rapidly developing, along with language, the first signs of abstract thought, finely made tools, the concept of fishing, and the understanding of bartering. Anthropologists, through ethnographic research studies of hunter-gatherer societies suggest that with some tribes, individual status was based on how generous a person was who has acquired wealth, while other groups remained egalitarian and non-hierarchical societies, sharing their food and materials. Art and jewellery also became prevalent, as did game playing, music and ceremonies for their dearly departed.

Besides the development of more complex hunting strategies, sophisticated planning, and social structure, certain aspects of a human’s life became more sacred, such as births, deaths and the passage to adulthood. Symbols and rituals became more elaborate. And as projectile points, engraving tools, knife blades and drilling tools evolved, so did art, with the first signs of art appearing in fossil records, 50,000 years ago, in Africa. The earliest known cave paintings, found in France, are dated 34,000 years ago and picture rhino, bison and horses, done in black charcoal and red ochre. A lion-headed figurine carved out of a mammoth tusk found in Germany, is from the same time. In Czechoslovakia, fired clay figurines and woven baskets have been found dating back 27,000 years, and proving music was also evolving, a bird-bone flute found in France is 23,000 years old.

These early peoples lived in an age with no reason, and relied on their feelings to make any decisions. With much of what they thought about each day driven by their emotions. Any problems were dealt with instinctively, thus quickly. Other problems would evolve when, much later, humans would first start experiencing reason. Reason was still thousands of years in the future and really did not last very long when it did arrive, since today we have already abandoned it and replaced it with ideology. Besides, when we cut off our feelings and ignore our gut feelings, only then does decision making become difficult. And as we have now come to realize, life is all about decision making, in fact, to somewhat prove the point, though our brains only makes up about 2 per cent of our body weight, the electrochemistry within it, when working hard on making a decision, will burn up a fifth of the food and oxygen we consume.

What was also evolving was our social behaviour. Most humans were still intimately connected to the rhythms and signals of the natural world and lived and responded instinctively. Life was still a routine of searching for food, getting along with our band members and accepting levels of power to the physically stronger, the more attuned or the group as a whole. Whatever accepted hierarchy, the constant tragedies, challenges, and difficulties of daily life were without reflection. With no ego, there was no jealousy or greed, or temper tantrum because something didn’t go one’s way. But over the next hundreds of millennia, certain individuals began to grow restless with the challenging daily routines of life. When someone died, they began to ask why and then wonder how the death could be avoided in the future. More and more individuals began stepping back from their automatic responses and started examining the full scope of existence and looking at the big picture. Aware that life endured through cycles of the sun, moon, and seasons, lifestyle, food sharing, division of labour, and cooperation became more important to one’s daily life. Where once the tribes were relaxed in their daily lives and everyone knew their place, they began to be afflicted with the concept, which we are still trying to figure out today, of simply how to get along with our neighbours. It was the birth of self awareness, and lead humans to understand the important need, not only of physical survival, but of the need for psychological survival as well. To be understood, affirmed, validated and appreciated within social worlds which would became incredible more complex.

As mentioned earlier, the first signs of art appear in fossil records dated 50,000 years ago, in Africa. By 30,000 years ago, when art was becoming more prolific and we began to decorate things more, there was the rather sudden appearance of a symbol set painted on the cave walls throughout Europe. Whether it was developed somewhere else or was a local phenomenon but used materials that did not survive over the millennia, or we simple haven’t found yet, we do not know.

Anthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger has found that, while surviving examples of the earliest art was of animal and human imagery, by 30,000 years ago a core set of 19 symbols, with distinct shapes began to appear in Europe and eventually outnumber any imagery of either animals or humans. These geometric signs would be repeated over the next 20,000 years, with the same symbols moving across the earth with the expansion of humans. The same symbols would also be found in Australia, first inhabited by humans 50,000 years ago. Over the next millennia these original symbols would rise to 26 distinct shapes, the same as the English alphabet.

The numerous evidences of fertility figurines, cave painting and petro-glyphs shows the importance symbolism became in human development, especially with language and writing. Symbolism allows the mind to see intuitively – to see what is not directly visible in the material world. It is what engages the right side of the human brain, while the left side of our brains is bound by rational or linear thought, like language and writing. And this is why the first written languages were developed out of hieroglyphs, which is basically art that is inseparable from the script that goes along with it.

No matter where hieroglyphs have been found, they are all very similar, even the Egyptian and Mayan hieroglyphs in particular, though separated by an ocean. In most of these places the script was used for inscriptions covering tombs, temples, obelisks, and sculpture, then would eventually be written on papyrus, bark, or paper, for ritual and sacred text. The first written language would be developed by the Sumerians, more than 5,000 years ago, to keep track of goods and materials.

These Middle Eastern and Egyptian scripts were eventually replaced with a new form of hieroglyphs, known as “popular script.” The Phoenicians would then spread these first written languages, which included signs for the consonants, all over the Mediterranean, where they would eventually be adopted by the Greeks and Romans. Over the next couple of centuries, the script would evolve with Greek letters to write the Egyptian language, and then during the Roman era, a Greek-based alphabet called “Coptic” appeared, and would become the dominant alphabet of Europe. Though hieroglyphs would remain the most widely used scripts until 392 A.D., at which time the Holy Roman Church would ban all non-Christian worship, and hieroglyphs immediately began to disappear.

The oldest language known is the Khoisan, in Southeast Africa, which is made up of clicking sounds, and is probably more than 50,000 years old. Up to this day the Niger-Congo region has more than fourteen hundred languages, 25% of the languages in the entire world. Cautious estimates suggest that more than 10,000 languages eventually existed globally. While over half of the six thousand languages currently spoken, are unlikely to survive the next 100 years. The Pueblo natives of North America believe different languages were created “so it wouldn’t be easy for humans to quarrel.”

The Upper Palaeolithic period also represents the birth of modern man, and specifically his mind. Physically, a Cro-Magnon standing in a crowd today and dressed, you would be hard pressed to pick them out. Same build, same mind, which is why symbolism was as important then as it still is today. Because, though we hate to admit it, humans are a biological species, being operated by a large brain, which has separate right and left hemispheres in the cerebral cortex, which we call today, right brain and left brain. We have possessed such a brain for over 40,000 years, yet today we apparently use only about 10% of our brains. As to the other 90%, is it that we have forgotten how to access it or is it the parts we haven’t yet reached?

In fact, the biochemical processes of the mind are also closely linked to our health, emotionally and physically. Mentioned in both, Eastern philosophy and the Old Testament, is how important the brain is to our immune system, and that the spleen, thymus, bone marrow, glands, liver, lungs, kidney, and heart are all connected, with much control of the brain resting with the organs. It is why there are intense, emotional and spiritual aspects of serious illnesses, and why if you grow up believing showing emotion is a sign of weakness you are sick a lot and have a shorter lifespan. It shows that besides the importance of being honest with others, we must also be honest with how we feel ourselves.

The right brain is totally in the present, and is voiceless, speaking through symbolism, instinct, and dreams. It deals with spatial and abstract relationships, and the subconscious. It cares about compassion, integrity context, peace, love and being supportive. It focuses on our similarities and the big picture that all humans are connected. While the left brain talks a lot, and which is what we have become.

We mange from the left, because it is logical, thinks linearly and literally, and is where our intelligence lies. It judges, punishes and deceives, living in the past and the present. It focuses on our differences and is critical of those unlike ourselves, thus is the root of bigotry, prejudice, and fear or hate of the unfamiliar. Today it keeps us busy in our day to day lives, yet no matter what awards of our society it achieves, it never makes anyone truly happy or satisfied. It loves routine and running on automatic, dreading having to shift gears. The left brain defines our boundaries of who we are and understands language but has a problem with its limitations, compared to the gut feelings and intuition of the right, which remember has no voice. And this is the trouble we find ourselves in today, because the reality of life is it is not just logical, it is also emotional, with symbols, words, texting and tweeting, too often holding us back in describing what we should instead be sensing and feeling.

The peoples of the Upper Palaeolithic period minds evolved gradually as did all things human, especially their social worlds and day to day living, though it was undoubtedly hardly felt by each generation, for it was a naturally slow process. Unlike today where instead of natural progressions lasting thousands of years, they now speed by seemingly on a weekly basis. It’s no wonder why mental illness has become the number one affliction of our species, with day to day living becoming all about simply being a good consumer and how to afford it, and that we are much more than just a biological species. Far from it we boast, unbelieving.

However, genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biology have taught us that organisms, which we are one, do not and cannot evolve because they need or want to, that natural selection cannot create mutants to serve its purposes, and that inheritable variation is random, with any genetic variation arising or not arising strictly by chance. Before the advent of modern transportation, not so long ago, human populations were scattered all over the planet and had very little contact with each other, thus we rarely exchanged genes. Over the course of human history, through random changes in the genome and natural selection, our species has developed many different traits, such as skin color, eye shape and immune systems. And even though such genetic diversity differentiates each individual from every other person in the world, most of our genes are not segregated among the traditional races of Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid. Thus our shared genetic heritage unites us all as one species.

Meanwhile, humanity slowly made their way through their ever evolving lives, still believing they were a part of nature, which genetics proves they were, and not above it as we believe we are. While at the same time the earth was also naturally progressing and forever changing, not caring about whom or what lives on its mantel.

After taking tens of thousands of years to cool down, peak glaciations of the last great ice age was reached about 18,000 years ago. Much of Europe, Asia – down to the Himalayans, and North America –  down to approximately the mid point of America, was covered in glaciers more than 3 km high, while Antarctica had crept northward and brushed upon South America. The temperatures near the ice sheets had fallen by at least 15.5 degrees C (60 F) and between 21 and 27 C (36 – 48F) in the tropics. The sea levels had dropped to 130 m (425 ft) below modern levels, exposing thousands upon thousands of square miles of the continental shelves of all the continents. In some areas these gently sloping gradients would have had our present shorelines, dozens of miles out to sea, while the edges of these shelves drop off very quickly, in fact the edges of the continental shelves are the highest and most extensive escarpments known on earth, with their average drop being 3657 m (12,000 ft) and in some cases, 9140 m (30,000 ft), straight down. The Bering Sea was a dry land, the Mediterranean’s basin a group of lakes, the English Channel a vast dry valley, and the Indonesian Galapagos united in one vast land of mountains and valleys. Today’s Venice, Italy, was about 200 miles from the nearest shoreline, while the Atlantic shoreline of North America was at least 60 miles to the east of where it presently is today. But then the glaciers began to retreat, the ice began to melt and the temperatures began to climb.

According to the latest research, and the most distinguished geneticist, Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, human gene frequencies; the gradual change of a character or phenotype in a species over a particular geographical area, show that there were three areas of human expansion during the Upper Palaeolithic era. One was centered on the Sea of Japan and its archipelagos and expanded out along the shorelines, and by boat to the western coast of North America, starting from the Solomon Island group, then out over the Pacific Islands. Eventually becoming the ancestors of many west coast North American native peoples, most notably the Haida Gweii. They also migrated back into Southeast Asia.

Another group was centered over Northern Eurasia and Siberia. This group migrated south and to the east over the Bering land bridge into North America. They would be the ancestors of the Clovis and all the other peoples who would eventually inhabit North and South America.

The third expansion came out of Arabia and the Middle East area and moved into Europe, the Mediterranean and northeast Africa. There is debate over whether Cro-Magnon had expanded along the ice age shoreline of Europe, Greenland and then south along the North American east coast.

Many of these migrations would soon cease though as the ice continued to melt, and would have left many groups of peoples isolated. Within 5,000 years after peak glaciations the world’s sea levels rose 20 m (66ft). The great glacial lakes in North America, which were once massive sheets of ice, began to flood off the continent and about 11,500 years ago, according to fossil remains of coral beds, there was an abrupt rise in sea levels of another 24 m (79 ft) and once again the earth’s surface was changed, and all the species upon its surface would have to adapt along with it to survive, with many sites of human habitat flooded over, as the Mediterranean continued to fill and the shorelines of most of the continents were disappearing beneath the water. More and more, groups of people had to move to higher ground, leaving behind what culture they did have, to the rising seas. Though these transitions often times took generations, in the northern regions, changes were more drastic, in that from a glacial environment it was becoming forest, the land being exposed by the retreating glaciers would have been compressed flat by the immense weight of the ice as it slowly crept northward, and had ripped out huge gouges in the earth, which today, are the fjords of northern Europe, Hudsons Bay and North America The ice melting also would have exposed seasonal rivers and lakes, with great forests arising over the now barren lands. By 13,000 years ago the tundra-glacial hunters were being replaced by Mesolithic forest and coastal hunters and gatherers. And with new technologies such as the bow and arrow, they began to devastate any big game still remaining.

In North America much of the north and central regions became grass land. And with a north-south corridor opening up through the melting ice sheets, and the Bering land bridge slowly disappearing, another wave of peoples began to fan out over the continent. They would become known as the Clovis people.

The North American natives, the Northern Paiute, of present day California, Nevada, and Oregon have an interesting legend, about their ancestors who had come from the north, “Ice had formed ahead of them, and it reached all the way to the sky. The people could not cross it . . .  A Raven flew up and struck the ice and cracked it. Coyote said, “These small people can’t get across the ice.”  Another Raven flew up again and cracked the ice again. Coyote said, “Try again. Try again.” Raven flew up again, broke the ice, and the people ran across.

The first wave of humans had migrated down the western coastline earlier, as far south as Santa Rosa Island, off the Californian coast. The bones and remains of “Arlington Springs Man” were found there, and are dated to 13,000 years ago. At peak glaciations 18,000 years ago, the four Channel Islands, that lay up to 26m (42km) off the state of California was one big island called Santa Rosae, and was only five miles off the coast, not so isolated as they are today, separately. The earliest documented settlement on the Queen Charlotte Islands of Canada’s west coast, has been found to have been used more than 11,000 years ago. Coinciding with sites found on the east coast of North America dated to about the same time.

Though they were not the first, nor the last humans to reach North America, the Clovis people thrived from about 14,000 years ago. North America before this time was much the same as Africa as far as mega-fauna (large mammals) goes, with many species. From herds of mammoths and horses, to lions, cheetahs, camels, and great grand sloths, North American Llamas, musk ox, giant beaver, short-faced bears (bigger than grizzlies), American mastodon, giant bison, and saber-tooth tigers roamed the landscape. But after peak glaciations many of the bigger mammals weighing more than 40kg (88 lbs) began to die out. Though the ice age itself was the cause of thousands of extinctions of creatures, humans entering the scene would have a profound impact on these animals.

Over the last 50,000 years, thirty-three of the largest mammals in North America have become extinct. Many of these species, as well as the Clovis peoples themselves, would soon disappear and become extinct 12,900 years ago. Some scientific evidence has suggested that a swarm of comets roared through the atmosphere at that time and broke up into hundreds of fragments, hitting North America like the pellets out of a sawed-off shotgun. The effect on the climate was sudden, as a huge dust cloud expanded outwards. In less than two years the temperature dropped -7 C (18 F). And within a couple of a hundred years after the devastation from the initial impact, changes in the environment and the hunting capabilities of the Clovis people, fifteen species of the largest mammals could not adapt or survive, and soon went the way of the dinosaur, and were no more.

More recent and perhaps more accurate data suggests that indeed the earth cooled at this time in what has been named the Younger Dryas, though it was not due to a meteorite but actually a cooling period caused by an abrupt change in the complex of the global climate. The same thing was happening in Europe and by 15,000 years ago the woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, European Hippo, Irish elk, cave lion, European Jaguar, cave bear, hyena, steppe bison and the interesting elasmotherium, which were similar to a Rhino but with longer legs, all became extinct. The elasmotherium 2 m (6 ft) high and over 6 m (20ft) long and upwards of five tonnes, had a single two meters long horn, was a fast runner and had teeth similar to a horse. But soon the hunting prowess of humans alone decimated most all these animals and with most of the larger game gone, smaller forest animals, such as deer would replace them.

Meanwhile the Indonesian landmass was becoming a group of separate islands once more, with New Guinea even more isolated, and the Australian continent was turning into a desert, with most all of the big game once there already driven to extinction 20,000 – 30,000 years previously by the first archaic inhabitants. The descendants of these first inhabitants of Australia would find themselves ever more isolated in a barren land, nearly devoid of animal life.

The people of the Japanese archipelago would become perhaps the first sedentary people in the world, with the Jomon period starting at least 16,000 years ago. They seemed to have been very skilled coastal and deep water fishermen. Pottery found in Japanese archaeology sites have been dated to about 15,000 years ago. There are theories that these seafaring people had made their way around and along the edge of the glaciers that protruded down from the Bering land bridge, before it had melted back northwards, and had extensively explored down the west coast of the North American continent.

All this expansion of populations of humans covering the earth’s landmasses would have a profound effect on the future of all living things. Population would become an issue, as well as the un-evolving needs of food and water, and the new primary quandary of our species, how do we get along.

 

 

Image – An artist’s conception of an early modern human. Credit: Illustration by Zdenek Burian.

http://www.stoneageinstitute.org/

 

 

12/2/12

The Age of Myth – Chapter Three

In review, since discussing the development of language, speech and social progress waylaid the timeline of the evolution of humans somewhat, hundreds of thousands of years before such things as Homo sapiens, Homo erectus had gradually made their way up the Great Rift Valley and out of Africa. Around 400,000 years ago they would be joined by another group of humanoids slowly making their way out of Africa, Homo neanderthalensis, who instead of spreading out through the Middle East and Southeast Asia as Erectus had done, the Neanderthal would make their way their more northwards, in the direction of North Africa, Europe and central Asia.

The Neanderthal’s adaptations were a low brow skull, which was much larger than Homo erectus, and were slightly taller, shorter limbed, barrel-chested, strong, thick bodied and possessing incredible endurance. The reasons for such adaptations were because the Neanderthal became a cold-adapted people, surviving, often times, in a harsh and brutal environment upon an extremely cold landscape.

With no material comforts to speak of, they travelled in small bands of perhaps a dozen in number and were scavengers, hunters and gatherers. And though early humanoids are deemed by our present society as dim-witted cavemen, the realities of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle is the punishment for stupidity was more often than not death.

With the land used jointly with other bands, they never really had any permanent place of residence and would move about seasonally. There was no economic specialization except by age and sex for everyone had to help out and forage for food. They survived with no laws, police or treaties to resolve conflict, were egalitarian, with no formalized or hereditary leadership and no distinction of a lower or upper class. Leadership was informal, based on character, personality, strength, intelligence and hunting skills. Indeed they fought, but there was no such thing as war. If fighting ever did break out, very rarely did anyone die. It was all about showing threat signals like posturing, yelling, and basically creating a scene, much like most all other animals, and as soon as the enemy has been subdued or has walked away it ceases to be a threat.

Considering the dangerous world in which early species of humans lived in, their social world existed entirely on the relationships within their family, indeed most all small bands of early humans would only encounter perhaps a couple dozen or less fellow humans over their entire lifetimes, with each band living in solitude for sometimes hundreds of generations. And though they had no slavery, luxury goods, architecture, nor real language, they were highly resourceful, organized, social and intelligent humans. For indeed what has truly driven human, and primate, brain evolution more than other norms is the complexity of our social world. It still does, though today at a much quicker pace than the normal rate of evolution of our social worlds, which was tens of thousands of years.

Tens of thousands of years, time which is hard to fathom and incomprehensible in its vastness. Especially to us today when we think we have advanced, and evolved, so incredibly much in the past 100 years. There are many I’m sure who believe they and their world around them have advanced and evolved in leaps and bounds just in their own generation, on many levels perhaps. But then there are also many humans today still living in hunger and a dirt shack or cave, if they are lucky. It is hard to get perspective when talking about eons of years, especially when a human generation, the average period between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring, is about 35 years. So to further confuse, ten thousand years represents over 285 generations.

Though having no formal speech yet, the Neanderthal communicated using eye contact, body language, tone and other forms of non verbal communication, and most specifically and important to their survival, by being intuitive and acting by instinct. They might have been able to sense the energy levels of all living things for all we know. Perhaps squat in the forest or upon the tundra and sense things on the wind, listening for a distant sound, smelling the air, the feel of the ground, looking up and studying the sky, clouds, and the position of the sun and moon, noting the behaviour of their fellow humans and the animals around them, sensing the differences and changes in the earth’s energy levels and of each other. Which we can still do today, but such senses are now controlled by others, numbed and dumbed down, or taught to be ignored and not trusted.

But even with such senses, life was still very brutal. Most all Neanderthals never made it past thirty years of age. They hunted large, dangerous animals so they had to work as a group and have a plan, especially since this was before the bow and arrow, and since they had not yet grasped the concept of projectiles, thrusting was the norm, not throwing. Their injuries seem to point this out, with most being to their arms, torso and head, because they had to get up real close to their prey en mass and start stabbing. Four out of every six Neanderthal skeletons found show many of the bones deformed by disease and injury, and perhaps exhibiting that the Neanderthal possessed empathy, many of the skeletons found had injuries that showed signs of healing, which means the lame and crippled would have had to have been taken care of, fed, protected and helped to move by others. They also gave special treatment to their dead in their burial, with the earliest known burial sites dating back 100,000 years.

About 170,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens would begin to drift out of Ethiopia. With a straighter forehead and smaller brow ridges than Neanderthal, they were equally robust, strong, solid and slightly taller, with the oldest fossils of anatomically modern humans found in Ethiopia and dated from 196,000 years ago. Homo sapiens would slowly spread out and as they migrated out of Africa, like all the others before them they would encounter previous human species and rather than destroying them into extinction, most times they were simply assimilated into the newer species.

The warmest time before the last ice age was 125,000 years ago and is known as the Marine Isotope Stage 6.  The planet was covered with coniferous, temperate, deciduous, and rain forests, but also, especially in Africa, much larger deserts. The sea levels were 6-9 m (20-30 ft) higher than modern times while the world’s conditions had begun to deteriorate. Much the land became uninhabitable, forcing the humanoid species still in Africa to migrate. The Neanderthal would settle in Central Asia and Europe, the Archaic Homo sapiens and remaining Homo erectus in Asia, around 90,000 years ago, and after taking over 35,000 years to accomplish it, Homo sapiens sapiens would also finally make their way out of Africa. They would move into the Nile valley, Sinai and the Middle East, with Homo sapiens fossils found in the Middle East and dated from 92,000 years ago.

Ninety thousand years ago the planet began to cool and over the next thousands of years, with the temperature continually dropping and the environment changing, the evolvement of humans continued its snail’s pace advancement. As with social progress, most evolutionary advancements took tens, and in many cases hundreds of thousands of years. The planet Earth also continued to evolve and change, though it had not a care in the world for social progress, the life forms living on its surface or their feelings. And as it often happens, nature makes itself known in not as so subtle means but with changes that are more dramatic, instant, and many times, having a much more profound effect on all things on its surface than anything we humans could ever come up with, though today that could be debated.

According to a theory proposed in 1998 by Stanley H. Ambrose of the University of Illinois, and which today is a much respected explanation for many of the paradoxes of the evolvement of all living things, the super-volcanic eruption 71,000 years ago of Mount Toba, in present day Sumatra, Indonesia, would alter the dynamics of human evolution drastically.

Mount Toba is accepted today as being the earth’s largest volcanic eruption. For context, when Krakatoa, also in Indonesia, erupted in 1883, 11,000-12,000 people were killed instantly; eventually an estimated 36,417 people would also die. With an ash cloud covering about 200 cubic kilometres, the explosion immediately destroyed over two-thirds of Krakatoa Island, sent out an enormous tsunami, and caused the worst global famine of the 19th century.

Sixty-eight years earlier in 1815, and also in the Indonesian archipelago, Mount Tambora exploded with four times the energy of the eruption of Krakatoa. Its explosion could be heard over 2600 km (1600 miles) away. If it had erupted in Vancouver, British Columbia it would have been heard in Mexico. Killing 71,000 people, Tambora is the deadliest volcano to date. A ring of smoke and ash 600 km (370 miles) outwards from the mountain’s summit cloaked the land in total darkness for over two days. The pyroclastic flows travelled 20 km (12 mi). The eruption column reached the stratosphere. Thick ash fell for a couple of weeks while the finer ash stayed in the atmosphere from a few months up to a few years. Before the explosion, Mount Tambora was approximately 4,300 m (14,100 ft) high, after the explosion it was only 2,851 m (9,354 ft) high. Tambora is the largest observed eruption in recorded history.

About 70,000 years before Tambora, Mount Toba erupted, instantly hurling up a sulphuric ash cloud which covered at least 800 cubic kilometres (500 cubic miles). It spread northwest across India blanketing some places by as much as 6m (18ft) deep, and because its location was only two degrees north of the equator; it would have made the dispersion more global. For an eruption’s plume to reach the stratosphere and blanket the entire world with its ash, it would have to be at least 10 km (6 mi) to 50 km (30 mi) high. Mount Toba’s plume reached twice this height. A highly reflective sulphuric acid haze enveloped the earth for six years and a volcanic winter descended over the earth. Sea temperatures cooled, with the global temperature dropping by at least 6C (9F) in the first few years. This cooling period lasted for perhaps a thousand years, with the temperatures colder than even at the peak of the next ice age that was to follow. It likely caused the complete deforestation of SE Asia. How much of Mount Toba disappeared in the explosion? Mount Toba is now called Lake Toba, 100 km (62 mi) long and 30 km (18 mi) wide, 505 m (1666 ft) deep at its deepest and at a surface elevation of 900 m (2953 ft), it is the largest volcanic lake in the world.

The populations of Europe and Northern China were nearly completely eliminated. It is estimated that the planet lost 60-75% of its populations, with the extinction of all human species except for Neanderthal and Homo sapiens. Survivors found relatively safe havens in isolated pockets, mostly in tropical, equatorial Africa and Northern Europe. The human species, as well as many other species of animals, were decimated. Supported theory and genetic evidence suggests that only perhaps 10,000 adult humans survived, maybe less; this is an estimate of ancestors, not of total human population. Isolated human populations that eventually died out without descendants may have also existed in numbers but cannot be estimated by geneticists. Wherever on the planet early humans and other animals lived dictated if they would perish or survive, and rather quickly humanity was thrown into a population bottleneck, which is perhaps the reason people look so different today. A population bottleneck is when a large population is broken up into smaller groups, and causes a “founder effect”, where small, new populations begin to appear and through genetic drift, inbreeding, and local adaptations produces rapid changes to that group’s gene pool, creating similarities only amongst that particular group, with low genetic variation. This is followed by an eventual rapid population increase, innovation, progress and migration. Genetic evidence suggests that all humans alive today, despite apparent variety, are descended from these small populations that survived the eruption of Mount Toba, estimated to be anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 breeding pairs of humans.

As genetic studies have proven, all humans today are descendants of a woman in SE Africa, called Mitochondrial Eve, around 140,000 years ago; mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from one’s mother, with Y-chromosomal Adam, (from one’s father), added to the gene pool about 60,000 years ago. This can be seen in the native population of North America, in that of all the thousands of humans that had migrated there more than 15,000 years ago, only 72 descendants’ lineage has moved on into modern times.

As with all biological bottlenecks, the remaining, separated and isolated group’s development would bring about significant changes which enhanced human fitness, the ability to survive and reproduce. The survivors of Mount Toba’s eruption, once the climate and other factors permitted, began to fan out from Africa and elsewhere. Travelling in small groups they became ever more isolated from one another and would evolve separately. Some would cross the Red Sea, which was not much of a sea at the time, into the near-East, and from there moving along the exposed areas of the continental shelves. With an ice age underway glaciers had formed, crushing the forests and all that lay before them as they slowly crept along. While both, the temperature and the sea levels continued to drop. Obstacles such as the Mediterranean Sea and the English Channel would be easier to cross because they were valleys, with perhaps a river running through them and scattered lakes strewn about the valley floor, same for the Black Sea.

By 65,000 years ago the glaciers had covered about 17 million square miles, with the polar ice caps expanding over the globe, covering much of present day Europe, Britain, Canada, and parts of Asia, including the Himalayas. By 60,000 years ago bands of humans had made their way along the shorelines of Arabia, India and South-East Asia and by 40,000 years ago, some of them had made their way to Australia, others into North-East Asia and China. With Australia and New Guinea always having been isolated by water, even during an ice age, evidence suggests early Australoids were the first to develop some form of boat building.

By the time before or after peak glaciations of the last ice age, 18,000 years ago, other groups had finally made their way into the American continents, and as the ice melted would become separated from the main race and develop in geographical isolation as well, becoming American Indians. These groups of people would eventually spread southward to South America reaching the last place on the planet to be colonized by humans, Cape Horn, around 8,000 years ago.

When the first explorers reached this most southerly point of South America and the islands of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, which is separated from the continent by the Strait of Magellan, they were shocked to find that there were four separate peoples that inhabited these islands and that each group looked different from one another and that they spoke two different languages. It is still a mystery how these original peoples had got there, and from where.

Besides the original Negroid race of human species, the people that had made their way to the north would become the Caucasoid and the ones who ventured into Asia would become the Mongoloid. By 45,000 years ago these three races could be defined as the main races of humans and would attain nearly complete specialization in their respective environments. The early inhabitants of Australia had developed from an earlier, less developed race in isolation from this specialization of the main races and became the Australoids. Thus, from human variation through physical adaptation to their climatic conditions, the races of mankind would form.

In the northern regions, with less and weaker sunlight, humans would eventually become more pale, though the actual process would take about 20,000 years. Our biological body takes vitamin D from the sun’s energy to aid in the proper growth of bones. Living in the northern latitudes where there is less sunshine the skin has to lighten to let more sunshine through. Just like people in equatorial latitudes who get sunshine nearly all the time and whose bodies, needing protection from UV rays, secrete melanin, the body’s natural sun screen, and which we all have, into the skin to darken it. The differences between the races are very much “skin deep”, with the most recent adaptations to our species occurring about 20,000 years ago, and include the parts of us that interact with the world around us; skin colour, immune system, and metabolic changes due to the digestion of unique foods, amongst each race. And because we are one species, originally evolving in Africa, this ensured that racial and ethnic groups were and are biologically equivalent, no matter where they ended up on the planet.

Human genetics prove that any racial superiority is a myth, because intelligence is not a single trait; it’s a huge entourage of abilities. Each race has an ancestral environment that favoured a different set of talents, with each race best adapted to their unique environment. We are all fundamentally different, thank god, and regardless of where one is born, each and all individuals are deserving of the same rights and opportunities. Every one of us brings different strengths and talents to the table, and this is why the most democratic, invigorating, and creative places on the planet are multi-racial cultures.

Some 40,000 years ago, a more complex human culture had spread and sustained itself in Africa, then Europe and Western Asia, and by 30,000 years ago social change had reached south east Asia and Australia. It was the dawn of consciousness, with modern human behaviour slowly emerging, in different regions at different times. Besides changes in human behaviour within a more complex culture, one of the more significant things to alter human history also emerged about 40,000 years ago; now having a larger size brain, the human mind, along with its ego, began to unfold itself.

According to Austrian neurologist, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), there are two functions of our brain that make up our unconscious mind, the Id and the super-ego, and along with the ego, which is our consciousness, are the three divisions of the mind. Though some of Freud’s psychoanalytic theories have largely been marginalized today, mostly because most of his subjects were rich, middle-aged, aristocratic, pent up women, his concepts of libido, drives, the unconscious, and his ideas that we repress or bottle up our feelings, and that our family relationships when we are children determine our adult relationships, have made important contributions to neuroscience. Though the actual benefits of intensive psycho-therapy have been controversial in the past; seeking clues into the unconscious roots of disorders today experts report that such therapy can be effective against chronic mental problems such as anxiety and depression.

Freud believed the Id is the uncoordinated, instinctual structure of our ego and includes selfishness and the need for instant self gratification. It is unconscious and represents the mind of a newborn. It consists of our basic drives, such as food, water, and basic impulses. It is where our libido, the instinctive drive to create comes from. It is amoral, egocentric and ruled by the pleasure-pain principle. It does not have a sense of time, is completely illogical and infantile in its development.

The super-ego is also mostly unconscious and is the organized part of our personalities. It contains our individual ideals, spiritual goals and our conscience. It always strives to act in socially appropriate behaviour. It is what controls our sense of right and wrong and guilt, and allows us to fit into our society in socially acceptable ways. Through symbolic internalization of the father figure, male or female, and cultural regulations, it becomes a part of our personality and conditions us to conform to society’s expectations. The super-ego maintains our sense of morality and prohibits us from cultural taboos.

The super-ego and the ego are the products of the state of helplessness of childhood; for we are born ego-less and have no distinct being, apart from the world around ourselves. This lasts until we are about five years old. At which time our ego and libido begin to develop. What Freud would call the Oedipus complex, the unconsciousness, repressed feelings and ideas we have that are centered around the desire to please the parent of the opposite sex and ignore the parent of the same sex is either, rapidly repressed or not, by how powerful the Oedipus complex was. From about five years onward, by the influence of authority, religious teaching, schooling, and reading, as well as how deeply the repression of the Oedipus complex is, the stricter the super-ego will be over the ego, in the form of having a conscience or an unconscious sense of guilt.

The ego acts according to the reality principle. Its task is to find a balance between primitive drives and reality. Because the Id’s drives are usually unrealistic, instant and short-term, and most times filled with grief, the ego seeks to please these drives of the Id in realistic ways that will benefit long term instead. The ego separates what is real and organizes our thoughts and tries to make sense of them. It also tries to make sense of the world around us and is modified by influence of the external world, reason and common sense. The ego will become defensive if the Id’s behaviour conflicts with reality, society’s morals, norms and taboos, or other individuals who believe in these rules of a culture and expectations.

Many of our problems today are because everything is moving too fast. Where once changes in our social worlds would take thousands of years, generations or decades, today there is simply no time to reflect and ponder. As to our minds, our self-gratification via consumer culture is travelling at an ever quickening pace which is not a problem for the Id. It can easily keep for it does not understand time, while the super-ego is being ignored and left behind in the dust, with the ego simply along for the ride.

After 40,000 years the ego has decided today to be more loyal to the Id than the super-ego, which makes it dysfunctional. Thus, here lies our current state of affairs. The norm has become instant self-gratification of all our desires. We are completely defined by our culture, while early humankind’s culture was the family and there was no time other than the present. Early humans might not have had much of a personality, but they were living in the moment, emotionally, like a child in many ways with nearly no ego to speak of. But as time marched on and became civilized, the ego began to gloss over the fine details of reality to minimize conflicts with the Id, while only pretending to have any regard for reality. Because the super-ego is always watching the ego, it has been punishing it with feelings of guilt, anxiety, and inferiority. To overcome the beating it is taking the ego fights back using denial and displacement; transferring the focus of an emotion to something else, intellectualisation; where reason is used to block out any emotional stress or conflict, regression, fantasy, control, or dissociation; splitting off from main body of consciousness, and in some cases; hysteria, suppression and substitution.

The main two functions of our brain, the duality of the id and the super-ego and their interactions, could have been the basis for religion being invented a few thousand years ago. The sum total of all the sacred scriptures, of all the organized religions combined, is basically about two gods, good versus evil, though in reality and hidden behind some bushes, they are really talking about the two sides of who we are, our nature and the mechanics of the mind; the representations of the human soul.

Within most organized religions there are usually two gods, one being a benevolent, pure in thought, righteous, just, honest, who possesses grace and is humane, kind, and compassionate, promises hope and an afterlife, and is capable of establishing a new heaven and earth. This god is usually all-knowing, an infinite spirit, without limitations, eternal yet everywhere and all-powerful, in other words, a human of good character.

The flip side is of a malevolent god, who is filled with intense, often vicious ill-will, spite and hatred and is selfish, highly jealous and immoral, who grows proud, and desires to be God, who has a flawed ambition, is greedy, egotistical, self-satisfying, who is known as a tempter, accuser, murderer, liar, and a enemy and who is related to inhabitants of bottomless pits, dragons, destruction, ruin, fire, violence, racism and hell; basically a hindrance on society, and an asshole.

Both of these gods are not dwelling in a heaven or in an underworld, or standing towering over us, they are not supernatural beings to be feared and to worship, they are actually residing within each one of us and are the functions of our minds. Earlier humans inherently knew the authority to create and destroy, to either reject or punish, to demonstrate both ecstasy and terror, love, and hate was theirs alone, and understood the responsibility of it and how one’s actions affected others in their group. Organized religions would take this authority and responsibility away from humanity and would become the authority itself, to dictate its own perceived morality and beliefs.

What has changed the most since organized religions took power over us, within the formation of civilizations, is in our personal and collective unconsciousness. Our collective unconscious is the deepest level of who we are and is the accumulation of inherited experiences, while our personal unconscious is the reservoir of material that was once conscious but has been forgotten or suppressed over the millennium, meaning we now live almost totally embedded within our mentally constructed realities, our minds filled with continuous streams of thought and fantasy. It is interesting that of the world’s religions and their concern over our hearts and minds, Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Sufism and Zen, all place much importance on getting past such mental behaviours of the ego and its refusal to live in the present moment and instead try to understand the truths behind them through meditation and reflection, while Western religions and cultures believe that a state of continual mental distraction is just the natural order of things. But before we get too carried away yet once again, we must return to the discernability of 40,000 years ago, and the birth of modern man.

 

 

Photo: Neanderthal man – Dna-humans-genome

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/may/06/neanderthals-dna-humans-genome

 

 

 

 

11/12/12

The Age of Myth – Chapter Two

The Great Rift Valley of Africa runs 5,600km (3,500miles), from the Red Sea and Ethiopia in the north, south to Lake Victoria where it splits off, and from Uganda continues south as far down as present day Mozambique. The Great Rift is where two plates of the earth’s crust are separating and is also where our human ancestry seems to have begun.

The earliest traces of man have been found in the valleys of Lake Turkana in Kenya and the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, between Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti Plain. The Olduvai Gorge itself is a 30-mile long gash in Tanzania’s Serengeti Plain. The area is considered the primary host of all other cultures. Why this is so will be explained as we go.

Evidence of the earliest Humanoids has been found and dated from 4 to 1.6 million years ago in Tanzania, 700,000 years ago in Java, and 420,000 years ago in China. From sites found in the Olduvai Gorge in Africa and elsewhere, these early peoples favoured lakeside camps, rock overhangs and caves for protection from predators and the weather. Their camps were most always near water availability, like rivers and lakes, and close to herds of game and vegetable foods. They would stay in each camp for a few days or weeks before moving on to better land. Many of these sites also contain bones of smaller animals, species less powerful than these early humanoids.

Hunting seems to have been more running down and grappling their quarry to the ground, with scavenging the more important means of getting food, with their weapons most often being made out of wood. These early humanoids were opportunistic hunters, picking over carcasses from predator kills and gathering wild vegetables. At the time, the larger animals were kept at a distance and avoided, for they were not afraid of man yet, indeed to many of the larger predators, early man was inconsequential and often the prey.

These early humans were bipedal, had an upright posture, a high vertical forehead and rounded skull, were about 1.5m tall, and became the species, Homo erectus. For when earlier species had first moved out of the trees and the forests and onto the grasslands they had begun to walk upright, to see over the grass. By about two million years ago, Homo erectus had spread out over Africa, Asia and Europe, with their descendants thought to be the first humans to use fire.

From watching fellow creatures they would eventually develop memory and foresight, and by mimicking the behaviour of the other living things around them they would assimilate such things as trapping; from the spider, basketry; from birds, burrowing from rabbits, dam building from the beaver and the art of poisons from snakes. These early peoples did not think themselves as being different from the rest of the animal world. With no language, they grunted and squawked like everyone else. From copying the other creature’s diets, mostly fruits and vegetables, to watching how they would get their food and how they would store it, they became very adept at exploring their surroundings and keeping a memory of which plants, insects and small animals one could eat and which ones were to be avoided. Their reality was a world of animal, vegetable and human spirits interacting with each other. They could not tell the difference between material and immaterial, imaginary or real, animate or inanimate. With no idea of self, there was little difference of skills, and having no idea about the concept of surplus there wasn’t much difference in status distinction between each other. The sensations that bombarded them daily needed an immediate response, so life was lived very much in the moment with not much thought about past or future. One’s life was determined by one’s actions to what was happening at that moment, at that time.

Because of their intimate connection with the earth, they expressed great care for its well being, for they believed that they were simply one part of the earth’s body and did not distinguish themselves from everything less in nature, thus they did not possess the sense of self, only the concept of their groups survival. Their culture consisted of a father, mother, siblings and extended family members, perhaps a dozen individuals, whose only concern was each day’s survival as a group.

Everything in nature represented a spirit or demon, depending on whether looked at as friend or foe, with animals and trees considered human but simply in another form. And because they did not see themselves as finite mortal beings they did not believe that people died, but rather they went to sleep and their spirit entered a netherworld and/or parallel existence. As to birth they also had no idea, they did not make the connection that sex had anything to do with the birth of a child, instead believing a spirit would enter a female’s body and then be brought forth, with a baby thought of as being half spirit and half human, who remained in contact with the world it came from until which time it grew up and then, sometimes over years, would have to pass through various rites of passage to become a part of the community. Because having too many babies would prove to be a hindrance to the tribe’s survival of having to be always on the move, a woman could only carry one child at a time and until that child could keep up on its own to have another was no doubt forbidden. Biology took care of this issue; women would breast feed their child for two full years, thus enabling suckling to be the contraceptive technique that it is, by repressing the menstrual cycle. The average reproductive cycle of most of the women, over an average life span of about thirty years, was perhaps 10-15 children, though of course we do not know an actual fertility rate.

The evolution of all species is all about natural selection, with many similarities in all living things. For example, creatures known as vertebrates – having a backbone – all share the five digits, skeletal structure of a hand. This appears not only in humans but also in apes, raccoons, cats, bats, porpoise, whales, lizards, turtles and a plethora of other creatures. Dolphins are able, as we are, to call each other by name. At the same time it is curious why many male mammals, including humans, have nipples. All animals share the same basic bodily functions and feelings, such as pleasure, pain, breathing, eating, drinking, defecating, sleeping, the drives to find a mate and procreate, birth, and death. For humans especially, history has followed different courses for different peoples because of different environments, not because of any biological differences between the peoples themselves.

The fact of the matter is, all humans have the same facial grammar; everyone smiles the same, frown the same, uses the eyes to convey cognition or flirtatiousness the same. A laugh is a laugh, anywhere on the planet and when one is angry, everyone knows they are. Don’t you find that human beings are very good looking people when they smile, and so disgustingly ugly when angry? But it’s much more than that, for instance, when people smile, the mouth doesn’t convey the whole truth. A true smile appears in the eyes and it’s no wonder the majority of a human’s muscles are in our faces, which seems to prove how important expression is in inter-personal communication. Then there is the tilt of the head, arch of the eyebrow or where the eyes are looking when communicating that further convey what one is thinking and trying to say or feel. Without eye contact we never truly know what someone is saying because we are not getting the whole story. The eyes are truly the windows into our soul. Even people that don’t understand what each other are saying can look at each other and communicate more than words could possibly describe. In Donald E. Brown’s excellent “Human Universals” he finds that there are about 400 specific behaviours that are invariant among all humans, with the facial expressions of basic emotions truly universal, and shared by many other animals besides humans, whether it is anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise or contempt.

About 150,000 years ago the evolutionary pace quickened when our skull and its contents evolved to the point where we became able to plan more for specific projects or definite purposes. At about the same time the development of speech and a symbolic system of language began, which allowed future cultures a much quicker way to share ideas that enabled them to cope with their environment. As language became more complex it allowed the ability to remember, transmit, and exchange information much more quickly and it allowed for such knowledge to be passed on through the ages, where myths through oral traditions would form, though it would not be until 50,000 years ago that language and culture would really begin to change who we were and who we would become.

Language would eventually give us the ability to create worlds of memories and life histories, and unfortunately, it would make us self-conscious. Before language we could only live in the moment and react to the shifting patterns of our environment, but language brought us the awareness of oneself, in terms of what others expect; humans who sense they are being evaluated and perhaps sensing a negative attitude towards themselves become self-conscious. While being conscious is being aware of oneself and subjectively experiencing each moment and having memory control; where we can think of something and then replay it in our head to examine what we had just thought. Yet we cannot both, think of something and also be self-consciously aware of what we are thinking. Conscious experiences also include inner feelings and thoughts as well as being aware of self and others. Other animals are simply conscious and not self-conscious at all. Yes they are highly intelligent and very aware of the world around them, but they do not look inward and observe the process of consciousness at work. They are not self aware, nor have imaginations, independent will or a conscience, because they are programmed by instinct, genetics and/or training.

There are many views on the origin of language. While it is true that all animals communicate in some way, human language would eventually become associated with the human way of using symbols and speech, while human nature is thinking, feeling and acting, which all humans have in common. Some views state that language is an extension of speech, which all humans have within themselves, with reason the most primary characteristic of human nature. Some believe language developed first, before reason, perhaps explaining many of the negative aspects of human communication. Others believe language and reason co-evolved. While still others believe that reason was developed out of the need for more complex communication, when more sophisticated social structures came about by the gains made by language and/or reason. It is surmised that more sophisticated human behaviour and basic speech both appeared about 164,000 years ago in southeast Africa, beginning with grunts and clicks, with language then evolving at a pace with cultural growth.

Speech evolved from non-verbal mood vocalization signals such as a cry of pain, a scream or a laugh. Other nonverbal forms include the expression of silence, hugging, touching and looking into someone’s eyes. Non-verbal communication is all about tone. While the tone of one’s voice is how the earliest humans signalled one another, speech brought cooperative exchange of information and allowed early humans to refer to objects in their environment. Non-verbal vocalization signals are still very important to us in being able to communicate; in fact they are everything, no matter what the media technology toys of our age tells us. When we cry out in pain, anyone listening can usually tell how severe it is; though with speech we now also add a few choice words along with the cry of pain, adding expression to the experience. Tone of voice is also the reason one can travel to another land and not knowing the language of that part of the world, can still get a reaction and communicate with other animals, even pets, which live there.

The evolution of speech was also connected to the development of the human vocal tract; it’s development allowed a far larger range of sound and the ability to speak more quickly. Our speaking rate has always been connected to the brain, which needs the body to take a breath about every five seconds. The earliest humans that began to speak could say maybe four to five words in five seconds. Today we can get off twenty to thirty-five words in five seconds, in fact a typical human today has a speaking rate of more than two hundred words a minute; three girlfriends chatting could raise this rate exponentially.

Language and speech would alter our brains. In order to operate, the brain needs to understand the inside world of the body and a view of the world outside, to act intelligently and make decisions. Before speech and language the brain relied on the senses. The sense organs would see, feel, hear, and taste to build a consciously experienced picture of the outside world. Sensations such as hunger, pain, and thirst told the brain what it should do to satisfy the demands of the body and because early humans operated on mostly instinct and intuition, the brain allowed rich areas of knowledge to surface in the conscious plane, which early humans would envision, and then do the images that were presented.

Among all animal species we are the only ones who tell stories. Living by the narrative in our communication is important to us because by listening to each other’s stories we are given to needing each other’s companionship and inclined to intimacy, affection, relationships and sociability. Language and speech would indeed change the way we lived and how we were to evolve socially, but at the same time it was when, ever so slowly, we would begin to lose focus on the present moment.

An animal’s mind operates by perception, recognition, simple thought association and environment, and is led by being aware of the moment, much like early humanoids but with language the human mind began operating not only by perception but also with memory, imagination, and more complex habits of thought such as inner-driven attention and self awareness. As humans we are responsible for our own lives, with our behaviour a function of our decisions, not our conditions. The traits of behaviour which sets humans apart from other animals’ starts with self awareness and the ability to think about our thought process, and possessing an imagination, where in our minds we can create other realities. We also have independent will; the ability to act based on our self awareness, and finally we have a conscience, an inner awareness of right or wrong, which we gain from internalizing the moral standards of behaviour of the social group we live in.

Meanwhile, the original groups of perhaps a dozen humans eventually became nomadic bands, basically large family groups of about 25-30 people. Living as hunters, gatherers and foragers, each group would need about 250 square miles (400 sq. km) to support itself. A small band would only have to travel a few miles every couple of weeks, or maybe led by the full moon, move to a new campsite about every four weeks. Most of their travels were just moving back and forth to familiar areas according to the season. In fact for over 95% of our human existence we have lived this way, as foragers and on occasion, hunters. We lived off of what the earth gave us, within daily and annual routines that matched the rhythms of the changing seasons and progressions of each day. Time would be measured only by the sun, the seasons, and the generations.

Most of these early hunters and gatherers diet was made up of nuts, fruits, edible roots, shellfish, insects and eggs, and were dependant on knowing which ones could be eaten and where to find them. To survive they had to depend on their intelligence and knowledge of the land and nature. When available, meat was a welcome addition to their diet whether by spearing big game, snaring small animals, scavenging carcasses left by bigger predators or from fishing. At first they would have had an easy time living off the land; most groups would have been able to gather the food they needed that day in only a few hours.

Beginning with simple wooden clubs, hunting and tool kit technologies would develop further when small game could not sustain the growing populations. These advancements in technologies allowed early humans to go after bigger game. Like the earliest tools, they were still often made from stone, but now would become finer and lighter, with the sharp flakes, broken and chipped from stone, and being used not only for hunting but also for cutting and sawing. As far as hunting, early man found that they could literally walk up to many of the larger animals, for they were not afraid of man. Though during the first million years of our evolvement, early humans were nowhere near being the predator they would one day become. It would take thousands of generations for the larger animals to develop the sense to run or attack when they see or sense a human. As early humans found ever more lethal ways to kill, scavenging was less needed and with the advancement of their tool technologies they were able to start processing the meat and using more of the carcasses such as the skin and bones, to further their advancement along even more and ensure their survival.

Instead of being centred on and preoccupied with oneself and the gratification of one’s own egotistical desires, early humans were more altruistic, where they were unselfishly concerned for and devoted to the welfare of their family. The group needed to be organized and work as a group; even in the pairing up of certain men and women into stable and perhaps loving couples for the better survivability of the child. But then most all animals possess this trait, where the behaviour of an animal, though it might not be exactly to its advantage and perhaps is life-threatening, benefits others of its kind, most often its family. While making up simple tools took a great deal of thought, testing and refinement and was a turning point for human’s evolvement, learning how to get along with our fellow human beings would prove more difficult.

With language and speech, the human ego began to develop and time began to take over our lives. Our thoughts eventually became only concerned with the past and the future. We would begin to rely on our past for our identity and sense of self, while we looked to the future for our fulfilment. This state of consciousness brought forth fear, anxiety, expectation, regret, guilt, and anger into our lives, while our cultures and environments would form whom we have become today, shaped personalities, with our brains filled with a continuous stream of thought. But we should not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Early humans were formed from interaction between only a few people, mostly all family members, the surrounding environment, and their unconscious mind; where the mental phenomena of feelings, perceptions, intuitions, thoughts, habits, and desires, exist. Being an exploratory species by nature, as their populations grew and enough room to forage became intruded upon they would have to move more often, with generation upon generation slowly making their way farther out of Africa.

By about 400,000 years ago, Homo erectus had been joined by another species of humanoid, Homo neanderthalensis and between them had spread throughout Africa, Asia and Europe. Around this time another species would also evolve and enter the mix, Archaic Homo sapiens. Then about 170,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens would arrive on the scene.

First appearing in Ethiopia, these more modern humans slowly replaced all the other populations, while language, speech and more sophisticated human behaviour began to appear, and evolution, brain size and myth would take another slow step forward, though self awareness, lives filled with an almost constant state of mental distraction, and such things as an ego, were still thousands of years away.

 

 

 

 

10/30/12

The Age of Myth – Chapter One

“They must find it difficult . . . those who have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority.”   G. Massey, Egyptologist.

 

The basic truths of human nature are the principles within us, which are the natural laws of the human dimension and include fairness, integrity, human dignity, service, and potential. These are the guidelines for human conduct. We all possess these truths and are creatures subject to all the basic laws of animal behaviour, because morality was inherent in humanity long before we achieved reason.

Too many of us think we are above these biological controls. That somehow thousands of years of genetic legacy is now beneath us because we think we have evolved so much, just in the past few hundred years, that we now reside above all those who came before us. Yet many people today are living unfulfilled lives because of such grandiose new motives and self-conceited ideas, which try to make us seem to be so much more than just a biological species. Our day to day lives get acted out, but it often seems something is missing, yet many of us feel we are more powerful, more innovative, smarter, and more financially well off than every other creature on the planet that has ever been. Our attitude has changed to where we now feel that reflecting on the past as being somehow offensive and hurtful. Meanwhile our character, the spirit within us, is being replaced by personality. We think we are growing and developing, but find ourselves ever the more disappointed and frustrated. We stopped listening to whom we are sometime in the last century and have become ignorant to our human nature.

Even before civilizations and organized religions, we knew that to attain love one must give their love to others to know what love is. That one could only be creative if they shared their creativeness with others; that only through the act of giving of something could one experience having; and to kill a fellow human being was wrong, no matter the reason. These are the fundamental truths that have guided us but are now being held suspect, by fear, faith, consumer-capitalism and even ourselves. Slapping one’s knee and shouting “I knew I shouldn’t have said that!” or “I knew that was going to happen” are cop-outs. We ignore our gut instincts and allow them to be shaped by others. Reality is we are an exploratory species now living in sedentary tribal groups, which stultifies our growth because our cultures and religious beliefs follow rigid patterns of behaviour and thought, thus restricting development and only promoting more needing and wanting. Such suppression of our fundamental urges is what is currently eating away at our souls and making us physically, mentally and morally sick. So much fear, spin and doubt has been cast into our hearts and minds that it keeps us illiterate functionally and spiritually.

Civilization has become a consumer and corporate world, with many religious beliefs continuing to hold onto the premise that their God is a supreme being who created the world in six days and who is to be feared. If indeed this is the case and that creation was the final goal, why was it not reached right away, all at once? Why was perfection not realized at the beginning? It could be because God is not a supreme being at all but instead is simply a word representing the definition of life.

If the adage “by our nature we are moral beings” is true, when did it all start to go askew? Perhaps when we stopped listening to the basic principles within ourselves and instead focused on the voices in our heads. Many believe, everything started to get confusing at the dawn of civilization and the invention of writing, five thousand years ago. It was a time when the human ego and the ability to view oneself apart from nature began to develop even more, where our mental processes started to separate from instinctive ones. Communication and dissemination of knowledge became symbolic and took the form of myth; though within these myths lay absolute truths concerning the processes of the natural world.

A myth is not always a lie, it also expresses something fundamental about how we perceive the world and human life as it really is. It also communicates to us our values and how we should live in the world and finally, myths show how we do in fact live in our worlds, through our lifestyles. Prominent anthropologist Clifford Geertz, formulates that a myth, in effect says “we live (or ought to live) the way we do because the world is the way it is. And because the world is the way it is, living as we do (or ought to) is uniquely satisfying and fulfilling.”

With civilization and the written word we became citizens and workers, and our villages became cities. And because politics, art, religion and even history are conscious, self mediating processes, they each dwell between the realms of spirit and life, idea and reality, just like our personal worlds do.

Pre-history, before the written word, is where our cultural origins are found, through science, archaeology and oral traditions, and is where the collective cultural heritage of all of humankind lies. Up until the mid 19th century some believed the Bible’s version of the world to be about 6,000 years old. By the end of that century the first humans were believed to be about 100,000 years old. Today, according to modern scientific archaeology, natural sciences, geneticists, and geology, and using radiocarbon, radiation exposure, and potassium argon dating techniques, we emerged in East Africa at least 2.5 million years ago, while the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, with the first life-form appearing on its surface within a billion years.

The dedicated work of anthropologists; studying humanity and it’s culture, archaeologists; systematically studying the lives and cultures of ancient humankind through the use of scientific and controlled techniques, physical anthropologists; studying the evolution, behaviour and biology of humankind and geneticists; opening up new doors nearly every day concerning what we are made of, where we are from and that we are all related, have all combined in teaching us much of our collective past, and with the laws of association and superposition, are revealing many truths of our history. Like Newton, Da Vinci, Hugo, Galileo, Einstein and all the others that came before and since, they believe that the importance of seeking truth is not in the divinity, but rather in the belief of the supremacy of direct knowledge over faith. What has come more into the light is the importance of culture as the distinctive adaptive system used by humans to evolve. It is humankind’s way to adapt to our varied environments, instead of being rigidly held in check and suffering.

All animals, including humans, adapted to their environments through biological evolution. If it adapted it survived, if unable to, it evolved into a new species, moved away or died. With humans, culture is the traditional system of belief and behaviour that is understood by an individual. Culture is both, our own version within a social group and the version shared by everyone collectively as a group. When animals die, their experience dies with them, with humans, when we die our experience continues on in our culture. The ongoing phenomenon of culture usually changes very slowly over time, which is what has allowed us as a species to adapt and evolve. Today, culture has reached such a fast pace that we, as a species, are finding it ever more difficult and confusing, because we can no longer adjust or keep up to it.

Though the strides in scientific, psychological and social disciplines in the last ten years have been incredible, we should be moving quickly to retrieve what knowledge we may find of our past before we continue to blindly, and at an ever quickening pace, “pave over paradise” amidst a global climate crisis.

In the first century AD, the most valuable library in the world was in Alexandria, in the north central part of Egypt, on the delta of the Nile River. It held more than half a million papyrus scrolls, in several temples which contained much of the wisdom and science of the previous thousand years, including the works of the Egyptians, Babylonians and the writings of the Greek philosophers. A Christian bishop entered these greatest of libraries and put them to the torch, destroying everything, because he thought himself to be expelling paganism. From 16th century Catholic missionaries destroying all records of the history and cultures of the peoples they exterminated in the Americas, to today’s industrial activity, road construction, urban sprawl, strip mining, deforestation, archaeological looting, bulldozer, crane and plough, we are erasing untold truths and more comprehensive knowledge of our past. In 2001, the Taliban destroyed two statues of the Buddha, both more than 38 meters tall and carved into the side of a mountain, nearly two thousand years ago, at Bamiyan in Afghanistan. It seems curiosity about our past will always outstrip our ability to find out more as time goes on, and more is lost.

Archaeology in the past few decades has made some truly “worthy of belief” discoveries. Advancements made via technology are opening chapters of history that we did not know about, with archaeology finally reaching depths that we have not reached yet, raising new answers of what we know of our past. This is why history is important. If we forget or not try to understand what the past tells us, it has been proven time after time, like a big carousal, we will continue to make the same mistakes.

The Achilles heel of archaeology is that only a tiny fraction of all organisms leaves fossil traces anywhere. Most fossils of Hominoid specimens come from sediments dating back a few million years ago, but in many areas where fossils may be, their access and discovery are blocked because of the continuing movements and cracks of the earth’s surface. There is also much evidence hidden beneath dense plant growth, forests, jungles, and man-made structures, and considering that at the height of the last ice age, 13,000 years ago, sea levels were about 350 feet lower than today means many traces of human presence is deep underwater. Finally, there is the reality that anything from the past, if it wasn’t a rock, has dissolved back into the earth.

As to human fossils, they give us evidence of size, proportion, and muscular development. Studying fossils has given us an understanding of the three most important phases of human evolvement; walking upright, a mandible thumb and increased brain size. What they cannot give us, and is based on an informed hypothesis, are facial features and how they thought, which is the most important to us.

To understand the evolvement of humans spiritually and culturally, one has to look back farther than when we first became citizens of civilizations, back to when we were still small families of hunters and gatherers and eventually farmers. Back to a time when the wisdom we desperately crave today, was ripe and fertile. Back to where everything that happened and existed was born of the same energy. Life was moment to moment, where a human being was not separate from creation but one with it and held great respect for nature; where life was brutal but not necessarily portrayed as such, for it was life. Back to the time before the development of the human ego, where a newborn child, a flower and a shiny rock still brought smiles to our faces and we were not criticized for doing so, nor did we feel guilty.

To be continued………..

 

08/29/12

Salesmen of Sport

With capitalistic bubbles stretched taut, economies and individuals staggering under debt, infrastructure rapidly falling apart and the legitimate rape of the planet continuing unabated and ignored, one of the distractions in a Canadian’s life, hockey, seems to be heading for another strike. Imagine that, individuals of the top 1 % arguing over how much more of the pie they can take. As of 2012, the average wage of a NHL hockey player for one season was $2.4 million, about $29,000 per game. In the real world $2.4 million equals someone making $48,000 per year for 50 years. Yes, wow.

Comparatively, the other major sports in North America that keep us preoccupied and distracted and who also possess an insatiable thirst for our hard earned dollars, the NBA, MLB and NFL, have combined revenues that are higher than most countries make in a year.

The numbers quoted in this article for any players cited as being one of the richest 100 athletes in the world include player salaries, bonuses, appearance fees, prize money and endorsements and licensing, just like any other corporate entity, because that’s what they are, ask them. These 100 players combined earnings last year was $26 billion.

The National Football League brings in revenue of about $9.5 billion a year and even though they generate the most money of all the pro leagues in the entire world, their players are the least paid at an average wage of $1.9 million a season. And yet as so happens, of the 100 richest athletes in the world, thirty of them are NFL players, the most from any sport.

Leading the way in the NFL is Peyton Manning who just recently signed with the Denver Broncos for $96 million over 5 years. For signing he was given a $6 million advance. Last season (2011) he did not play because of rehab from neck injury but his team at the time, the Indianapolis Colts still paid him his player’s wage of $32.4 million. Manning also made over $10 million in endorsements, making his combined earnings in 2011 $42.4 million. Manning is listed as the 10th richest athlete in the world, while on average the top ten players in the NFL are making upwards of $20 million per season.

NFL players get 47% of league revenues, but there are 1,696 of them, spread out over 32 teams, playing a 16 game season and perhaps a few playoff games. The NFL has the shortest average career span of the big leagues of only 3.3 years.

The Dallas Cowboys (#1 at $1.8 billion), Washington Redskins, New England Patriots and three other NFL teams are presently, some of the most valuable teams in the world of a combined worth of over $8 billion.

Yes the States has the over-hyped bling, attitude and 2 yard running plays of the NFL, but in Canada a superior game of football is being played, mostly because of a slightly different set of rules and character of player. The Canadian Football League is all about finesse, throwing the ball and the smoothness of the game as it is played out, mainly because a CFL team only has three downs to get 10 yards and a first down so you have to make things happen, while in the NFL they get four kicks at the can to get 10 yards, conveniently allowing lots of time-spots for advertisers. There are only eight teams in the CFL, with 42 players per team, 19 of which may be imports, plus 4 players in reserve, playing 18 games and a few playoff games if lucky and they’ve been working hard. League revenues each year are between $120 and $150 million, with each team having a salary cap of $4.3 million. Playing wages go from league minimum of $43,000 per season to the quarterbacks on each team, who make the most at $250,000 to $400,000 per season. The average CFL player makes about $82,000 per season and the average career span is about three to four years.

Major League Baseball has revenues in the $7.7 billion range, the second richest pro league in the world. With 30 teams and 750 players who play a 162 game season and a few playoff games, the average wage of a player is $3.31 million per season, while the average career span in baseball is about 6 years. Twenty-one baseball players make up the world’s 100 richest athletes, with fourteen of them making more than $20 million per season. And then there is Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees.

In 2000 and playing for the Texas Rangers, Alex Rodriguez signed the largest sports contract in history, a ten-year deal worth $252 million. In 2004 he was traded to the New York Yankees and in 2007 he opted out of what the Rangers had still been paying him, and what they still owed, by signing a deal with the Yankees for $275 million over ten years and breaking a new record for sports contracts, the record being his previous deal with the Rangers. Since he started playing major league baseball in 1994 Rodriguez has made over $296 million, with his teammate Derek Jeter, playing since 1995, having over $220 million in career earnings. Rodriguez’s current annual playing wage is $30 million. Meanwhile, his team, the Yankees, had a 2012 team payroll of over $198 million and is the third highest valued sports franchise in the world, at $1.7 billion.

Even though they are the second richest pro league in the world, MLB is also the most regional of all major sports and is strictly and truly, America’s game. And lord knows, especially today, they desperately need the distraction and the emotion the game brings to them and are obviously still willing to pay for it.

Though actually attending a pro game is far above what most people can afford because the arenas will soon be filled with corporate boxes, we do have bars and TV. Instead of actually going to a game and spending a hundred or more bucks, if you’re lucky to find a ticket, we can buy a $200 team jersey with someone else’s name on the back, go to the pub and spend another $50 on pints and a burger, with friends.

Over on the hard court, the average wage of a player in the National Basketball League is $5.5 million per season, making them the highest paid players of the major sports leagues. Indeed, only thirteen NBA players are in the top 100 richest because there’s so many of them right behind them. The NBA has only 450 players, on 30 teams which play 82 games and if hope willing, have a long playoffs to endure. The average career in the NBA is about six years.

The average player earns about $67,000 per game. League revenues in 2011 were $3.6 billion, of which nearly 56% went to player salaries. The elite players are earning anywhere from $10 to $15 million per season, Kobe Bryant is the highest paid basketball player at $20 million per season playing for the LA Lakers. He also is paid $32 million from endorsements, making his 2011 income in the $52 million range. Lebron James of the Miami Heat meanwhile made more overall money than Bryant, with $13 million in players’ wages and $40 million in endorsements, totaling $53 million, he also now owns a stake in the English League, Liverpool Soccer Club.

Bryant and James were both on the US Olympic Basketball team, their games as exciting as the Canadian Olympic Women’s Hockey team beating yet another opponent 16-2.

Ah, finally back to the good old game of hockey. There are no NHL players amongst the 100 richest athletes of the world and considering a very recent poll suggesting Canada could support another 3 NHL teams, hockey is truly Canada’s game.

The National Hockey League made $3.2 billion in 2011-12, a 50% increase over the past 7 years. Currently the players receive 57% of revenues, with the owners taking 43%, though as I’m writing this article, the players union and the league are at an impasse at meetings to renew their contract, mainly concerning economic issues. If no deal is made by Sept15th the players will be locked out. The player’s side would like to see an increase of $100 million to $250 million for a subsidy fund which goes to teams who can’t afford to pay their players and are struggling in shitty markets, such as the successful operations in Phoenix, Arizona, two teams in Florida and one in Carolina. To keep these teams and others, competitive, they must be subsidized by the other team owners to do so.

The players union has also said they would be willing to have a hard salary cap in place and are willing to take less than 57% of revenues for 3 years, maybe 54%. The NHL is countering with the players receiving 43% of League revenues and the owners getting a 25% raise. The League would also like to end long-term contracts with their front end loaded deals, such as those being signed over the past few months by their very selves, and that the same amount is paid each season of that contract, which would also have a 5 year cap on its length, forthwith.

Like kids in the sandbox, the owners have the bucket that the players shovel money into and the players who have the shovel are refusing to play any more if they can’t have their share, with the owners wanting a bigger share and if they don’t get it they’ll take both the bucket and the shovel and go home in a pout, it gives me a headache. Collectively the players make more money than all the CEO’s and owners who hire them and individually make far more in one season than what 80% of the planet will make in a lifetime.

As mentioned earlier, the average NHL player’s wage is $2.4 million per season, with thirty teams carrying 690 players, playing 82 regular season games. This year each team has a $59.4 million salary cap. The playoffs are four rounds of best of sevens, with the champion team having to win 16 games, playing a maximum of 42 games over nearly two months to achieve it. The Stanley Cup is mutually agreed upon as being one of the hardest physically and mentally challenging championships to attain in team sports. Yet in North America, out of all the major team sports, NHL hockey is the lowest rated sport. The average career in the NHL is five years, though 50% of all NHL players play less than 100 games.

The two highest paid players this past season, both earning $10 million were Roberto Luongo, currently of the Vancouver Canucks and Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Luongo signed a new deal with the Canucks in 2010-11, a 12 year $64 million contract, which paid him $10 million this past season and then pays $6.7 million each year after. Lecavalier signed his front-end loaded deal in 2008, an 11 year $85 million contract. The top NHL players meanwhile, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin each make $9 million a season. Tied for sixth richest contracts in the NHL are Chris Drury and Scott Gomez at $8 million per season each, which is sad considering since signing such huge deals years ago, both have either been injured or inept and ineffective when they have played.

The average NHL franchise’s worth is about $228 million. Toronto, NY Rangers, Canadians, Red Wings, Philly and Boston are all valued at more than $300 million, while Nashville, Tampa Bay, Winnipeg and Phoenix are valued at $150 million. Two teams, representing both ends of the scale, were sold during the 2011-12 season. Tampa Bay was sold for $93 million; the Canadians were sold for $575 million.

Besides the pro North American sports teams and athletes already mentioned, many of the richest players in the world are in individual sports. The boxer, Floyd Mayweather, is the richest athlete in the world. From June2011 to June 2012 he fought twice. The first fight he made $40 million, the second he pulled in $45 million, for a total of $85 million. I say this with a pure white cat on my lap which I am stroking and a pinkie finger touching the side of my mouth. Total time in the ring for Mayweather was less than an hour. Besides being his own fight promoter and having no need to endorse anybody other than himself he made no outside endorsement money.

The second richest athlete in the world is also a boxer, Manny Pacquaio, who made $56 million fighting and $6 million on endorsements. Number three, surprisingly, is golfer Tiger Woods. He made $4.4 million golfing and $55 million from Nike. The combined, $59.4 million is half of what he made in 2009. He would have made more, but after his wife attacked the car he was driving with a five-iron because he was following his little head around, he lost sponsors Tag Heuer and Gillette. Woods’ net worth as of 2010 is $500 million.

After #4 Lebron James, is the tennis player, Roger Federer, whose total earnings were $52.7 million, $7.7 million in winnings and $45 million on endorsements. #6 is Kobe Bryant, then golfer Phil Mickelson, who made $4.8 million for golfing and another $43 million on endorsements. Eight and nine are the soccer players David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo is the highest paid soccer player in the world, but Beckham made more on endorsements. Beckham’s salary to play soccer was $9 million, with endorsements of $37 million. To-date he has made over $260 million in his career. Ronaldo on the other hand was paid $20.5 million to play soccer and made another $22 million on endorsements.

Soccer is actually the world’s third richest pro sport, behind the NFL and MLB. The franchise, Manchester United, is the second most valuable sports team in the world at $1.86 billion, followed closely by Real Madrid and Arsenal, both at over $1 billion each.

The tenth highest paid athlete is Peyton Manning and right behind him is another soccer player, Lionel Messi, with $20 million in playing salary and $19 million on endorsements.

Other notables, who are leading their respective sports in earnings and are included in the top 100 richest include, Formula One driver, Fernando Alonso with total earnings of $32 million, Valentino Rossi earning $30 million racing motorcycles and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the highest paid cricket player in the world earning over $26.5 million. One of only two women players on the list is tennis player, Maria Sharapova, the 26th richest athlete in the world, earning $27.9 overall earnings. The other woman is also a tennis player, Li Na, at #81.

Interestingly enough and at first a surprise, Usain Bolt is one of the richest athletes in the world besides of course being the fastest human on the planet. Bolt is the 63rd richest athlete with only, at least compared to this surreal world we are walking through in this article, $300,000 in prize money, appearance fees etc, but he makes over $20 million in endorsements, Puma pays him $9 million alone.

Basically, the top twenty-five paid athletes in the world are making in excess of $30 million per year, roughly the same as someone making 60 grand a year for 500 years, yes, five hundred years. There are no hockey players on the richest list, though they still make very, very good coin. And there are no rugby players, who average around $50,000 per season, with the top class players making $300,000 per and the elite, $500,000 plus. Also not on the list are the hundreds of millions of people, who are playing for the love of the game, whatever that game may be.

While back on earth, in Aug. 2012, over 20% of the United States population, 66 million Americans and each representing a family of four, made about $28,800 last year. Comparatively, over 80% of working Canadians are making less than $48,000 per year.

There you have it, at least inquisitively. The sheer wealth and the representative numbers so far mentioned makes my head spin. But then athletes are only one part of our distracting celebrity culture and always have been, with the question always being, how much of the integrity of the richest athletes in the world and their ilk, such as corporate CEO’s, movie stars, rappers and rock stars, is left after withstanding the demands, pressures and greed to make even more money. There are many who are wealthy and still show glimpses of empathy, they appreciate what they’ve got and they make an effort to give back, though never as much as they could afford. What they all share is that they understand what they do is strictly business.

Others are taken over by the voices in their head, the whispers in their ears and they simply can’t help themselves. What once was and who they really are is gone, reshaped, forgotten and not even allowed by their status and class, they’ve sold their souls. Enough will never be enough and eventually many simply stop caring.

A celebrity’s job is twofold; they help us endure while our society goes through controlled collapses and the more the situation deteriorates the more grandiose, fictional and contrived the spectacle of the arena becomes, whether in a stadium, boardroom, on a screen or upon a field. Personal dramatics become the agony, the defeat and the winning with tears of joy and chest of pride, while fiction eventually erases what is natural, genuine and spontaneous; and they are the faces and hawkers of goods for corporate society and the gods of consumerism.

We admire our stars because of three things, how much money they make, what they do and we wish it were us. We live our lives through them and the maybe couple of hours we spend watching them we can hopefully forget about the real world, perhaps even hoping for some inspiration. Our celebrities show us that we can triumph and get to the top of the world, often just so we can give a finger to those who thumbed their noses at us or belittled us at one time and we act and are able to extract revenge on something or someone. Or become a hero and save the day by overcoming much pain and hardship. These storylines run through most all that happens on television, in movies, sports, business and politics. But in reality, for a vast majority of people, they never happen.

I’ve coached young hockey players who besides talking their parents into buying them $200 high-tops so that they could be cooler, get them to pay for a $200 stick, which breaks at their next practise, and $400 skates, both believing they’ll make the kid a better hockey player. This is the other side of the celebrity’s job; to be the “human representation of commercial commodities.” Most of the world’s richest athletes make more money from endorsements than from their playing wage, the numbers are obscene. They’ve become salesmen for materials we don’t need or can’t afford and they personally don’t seem to have a problem with that and no matter how much the planet sickens and deteriorates around them they relentlessly ask us to spend more, to support them so that they can make even more money.

To underscore this article, I’d like to end it with a paragraph listing some of the corporations who gave the aforementioned richest athletes millions of dollars to sell their products for them. They predominately target people that have money or credit, children, those whose religious belief leans toward consumerism, those who believe there is no such thing as climate change and those who smile and say everything will be all right as long as everyone sticks to the status quo. The list is what our heroes and our children’s heroes want us to purchase, even though in reality none of these products define us, or at least they shouldn’t. Materialism is never ending, never enough, like allowing the voices in our heads to go on and on and on, like the band on the Titanic, until we eventually slip beneath the waves.

Nike, Mercedes, Chevrolet, Monster Energy, Haagen-Dazs, Hennessy, Hewlett-Packard, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, State Farm Insurance, Rolex, the Nike Jordan brand (over $1 billion in sales each year),Wilson, Credit Suisse, Exxon, Amgen/Pfizer (pharmaceuticals), Burger King, Samsung, Castrol, Reebok, Sony, Wheaties, DirectTV, Gatorade, PepsiCo, Dolce, AT@T, Adidas, Kia Motors, Bacardi, Quaker State, Rawlings, Range Rover, Toyota, Shell, Kraft Foods, Tag Heuer, Verizon Wireless, Gillette, General Electric, Head and Shoulders, Pepperidge Farms, Vita CoCo, Ford, Goodyear, Subway, RBC, Polo/Ralph Lauren, MusclePharm, EA Sports, Jeep, Pennzoil and Toshiba.

 

 

Highest-Paid Athletes 2012 – World’s Richest Athletes ‹ The Richest People In The World 2012

 

 

08/11/12

Dazed and Confused

“There must be some kinda way out of here.

Said the joker to the thief.

There’s too much confusion.

I can’t get no relief”

All Along the Watchtower – lyrics by Bob Dylan

After writing the four Oh Canada, where art thou going articles I felt drained, perhaps confused. Maybe it was the weight of too much information. Or the fact that the current political system in most capitalistic/democratic countries, including my own, is truly broken, with the world now being run rough-shod by a shockingly small number of transnational corporations and few hundred individuals doing what they will with the planet and its inhabitants. While at the same time many of us plead ignorance. The confusion I felt, altered something in me and made me remember what mostly affects our lives happens at the community level and not on the other side of the planet. But then I realized, holy cow, my community and more specifically my tribe is just as confused as I am.

On the federal level in Canada and after an election, we have no more say in any decisions made by that government, basically the same at the provincial level, who also make their own decisions without any public consultation, with their often times wrong and misguided decisions felt by all except themselves. While on the community level is where we live our daily lives.

On our streets, in our homes, at our workplace, where we buy our food, raise our children, where we meet with friends and where we share our lives with a loved one is what is important to our lives. What affects us the most is the environment, how clean the water is out of the tap, what are the conditions of our communities’ infrastructure and how safe are our streets, most all of our needs are met within the community we live in.

Politics on the community level, in most cases is working. If a municipal’s council comes up with something that many in the community feels strongly about, the town or city hall fills up pretty quick at the next week’s meeting. But reality dictates that councils are also often influenced by the local business community, small groups of usually retired teachers and other very politically correct individuals. Citizens who believe it is their civic duty to make their community safer but perform with such fervor that this type of over the top justified involvement most often becomes invasive involvement. They become hall monitors and snitches, always on the lookout for that one small thing a fellow citizen does that the police or city council might be interested in.

Technology seems to be opening up transparency and on the whole, at least at the town or city level there is still a degree of accountability. We live in the same community with those elected; their kids go to the same school as our kids. We get people into government by voting for them, supposedly to speak on our behalf. And only at the community level can you speak your behalf to the elected member of your community face to face and personal.

Of course this all breaks down the bigger the community, town or city is because those on council are humans and once they believe they have power over others and are becoming increasingly wealthy compared to their neighbours, they will move away and their kids will attend private schools. Scientific American and Psychological Science have both shown and have proven that the wealthier a person becomes the less empathy they have for people unlike themselves. They become much more focused on self and that such a level of self interest of course promotes wrongdoing and unethical behaviour. While the true psychopaths, if defined as individuals whose brains do not register stressful feelings when they observe harms on others, who are most likely to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain and who represent less than one per-cent of humanity while possessing more net worth than the bottom 90% combined, are the puppet masters and running the show.

So anyways, I’ve decided to focus my articles more on the community level. This came about because of two things: a community project I assisted with and the fact I just took a week off and travelled through some very cool little communities around nearby Puget Sound in the States. With an open mind, a willingness to always talk and with a friendly and inquisitive nature I’ve met many people over the past week. And you know what? Most people do know the current way of things is askew and wrong on many levels, but their lives take up all their time and though realized or not, the simple human interaction we have within our tribes, the thirty to forty people we come into contact with daily or at least once a week face to face, is what makes up nearly every moment of our lives. For this is where humanness resides.

The community project needed a dozen people to volunteer to work as a team, by using each one of our specific traits and experience to bring the project to fulfilment. Many in the group had obviously stepped out of their routine and you know what? They craved it, egos were not evident, and everyone was engaged in the moment and enjoyed the feeling of being a part of something far bigger than they themselves individually. It made us happy.

Happy is a funny thing. We consume, earn and spend, often times even when we can’t even afford it, forever chasing down some false and misguided happiness. Yet within our individual worlds, deep down, the level of respect and admiration from friends, families, peers and communities determines a human’s happiness, not wealth, economic status or overall success, while food, sex and water simply keep us alive.

We each would hope to be an engaged, trusted, generous and accepted member of our individual groups. Indeed within our local hierarchies the individuals with such traits hold a higher status among the group. And if truth were to be told, where we stand with those whom we live our lives alongside and the acceptance and respect earned from them makes us happier, regardless of our wealth or fame.

Volumes of reports and studies on happiness all clearly show that feeling respected and admired as a human can cause our happiness to increase and being happier makes those around you happier, thus overall happiness increases. Meanwhile, it’s also been proven time after time and over the eons that just feeling rich or feeling above others, one’s feeling of happiness does not increase. We should know this, you think?

Seriously I don’t see much happy these days. The smiles are there but the eyes aren’t smiling. There are days lately where I feel I’m either going nuts or I’m just noticing we’re all nuts. It seems everyone is questioning, whether it be our lives, relationships or jobs. There’s also a lot of denial out there, even with reality gobsmacking us in the face. We are all agog with far too much information, looking more zombie-like with a thousand yard stare and either a stupid little grin stuck on our face or in most cases just a permanent scowl, with everyone seemingly so pissed off.

Personally, I get excited when I sense change in the air. But lately it’s getting rather thick, with information exponentially increasing in speed and volume it is now far more than we can absorb.  It’s not even subtle anymore, this struggle we are having over our subjectivity, our inner reality, and how we define our needs.  If change is dealt with an honest apprehension of one’s situation and without cynicism, it can only be proactive, but our avoidance of doing so will only create tragedy.

Communities are being affected by change the hardest because it is where we actually live and because of the trickle-down effect from the top of greed, oily slime and the oppressive nature of capitalism and consumerism. Yes capitalism creates new ideas, but its goal is to intensify consumerism, even when it is no longer affordable for the average humanoid, and it does so with no ecological or moral principles. Advertisers have shaped our attitudes, what we taste, see, hear, smell and feel. Our car and clothes we are told are what defines us. And yes we have unlimited information and technology at hand, because it’s been put there before us to purchase to keep us busy and entertained, while we lose control of the world out on our streets. This happens oddly enough because we think we have freedom, no rights, but we say we are free and safe. We’ve given up far too much just to think we live in a safe and wonderful environment. Our idea of what normal is and what is sane, decent and patriotic has sucked our soul’s dry, while each day we desperately try not to notice that the systems running our societies outside our front doors are terribly broken. It’s like we don’t trust ourselves anymore. The weathers fine, no it is not. Equal rights, excuse me? There will always be jobs for anyone willing to work we are told, nope not no more, because there are simply too many of us. Our senses are numbed daily by a myriad of means, we are all self medicating in some way.

Most of us are seeing the same things, the same stories, yet we are coming to different interpretations. Everything that is said or done is becoming being taken the wrong way. People are offended very easily these days, always “put out”. Trying to prove their point is whatever they say it is by their level of indignation. Trust and respect seems to have been replaced with fear and blame. Any truths and realities are argued and often denied because of a two minute sound bite of only a few dozen words announced on any mainstream news stream that they had heard, seen or read. So much of what we say amongst others is misinterpreted and questioned. We are realizing the deteriorating situation of our lives, individual world-views and the planet, and it is scaring the hell out of us. The scariest is the realization that things have gotten so out of hand yet we allowed ourselves to be distracted while it went on and we are confused by the realization that many aspects of our lives have somehow become beyond our control. It seems all that is left is denial and rage.

Grasping reality can sometimes be painful but rarely does anyone die or lose an eye over it and a change in behaviour does not necessarily always mean mental illness, but could be perceived as a type of societal shell shock. It’s as though one doesn’t know what to believe anymore. Not knowing if one should accept the reality of our lives; where not everyone is a drunk driver, murder (at least here in Canada) is rare, there is no such thing as the perfect family, we all have mental illnesses, and the majority of the population will experience violence only on the screen, thousands of times and all different ways. Or we can keep acknowledging and swallowing the steady stream of propaganda shoved down our throats and which assault on our senses on a daily basis.

Changes are happening that are far too fast for the mind to comprehend and weigh their implications, because reflection has been ignored and tossed aside when the television entered our worlds and became the center of our universes. The people that are getting off of their addiction to the aptly nick-named boob tube are often times awakening to find themselves embarrassed for their blindness and ignorance. I was.

But then that is what a capitalistic system creates, class stratification; along with racism, prejudice and feelings amongst the majority of people of powerlessness, unfocussed rage and shame. These frustrations are then controlled by developed compulsions and self indulgences which displace such frustrations. While the majority slave away at their lives the few at the top snicker away that so many have fallen for the propaganda. They do not snicker fearlessly though for they dread and pray the majority do not become pissed off and develop such insolence as standing up and saying enough is enough.

The less people who instead of simply stepping outside and being aware of what the environment is doing, are told what the weather and other people’s lives are doing via a seemingly drunk on caffeine and themselves, boob tube personality with a painted on smile, the better. The less people who still think the world is gumdrops and lollipops the better as well.

Nearly everyone I know is questioning something in their lives. What was once right or wrong doesn’t necessarily mean right or wrong anymore. We seem to have been programmed but are now trying to shake the cobwebs out. Whether because of our parents, peers or mainstream media, what we once believed good is now bad and vice versa. People are not dealing with their shattered dream so well I fear. One of the reasons for this is that too many of us are still living in the past and so very scared of the future, with many of us still hung up over things that happened years and decades ago. Yet all it takes to create positive change in one’s life is relentless struggle to keep a greater self awareness of the present. Most mistakes I have made and continue to make, happen whenever I’m not listening or not aware of the moment nor focused on the task at hand.

It seems ladies and gentlemen we have also somehow lost our empathy, equal rights and traditions. If we were electrical, which in part we are, we’re blowing fuses, experiencing black and brown outs, and disconnecting all over the place. The promise of more open communication through texting and tweetering is actually creating the opposite. Someone once said our generation has at hand, more information and technology than at any time in history, yet we have somehow become the stupidest.

It does not have to continue. All it takes is taking one step forward instead of leaning out of a sofa for the remote. Stepping away from mundane routine and habitual thought that keep us away from taking such a step, for the majority of folk, seems to be the scariest part. It is but being engaged in your world. It’s hard work being aware of each moment and is sometimes forgotten or ignored for hours or days at a time, but it must never be given up on. The only place the ego does not dwell or like, is when their host is living in the present moment. This is where true change happens.

Another step forward could be finally finding out your neighbours name and taking some pride in your community. Not so proud? Do something about it and get others to help you. It’s like if you want a responsible, trusted, smart and goofy child, you as a parent should be responsible, trusted, smart and goofy. You don’t agree to how we’re ravaging the planet and ourselves, speak up, create change and better yourself. Go to a municipal council meeting one night. Once a year spend the fifteen minutes or so and vote. Know who you are voting for. The community you live in is not your living room or house, its outside on the street. The people you meet each day are your community and this is where we can make a difference for the better. Don’ be intimidated by the media and corporate propaganda, no one owns the Earth. At the same time we must stop fouling our own nests, the rest of the animal kingdom are shaking their heads in disgust laughing at us and crying at the same time.

Let us not be souls who instead of dying peacefully, aware and grateful, it will be the tragic; sitting up from one’s deathbed after your life had just flashed before your eyes and very sadly gasping “Oh shit”. Overwhelmed with regret and guilt, thinking of all the things one should of, would of and could have done. Rueing all the differences in one’s life, in other’s lives and in their own worlds, that could have been made. And then slowly laying your head back down upon the pillow and allowing your last breath to escape from within. With finality perhaps asking ourselves if we had made a difference that we had lived or we had never made a difference and it was of no concern to anyone whether we had lived at all.

To paraphrase the humanist and writer, Eckhart Tolle, “The greatest achievement of humanity is not art, science or technology, but will be the recognition of its own dysfunction, our collective madness,” and dealing with it.

 

 

02/8/12

Summary to Some Creation Stories

Summary to Historical Essay – Some Creation Stories

Originally posted July 14, 2011

There are hundreds of creation stories, most all are supernatural, mythic religious tales, explaining the beginnings of humanity, the earth, life, the universe, and representation of the stars and planet’s movements. Putting the shapes and movements of the sky into rhythms which humans could relate to; stories that try to explain these movements in reflection of own lives.  They share the same themes, such as, the forming of life out of primordial chaos, or the earth emerging from an infinite and timeless ocean, or simply from a creation out of nothing at all. This is very similar to the fact that, beyond a reasonable doubt, astronomy and physics have also shown that indeed we had a beginning; before which, there was nothing, and then afterwards, there was the universe.

There are even creation myths in existence that include the beliefs that aliens from space, another species, landed here once, and perhaps still do, and over the millennia, have tried many times to create life on earth. The myths insinuate that millions of years have been spent trying to grow different life forms which would survive on a planet of rock. These aliens then gave the earth’s core an energy source that permeates through all things on the surface, while celestial objects do the same from above. And maybe, they began to get it right, after a meteor extinguished the dinosaurs. They then created one species, humanity but had to re‑create them a few times to get it right, at least something which they were happy with. That would be modern man. Then about 12,000 years ago they would give us food. We quickly ate up all the big game, so they had to return and bring more food, the four basic food groups we still survive on today and that which we can grow ourselves; wheat, rice, corn, and potatoes. But maybe they were just trying to find out where they themselves, came from.

The most interesting thing about creation myths is that most became prominent about 5,000 years ago, when the first civilizations were arising in Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Mediterranean, India, China, Mexico, and Peru. Cities were being born, populations expanding and the written word came into being. Many of these civilizations were geographically separated from one another, yet half of them built themselves up from nothing, with just as many not suspecting there was another civilized race in the world. Though there is still so much we simply don’t know about or have found yet as to ancient history.

What we do know is that just as the earth’s population exploded, with many new technologies and inventions, cities grew ever larger and creation myths appeared. Strangely enough, it is also the time when the ego of humans began to dictate the way things were going to be.

Some creation myths seem quite absurd or extremely fictional, if not illogical. But though they may or may not be factual, in the literal sense, most of them do pass on certain basic truths about the meaning and purpose of life on the planet earth. Most are not, religious in nature, and more often than not, they are related to worldly things that are not even connected to religions or sacred meanings. They are myths created by humans and not supernatural beings and/or mythological figures. But because we are a symbolic species, our reality is not necessarily action or feeling, but meaning. The majority of people perceive the world only in terms of the symbols that represent their language and culture. Any symbol that represents a particular meaning or ideal, recognized by the people who share the culture, becomes a belief.

This belief defines our identity to ourselves and to others by shaping what we believe into something that may be true, and then through the use of ritual practises, the belief then is transcended beyond the limits of our knowledge. The symbol then becomes sacred, thus, it becomes magnificent, high and mighty, and people become filled with awe. This is the main reason why many creation stories are very closely linked with the belief systems and religions that arose from them; for creation myths are the seeds of creation for such beliefs and religions. Though the problem that has forever been, is unfortunately, an idea which turns from a philosophy into a religion. It becomes extreme in one way or another, and most always brings only conflict.

The idea that all creation myths are somehow interconnected is common, even among most of the largest religions of the world. Some people interpret creation myths as poetic descriptions of the sun, moon, and stars’ behaviour, which has been distorted over time into tales of gods and heroes. Others are leery toward creation stories because they are suspicious of the broad viewpoints of myths, “particularism.” Then there are others who surmise that perhaps, Enki, Atum, Kinich Ahau, the Grand Unity, Purusha, Brahma, Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, Odin, Hah-gweh-di-yu, Wiraqocha, Elohim, Yahweh, Mangela, Allah, the Great Creator, the Great Ruler, Mother Earth, Father Sky, and a tiny, incredibly hot speck are all different manifestations of one single god and that they are all one in the same.

Many of the creation myths are also very comparable; in that most all have a flood story of their local area, and which is viewed as a punishment on a previous people for their disobedient behaviour. There is most always some sort of creative sacrifice, with a god dying then being reborn. Nearly every creation myth includes a life – death ‑ rebirth god. There also seems to always be a most supreme being, who after he creates the world, and especially if he was also a life – death ‑ rebirth god, cuts off contact with humanity and becomes “deus otiosus,” an idle god. Obviously proving the process of creation is an exhausting enterprise. These supreme beings are then sometimes replaced by a stronger and younger group of gods, called a Titanomachy, who most often would gain their powers by either struggling with or conquering an older group of gods who usually represented some sort of chaos. Shamans and priests then created a belief system based on what all creation myths are based on and that is a founding myth.

A myth becomes the origin for the customs, rituals, and identity of people. There were and are many ancient and traditional societies that justified their actions and customs by claiming their gods were the ones who established them in the first place and ignoring the fact that they were actually created by man. Even today, many cultures are still based on belief systems created thousands of years ago, with Evangelical Christians and Muslims especially, acknowledging that their core directives are timeless, and to this day, read their respective scriptures the same way, literally. The Bible and the Qur’an are both deemed to be the direct word of god and the absolute truth handed down for all time.

Most all creation myths also have an “axis mundi.” A place or thing where north, south, east and west meet, as well as being the point where contact with the other levels of the universe can be made. The “axis mundi” is represented as either, the Sacred or Cosmic Tree of Life, the center of the world or its navel. Each culture has its own impression of where the center is, and it appears in many different forms. Many times it is a place, like a mountain, or a temple, or even a pile of rocks. Most times it appears as a tree, sometimes a vine. The Tree of Life in the book of Genesis grows in the center of the Garden of Eden, from which four rivers flow and nourishes the whole world. The Mayans had their World Tree; even the beginning of the big bang theory has a center.

The “axis mundi” could also be a god or human figure, like the Buddha. It would also be represented in the hearth, and the altar. Our earliest dwellings, besides caves, were circular structures most often with a central pole holding everything together, the hearth at the center dug out of the earth. Then it progressed to square homes with the hearth in the middle and from there to square homes surrounding a fountain and a courtyard. Simple altars became the pyramids and great cathedrals. These are all “axis mundi” centers, and are continuing to be built on an ever more massive scale with today’s “axis mundi” represented in our landmark skyscrapers, which are even sometimes called centers. Other representations are the remaining ancient stone formations or mounds, in various locations around the world. In many cases, humanity is obsessed with always looking somewhere else for the center of the world, when in reality all they have to do is to look within. This then brings us to mono myths, the hero’s story. Nearly every single creation myth possesses the same or similar structured, classical stories of the hero. It is characterized in many different ways and has been and still is the basic story line in much of our present day art, music, literature, poetry, religion, and film. It is also a story that is representative of a human’s life, though there never seems to be enough people willing to follow the path that leads to true peace, like heroes do.

Usually they begin after a miraculous birth, and after maturing into adulthood, the hero ventures out from the ordinary world into a supernatural realm. There they face fantastical forces, but are eventually victorious. The return journey is just as adventurous and filled with toils and troubles, and upon the hero’s return, he shares the knowledge and powers he has attained with his people. The story is of departure, initiation, and return; a very familiar tale of life, death, and rebirth.

They all begin when something or someone causes the hero to become aware of a new situation, an adventure he did not know about. They are told that they are desperately needed, that the life or death of humanity and/or creation is at stake. At first they refuse to help out, using the excuses of a sense of duty, obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy perhaps, and even love. Suddenly the hero becomes a victim to be saved. But once the hero commits to the journey there soon appear, consciously or unconsciously, guides that will assist the hero. It is usually an old woman or an old man. Their knowledge makes them representatives of the protecting power of destiny. Soon the hero realizes that all the forces of conscious, even Mother Nature, are at his or her side. The hero leaves their known world and departs from their self, and who they thought themselves were. The hero nearly dies, but is healed and/or reborn. They are then put through trials or series of ordeals or tests, usually three of them. Afterwards the hero feels unconditional love for the first time with a fellow human. The experience is overwhelming, and makes them feel very complete. And then comes some sort of physical or material temptation of life, such as morality, lust, cruelty, or greed.

The high point of the story is now reached, with the hero confronting whomever or whatever holds the ultimate power in the hero’s life. Many times, it is the father or a father figure who possesses powers over life and death. The hero is now faced with the hardest part of his journey, forgiveness and redemption, which requires the abandonment of the attachment to the ego. This is what is so very difficult. But when attained, the hero experiences a period of calm fulfilment and peace with their inner spirit. They come to realize that the immortal, indestructible being they just overcame was not what they were after at all. The benefit of achieving the goal of their quest was actually not the being itself, but the power that sustained it, and its grace, conscience and virtue. Much of Eastern philosophy is based on this principle. “We seek not to imitate the masters. Rather, we seek what they sought.

Having realized profound bliss or enlightenment, many a hero refused to return to the ordinary world. Some even stay and become immortal, others stay and die. The ones who decide to return often need help in the journey, for though they are at peace with themselves they are, more often than not, wounded or weakened in some way. Rescuers or guides appear to help them along their mythical flight home. This represents the classic and all too common, chase scene.

When the hero finally makes it back to their normal world, it is usually a very difficult time for them. They ponder how they are to integrate back into a normal life. The wisdom they have gained has changed them. They are masters of comfort and competency in their inner world, as well as the world around them. And because of their atonement, they are able to give up the attachments of their own personal limitations, traits, hopes, fears, and no longer are willing to live their lives by just going through the motions. The hero is now willing to settle down and relax in the present moment, and whatever they may face, to deal with life as it happens. They contribute to their communities and to everyone they meet. They have come to understand that one earns respect by respecting others, which then gives peace of mind. They neither anticipate the future nor regret the past. They simply make each present moment count. And this is why the true heroes of the world are usually kind, generous, and patient. They understand that no one is perfect and that no one will ever know everything, and that all there is, is how one acts right now in the present moment, and they understand the power and importance of forgiveness. They achieve such awareness through the disciplines of body, mind, and spirit. Their heroism becomes simply, grace under the pressures of life, and their own conduct during times of temptation. They become beings with moral character, putting the interests of others above their own and possess the divine with reserved dignity and patience.

The opposite of the hero’s story is what too many of us have become over the years, and that is, individuals strutting around thinking a spotlight and camera are following us. Indignity is now all the rage. Human nature has now become rarely unbiased or unprejudiced. Instead it is always operating in the extreme, either to the right or the left, but not very often in the middle way, with compromise. We’ve become opinionated, rash, angry, and loud. Living lives of illusion.

Besides the themes already mentioned, there is much to be learned from creation myths. The main problem has always been in how they have been interpreted. Like the foolishness of thinking we are here to rule and subdue the planet and all that dwell on it and to strip it of its resources, instead of the ideological viewpoint of favoured living in harmony with nature and our fellow human beings. But then that is the main problem with language and deep human thought, both are limited only by the metaphors available.

Thousands of years ago a simple group of people, after the men had returned from hunting down some game and the women had gathered up roots, berries, and grubs, they would sit around the fire and watch, listen and tell stories about their adventures of that day. They used various tones of grunting, body movement, gestures, and facial expressions, like smiling or titling the chin or rolling one’s eyes to explain their adventures. Or maybe the group would just sit back and with a clear focus, whittle away on a bone and make it into something or chip away at a stone to make an arrowhead. And then perhaps they’d just lie back upon mother earth and stare up into the expanse of space and wonder about all those twinkling lights. Then over time, some of them, at first with just their finger then a stick, would draw in the dirt and sand, and later hand paint the walls of their caves. Eventually scratching and carving the stories in shapes and symbols representing their tribes’ sign, on stone and pieces of bark, would detail the oral traditions and legends that would be passed down over generations. They believed that they were one with nature and that they would progress forever forward by simply continuing to share and compare the knowledge they gained.

Scribes and priests would begin to record these stories, transforming language into the written word, using their own interpretations and then creating world‑views. Many of the first civilizations would then use these stories on which to base their beliefs, tenets, rules and hierarchy. Everyone would soon succumb to the fears presented to them, which these institutions would then distort into an unconscious need to conquer, defeat and impose their own way of life onto others by force. For a few thousand years the first civilizations would be only concerned with growth, expansion, war, and mega‑projects, while the majority of the ever growing population’s concerns were strife, famine, and drought. Illusions would be created and still are, illusions that enter our minds and become realities, for indeed we are simply myth making mammals.

Creation myths aside, every single life form on the planet behaves in uniform, species-specific ways, most being guided by instincts, such as biological programming. However compared to all other living things, a human’s creative power is vast. But we now rely on culture, rather than instinct to ensure the survival of our kind. At one time, though rare today, we had biological forces within us, called instincts. This is where our soul resides. Where once we listened, we now most often ignore that “gut feeling,” and go in the direction our ego wants to go. Our souls have become cloaked in our egos, capes woven from our reactions to being in the world. This has translated into suffering, struggle, attachments, vulnerability, fear, insecurity, and anguish that come from our particular society.

Our soul is the core of our being. It is the energy that is held there, a frequency if you will, but which is voiceless. It is where peace, calmness, composure, love, concern, and unlimited understanding reside. Though we have become beings that have gained tremendous mental power, we instead occupy ourselves with fashioning the natural environment into something self-serving, to ourselves and to our culture, according to where one happens to have been born and raised. Today it seems, far too many people have forgotten that they even have a soul and for various reasons, all created by the ego, far too many people are willing to forever be victims. The willingness to no longer be a victim comes from the soul, it allows us to either be free to suffer or free to stop suffering. The ego, creation myths, and many religious doctrines, cloud this truth and want us to be unaware that we have this choice. They try to dictate what our conscience is to be, because the act of thinking is what enslaves the soul and our conscious freedom. If one’s soul is free, they are able to meet suffering, to be aware of it, and then consciously choose to let it go.

When it comes right down to it, most all creation stories are make-believe, but where do they end? Will it be extinction, enlightenment, or evolvement? We are the first species, which we know of, to have the ability to stave off extinction, if we decide to. Enlightenment would lead to a better way of living allowing us to make the proper decisions, based on the realization that to stay alive, we need to keep the planet alive. This would be by creating a world of limited, earth friendly consumption, with technology working for us, as a friend, and not working against us like the enemy much of it has become. So basically, evolvement can go either way, enlightenment or a world overpopulated with robots, drones, and worker bees. A world where the privileged few defend that privilege with obese establishments of weapons and propaganda, while the majority of the world faces poverty, desperation, and death, a world of food and water rationing, with the food that is available, genetically altered. A world where perhaps many live indoors or underground, when the sun is out. A world of acid rain, polluted rivers and poisoned oceans. A world where people are wearing paper masks when meeting other people and our thoughts and behaviour dictated by big brother and the corporate elite.

Perhaps we should learn to once again, respect the characters of the creation myths that created such myths. The true creators of life are the sun, the moon, earth, water, the sky, and nature, who don’t care what we call them. At this stage of our history the only way to achieve this is through community and to return to family values, a sense of self, and awareness, for this is where love is found, as well as through mutual cooperation and respect, instead of our present values of corporate greed, television, and egotistical materialism.

Some people will hold their belief in their own particular creation story. Each one based on religion or science. Indeed creationism and evolution have become major issues with many people. The war between religion and science has been at the core of many disputes ever since creation stories came to be, with each side proclaiming the truth. While in reality, the truth happens when true science and true religion are in harmony with each other.

Scientific knowledge and modern technologies are racing forward at an ever quickening pace, yet our societies are still based on concepts and principles created centuries ago. In far too many ways humanity and its morality are being left behind in the dust. Present human activity and all its effects on the planet, the atmosphere and ourselves has been shaped by thinking patterns that are based on structures, needs, and values used by our ancestors six thousand years ago. Our present day societies are burdened under the heavy load of traditional religions, or otherwise considerations of the past. The bulk of scientific knowledge that we have gained has only contributed to environmental degradation and has given us the illusion that our world is better because of it. Instead science should make our lives better, with the driving force being concern for our welfare and the protection of the environment. The problem with science in the last few centuries is that all its focus has been on the sciences of matter, which do nothing to change the natural conditions and spirituality of life itself.

Up until recently the focus of the sciences of human behaviour have been primarily on people themselves, and not on the environmental conditions that created that individual. But we must continue to develop all the sciences of life and start to allow our inner being to make its way from beneath our manufactured, conditioned, personalities. Biology, physiology, and psychology are the only courses that could lead to positive change in our quality of life, not the fabrication of yet a bigger screen television or a faster car or an ever more powerful god. Just studying the individual does not identify the factors regarding that person’s behaviour. It is not human nature, but human behaviour that we need to be concerned with. And up until now, much of our behaviour is based on religious thought, cultural influences and the belief in creation myths.

I shall end this essay with some interesting ways of looking at science and the world, for I believe the future does not just happen, other than natural events of course, but instead comes through the efforts of people and is determined by how well we are informed, of both sides of the story. There need not be so much polarity between us. There is absolutely no right or wrong, instead there are only points of view. If what we want to create are fairness, balance and understanding then we need to give these things to others.

One of the most recent belief systems to have emerged in the world, one of the youngest of all religions, is the Baha’i faith which believes that humanity is indeed a single race and has the fundamental belief of the equality of men and women. One of its fundamental principles is of the harmony of religion and science. They believe that religion without science is merely superstition, and that science without religion is materialism. They believe truth to be one entity, the unity of science and religion. They cannot be opposed for they are both aspects of the same truth. As Einstein once said, “Science without religion is lame, while religion without science is blind.” The Baha’i faith believes that a human’s reasoning power is all that is required to understand the truths about religion and that whenever conflict arises between religion and science it is always due to human error, either through misinterpretations of religious scriptures or through the lack of a more complete understanding of science. Religious leaders who only accept the truth by what has been written in scripture many centuries ago, could learn much from scientists who are mortal humans also seeking the truth. The difference though is that the most important trait a scientist must have, is to admit when they are wrong, which then enables them to go on and find perhaps the right conclusion.

The written word of divine scripture is based on one of the main problems with language since it was invented, in that it is extremely limited because it is based on metaphors and comparisons. Most scriptures are interpretations, that more than likely, have nothing to do with the original texts that they are taken from, nor have they survived intact through the multiple translations. Many of them are primitive tales of legend and superstition. Another problem with a lot of scripture is that many people believe it is a goal, when instead the words that are contained within are actually tools. Though there are some religions that do understand that most all scriptures are human attempts to try to understand the incredible actions of the universe, but their attempts were limited by the particular time and culture, in which they were originally written down, more than two thousand years ago.

In most all faiths, when a person’s perception of themselves becomes fundamentally separate from other people, things and obstacles that they encounter, and even separate from the divine, it becomes very difficult to attain spiritual growth. They create limitations upon themselves. For developing a meaningful and personal spirituality takes work, and is an ongoing job. It is a way of walking, not talking.

The powers of logic and reason are also just as limited as is language, when it comes to a belief, for true realization in a faith comes from something that is far simpler and more innocent than logic. The ancient Greeks came to believe that logic (logos), the reasoning side, was only one of three distinct parts that made up a human being and in no way was the most important. There are also the positive and absolute, the (pathos), from where feelings come and which is based on our relationships. And finally, there is character (ethos), our integrity and the trust that one inspires.

As to logic, no matter what our ego thinks, we are not inherently rational. Formal logic is a very recent creation of humankind. It was brought about so that humans could ignore inner knowledge. Our more natural methods of thought is doing what feels right, based on experience and custom, intuition and instinct, and simple gut feelings. We modern humans seem to be happier and feel more comfortable talking about the logical reasons for doing something, instead of being honest and admitting that many times we simply don’t know and go with what we feel. For seeking to understand requires consideration, while seeking to be understood takes courage.  Once again we return to Mr. Einstein who stated, “I didn’t arrive at my understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe through my rational mind.”

Einstein thought of himself as an agnostic in that he did not believe in a personal god, for he felt god was simply an expression and product of human weakness. But he felt himself to be very religious, as he once explained, “If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. Knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which is only accessible to our reason in their most elementary form; it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitutes the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.” He believed that there were three styles of religion.

The first being fear with the weak understanding of causality, of cause and effect, which then creates yet more fear, and the invention of supernatural beings. The second style is the desire for love and support, which then creates a social and moral need for a supernatural being. The third style does not have a concept of god per se, as in a non‑human creature or a being that has human characteristics, but instead, “The individual feels  . . .  the sublimity and marvellous order which reveal themselves in nature  . . .  and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole.” As Einstein, and countless others before him were able to do, and which we must do today, is to give ourselves the freedom to rise above our present realities and seek new and creative ideas, to get past the log jam that we have created.

One way to do this would be by pulling our heads out of the sand, shutting up the voices in our heads, living and understanding the moment, start looking out for one another and find the lost emotion of empathy. Far too many of us feel we must believe in an almighty protector and saviour, and that this deity’s divine power is the source of help and support and makes us feel secure in the thinking there is someone watching over us. Reality may be that we simply start showing just as much compassion to our fellow members of the human family, as we do to a god, that may or may not exist, we will attain help and support, and always have someone watching over us.

I myself try to understand all sides and enjoy doing so, and believe that society is not fixed by a god’s will or by human nature. It is a system that we can study scientifically and based on what we learn about our world and its nature; we can act deliberately to improve, whether it is us or our planet. And yet the flip side of this coin is that many scientific findings are based entirely on mathematics and cannot be practically tested or proven. So one then has the choice of believing or not. Thus, in many ways, science could also be defined as a belief system.

It seems that the essence of the universe is the same energy that we all share, and it is this which we need to become more aware of. To realise that we are all a part of and share the energy source of the atom and therefore we all share the same soul and that our imperfections are what makes us the beings we are. As the revered Leonard Cohen so wrote and sang, “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

If indeed there is a creator, a supreme god, or even a group of gods, whether male or female, mortal or supernatural, man or animal, I can only imagine what they would be thinking as they look down upon their creation today. I wonder if its sadness, disappointment, or embarrassment? Or maybe they have no thought on the matter whatsoever, knowing that regardless of the ignorance of humanity, the future will force us to behave differently, whether we like it or not. If it is true that they can see everything, do they notice that much of the life that they created is gone from the earth, with the remainder abused, used, assaulted, and raped? Do they not see that untold numbers of plants and wildlife have become extinct from their creation? What do they feel about our madness in soiling our own nest, the earth? Are they downcast and shaking their heads because we failed to understand that each living thing on the planet has the divine essence within it or that the messages hidden within their scriptures were not interpreted properly or maybe ignored? Perhaps they are rolling their eyes at us, and trying to figure out why we did not just listen to our inner being. Our spirituality is the wisdom that we each carry within. What do they think about when they see that the world they created has been re‑created by a very few, for the many? Or is it that good and righteous are more often than not, overshadowed by evil and immorality. From their vantage point, I’m sure they notice that the majority of us are living lives that have not changed since the first civilizations. We continue to make lies truths, and that we dream and don’t act, and that far too many of us are moving through our lives on paths of least resistance and distraction. Most people are simply being functions of their culture, living out scripts, based on opinions, perceptions, and standard patterns written by parents, friends, the church, and society. They must feel embarrassed seeing their own followers, the ones that believed in them, more concerned with their own salvation than the planet on which they live or their fellow human being. This, at least to me, seems somewhat of a paradox.

No matter how evolved or sophisticated we think we are today, much has stayed the same for us since creation, though in many other ways we have digressed. No longer believing we are all interconnected, we first separated ourselves from nature. We then separated god from creation, ourselves from other groups of humans, and then went a step further where we separated ourselves from our own families and even our own selves and now find ourselves believing we can do anything we want for our own reasons. We spend our time wandering around looking for the right person, when we should in fact be trying to be the right person. It was a shocking point in time for humanity when it was discovered that the earth was not the center of the universe, though today, we have come to believe as individuals we are the center of the universe.

Too many of us have lost our relationship with our inner selves, our souls, and need something to fill the void. Our soul is the representative of the natural energy that all living things share. Organized religions and the perceived values of our cultures are what usually fill this void when our soul is forgotten and/or ignored, or just missing and lost. They fill the void by dictating how we are to live, how we should feel, and what we are to think. While those without a soul at all and who only listen to the voices in their heads, eventually become ever more greedy and violent. Creation myths and most organized religions are based on these dualities of humankind. Ego represents evil, and good represents the divine, that is within each one of us.

In reality we humans do not need much to seek and develop our true spirituality, which when realized, should benefit all. We need few things, one being to live peacefully, in comfort and ease; secondly, the ability and freedom to explore. We need to test new frontiers, challenge some myth, work on becoming more aware, try new foods, try once in awhile to think outside the box, and be free from the drudgery of regular routines. And finally, we all need a support system to keep us in check whenever we wander, and to believe wholeheartedly, that though we may not be able to control our thoughts all the time, we can act and control our actions.

Besides creation myths, one could look back over the short time we humans have resided on the earth and agree that we have created and re‑created our worlds and ourselves, in countless ways and continue to do so, each and every day. Which direction we go in from here, is simply up to us. Should we even worry about where we came from? Should we learn what has already been taught and seek further knowledge by placing the greatest importance on simply being concerned for what we do today? This is only going to happen but once, and will dictate what happens tomorrow. As for yesterday, well, it already happened, lets learn from that.

As a species we will eventually homogenize and all start to, no doubt look the same, but it will be a very slow process, controlled by our genes, language and cultural, financial and economic choices. But we should always continue to discuss and never lose sight or perspective and that all individuals, no matter the race, are deserving of the same rights and opportunities. That no matter the where, how and why we were created, or what creation story one happens to believe, we were created at the same time, from the same place. Living together on one planet among many revolving round the sun and that if we were to die off as a species the earth and life would continue.

“History is not what was, but what is.”  William Faulkner

 

 

 

 

09/15/11

Pathological Forms of Ego

The ego, in it’s essential nature is pathological. It is also about dysfunction and suffering. Many mental disorders consist of the same egoic traits that operate in a normal person, except that they have become so pronounced that their pathological nature becomes obvious to anyone, except the sufferer.

Many normal people tell certain kinds of lies from time to time in order to make themselves appear more important, more special, and to enhance their image in the mind of others: who they know, what their achievements, abilities and possessions are, and whatever else the ego uses to identify. Some people, driven by the ego’s feeling of insufficiency and it’s need to have or be more. Become wrapped in a life of nearly complete fiction. Their grandiose and self-inflated image can sometimes fool others, but usually not for very long.

The mental illness that is paranoia is in part an exaggerated form of ego for indeed, the ego is the voices in our heads. Usually because of a persistent underlying feeling of fear, a story will be made up by the ego. The story often has an inner consistency and logic so that it sometimes fools others into believing it as well. Sometimes organizations and entire nations have paranoid belief systems at their very basis. The ego’s fear and distrust of other people, it’s tendency to emphasize the difference in others by focusing on their perceived faults and make those faults into their identity, taken further and monsters are created. The ego needs others, but it’s dilemma is that deep down it hates and fears them. The stronger the ego in you, the more likely it is that in your perception other people are the main source of problems in your life. You will also be more likely to make life difficult for others. But of course you will not see that. It is always others who seem to be doing to you.

Paranoia also manifests another symptom that is an element of every ego, although in paranoia it takes on a more extreme form. The more the sufferer sees themselves persecuted, spied on, or threatened by others, the more pronounced becomes their sense of being the center of the universe around whom everything revolves, and the more important and special they feel as the imagined focal point of so many people’s attention. Their sense of being a victim, of being wronged by so many people, makes them feel very special. The basis of their delusional story, they often assign to themselves the role of both victim and potential hero who is going to save the world or defeat the forces of evil.

The more unaware one is of themselves, the more unconscious. The more likely their egoic pathology will assume the form of violence. Violence is the primitive but still widely used way the ego attempts to assert itself, to prove itself right and another wrong. A person who identify’s with the thoughts that make up their opinions, those thoughts harden into mental positions which are invested with a sense of self. Thus Identity and thought emerge and once this happens, people will feel and act as if they are defending their very self instead of simply ones’ opinion. They feel and act as if they are fighting for survival and their emotions will reflect that unconscious belief. They become turbulent, upset, angry, defensive, or aggressive. They feel they need to win at all costs lest they become annihilated. That is the illusion the ego creates. It does not know that mind and mental positions have nothing to do with who you are because the ego only operates from the unconscious, past and future, When we are aware of the present moment the ego does not operate, it doesn’t know what to do.

 

Reference:

Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth – Awakening to your Life’s Purpose, Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 2005.