Monthly Archives: January 2012

Convergent Evolution

The evolution of similar traits in unrelated lineages is rife in nature.  The Marsupial lion had retractable claws, the same way the placental felines do today.  The Marsupial mulgara has many resemblances to the placental mouse.  We are informed that, over time, similar environments will select for similar traits in any species occupying the same ecological niche, even if those species are only distantly related.

Another way of saying that is “Earth knows how to cat”.  It also knows how to mouse, ant eater, flying squirrel and that’s just the beginning.  Earth has independently evolved sharp spines and prickly protrusions of the skin many times – echidnas (monotremes), the insectivorous hedgehogs, some tenrecs (a diverse group of shrew-like Madagascan mammals), Old World porcupines (rodents) and New World porcupines (another biological family of rodents)…. ALL make the point.   A sharp pointed hypodermic tube has shown up independently 10+ times: jellyfishspidersscorpionscentipedes, various insectscone shellsnakesstingraysstonefish, the male duckbill platypus, and the stinging nettles plant.  What the Earth knows how to do goes on and on.  Silk production, echo location, bioluminescence, long sticky tongues and more kinds of “eyes” than you can shake a stick at.  Earth wants to see!  Earth wants to smell!  Earth wants to hear!…  And, earth wants to poke you with something nasty if you insist on getting to close.

It is a terrible pity that our only experience with life is terrestrial.   We have knowledge of a pin-point on a surface of a universe that is so vast we can’t comprehend it.  We can only imagine.  We can only use the information we have and the patterns we detect and try to guess what must be going on outside our view.  Knowing some of what the Earth knows how to do we can ask if it ends there, or, if Earth is just a small example of what the Universe knows how to do.  If the Universe wants to see, smell, hear and who knows what else?

Rupert Sheldrakeone of the world’s most innovative biologists and writers, is best known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance, which leads to a vision of a living, developing universe with its own inherent memory.

Rupert wonders if there is no such thing as “Natural Law”.  He suggests that the Universe learns by doing and that what appear to be laws to us are just habits that an intelligent universe has picked up by doing.  Hard, or, by chance the first time.  Easier every time after.  What remains to be seen is if placental cats and marsupial cats are just the tip of the iceberg.  Are there kinds of cats out there in the Universe beyond number?  Are there as many different “kinds” of eyes as there are galaxies to view them with?  Is the whole point of it all, the whole point of life no more than an elaborate game of Hide and Seek as the Hindus believe?  The Universe, being all and one, could not help but be terribly lonely, so, it dreams that it is the myriad of separate things.   Are we that dream?

I think we are nowhere near ready to be exploring the universe.  I think Plate Tectonics and the relatively short distances between continents has left us far too unimaginative to be out there interacting with other sentient life forms that, no doubt, will not look exactly as we do.  All we have are humans of differing shades of pink and brown.  All we have are minor differences in color and THAT is enough to bring out our worst.

Just imagine how it all would have turned out if Asians hatched from eggs and black people were marsupial.  How long do you think it would have taken them to figure out how awfully vulnerable decent white folks were when we were molting?  Would we even have had a chance?


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It’s so embarrassing….

It has been three days of cold rain here on the east side of the Blue Ridge and it is taking its toll.  Add to that the seemingly endless Republican Debates that aren’t debates at all and the hideously depressing cast of characters they spew forth and encourage to vote and I have about reached my limit.  This morning I read about a woman with two vaginas.  A pornographer has offered her a million dollars to make a movie.   Won’t that be something?

Every morning, as I rise from my bed, I sit and look out the window and contemplate the world without me in it.  Today it was way too easy.  Today the disappointment of it all was right there up front like a bad tooth that can’t be ignored.  I’m not quite suicidal because I have always had that fear that if I didn’t hang in there, stay late at the party, I would miss something important.  I still need to see how things end, but, today not nearly so much.  Today naps of indeterminate length are a comfort.  A half hour, six months, a billion years…. There is no difference to a man who loves nothing so much as a good nap.

I spoke to an 84 year old gentleman over the weekend.  Last year he fell off a church roof, where he was doing some repairs, and his shoulder still isn’t right.  He is hard as nails and loves to tell the story of how he asked Jesus to save him from cigarettes.  Fifty years ago he smoked three packs a day and cried out to Jesus for help and hasn’t touched one since.  He just spent $6,400 on two hearing aids.  It was all of his savings.  He has nothing left.  He could have purchased about a dozen 50 inch, flat screen TVs for that amount of money.   If he was enormously fat Medicare would have bought him a scooter to drive around on.  If he was younger they would have paid $50,000+ to cut him open like a trout and staple his stomach shut.   But, he just couldn’t hear, so, the hearing aid guy cleaned him out.  Capitalism at its finest.

It’s all crap. 
Living is crap. 
Life has no meaning. 
None. Nowhere to be found. 
Why doesn’t anybody realize this?”   (Hasegawa)

In the end isn’t it about mustering the fascination?  Picking up the ball and running into the future where it all will make sense and the pain will stop cold and be replaced with some kind of understanding that makes it all very worthwhile?  As if…

 “Life’s greatest gift is the freedom it leaves you to step out of it whenever you choose.”   (Andre Breton)

How frightening it is to be ourselves.  How difficult it is to observe the strangeness head on without blinking.   Muster that fascination and keep the top spinning, keep the ball rolling in the right direction.  Let one thing lead you to another and like the Buddha advised, be mindful.  When washing dishes be careful to just wash dishes and you will probably be all right, for a while.    But don’t sit out alone on warm starry nights.  Don’t let yourself dwell on how temporary and ridiculous it all is.   Don’t think about how they make sausages, why, or, out of what.   Never visit a slaughter house.

     “People aren’t either wicked or noble. They’re like chef’s salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.”  (Lemony Snicket)

So, you just have to really maintain a taste for salad.

This is the background on Newt Gingrich’s wife.  She was younger and her hair was different, but, it’s her.

Long before the woman with two vaginas there were those who made a living exploiting the anatomically overendowed.

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”   (Kurt Vonnegut)


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