When were humans a part of the earth? I look at the squirrel here in the tree. A creature who eats nuts, climbs trees, buries nuts and seeds, sometimes forgetting them resulting in more trees growing from those seeds. The squirrel is a creature of its place, within the limits of its place & still geared there. What of the human? Has the human grown so far past the limits of its place as to not be of any place any longer, beyond those of its own creation like cities? Has the human, as a species, outgrown its limits? What influenced the human to become this way?
I watched a program the other night wherein a naturalist imprinted some just-born wild turkeys into believing he was their mother. As he walked around the forest with these turkeys throughout the first year of their life, he realized that they had a perfect genetic blueprint for the forest. They knew which animals to stay away from, which bugs to eat and when it was time to roost and, finally, leave the nest. From within, as if by a genetic clock, these animals knew inherently how to be an intimate, connected part of their place. And the world is richer for their presence.
Thinking of the genetic blueprint of the wild turkey which from within teaches it, inclines it toward its indigenous & connected, innate behaviors, I wonder what the genetic blueprint of the human is. What are humans naturally inclined toward, if anything? Are we naturally tribal species, looking to form social bonds, mating & living within community? Do we naturally tend and search for food and shelter, while managing and changing our external environment? Is there some genetic blueprint which causes us to do anything? Do we even have a same genetic blueprint, or throughout the span of evolution have we lost our wild innate characteristics becoming more influenced by social norms and external cultural trends?
The age of industry, petroleum & coal, extraordinary resource extraction and ultimately technology, which is supported through mineral extraction worldwide, have resultantly shifted our original behaviors as earth-connected indigenous groups into rootless, trending-toward-homogenous, global species. Work can be done & connections can be made faster. Food can be found at grocery stores. Water comes out of a tap and anything can be bought through an intangible and global webbing service called the internet. Something from one end of the globe can be had from the other end of the globe in a day’s time if you have the money and desire for it. Indigenous groups all over which do still exist have slowly been trampled and their land and customs exploited, erased or forgotten worldwide. These groups, which used to populate the whole earth, in this forgetting, are typically powerless toward this global homogenous dominating culture which controls the news and media which informs people’s ideas so many times the majority of people have no idea what is going on as a result of the spread of the culture of which they are a part. It is my theory that human culture, rather than any innate biological blueprint exisiting within humans, influences and finally dominates human behavior.
Take an orphaned baby from China, for example. Perhaps this baby’s specific genetic blueprint dates back for the past 5,000 years within China. The baby’s grandparents for the past 20 generations have been Chinese. Yet, take this baby, which is adopted into the United States, and see if it behaves any differently than any other children also growing up in its same culture. In most cases, the child will on the outside look Chinese, but from within, will be from the United States. No lingering behaviors from China readily show themselves. The pattern of Chinese culture is not carried over with the child innately from birth. This seems to point to the fact that human culture holds so much sway that it is the most dominate behavioral factor in human action and thought.
I can also attest to this as I have stepped out of the mainstream human culture from which I grew. With each step, I faced external challenges which threatened or retaliated against me if I broke sacred cultural norms and internal props that had been set up within me perpetuating and regulating the culture’s continuance. Racial and other forms of discrimination, stereotyping, trends, news media all of these things are arms of the traveling culture, which is basically like an imprint from outside that forms inside of people as it influences and dictates behavior, thought & action.
And yet within myself, I do feel something rising that I would call my innate blueprint – whether from my physical genes or from my soul. It is the thing which I have been following all of these years- following past the gates of popular culture into a realm of individual arising. Sometimes I call it my soul-path, but, and this is the interesting part, even though I am following something from within, as I follow it, I find other people who are also following something from inside themselves and we seem to be on the similar paths.
This is a contingent of people who have earth-values, who see the things of the earth as inherently valuable and see past the façade of the mainstream dominator culture, which often exploits and neglects the earth. Mainstream values hold no sway over this contingent and it is with these people who come in all shapes & sizes & colors & professions that I feel an innate sense of tribe, of togetherness, of natural joining. If humans do have an innate genetic blueprint, I would name it as this: that we are all naturally indigenous (of a place) and that our innate desire is to care for this place, to tend it, be creative within it and to form community. That we desire what is good together and what is good for all of us, rather than searching for individual gain. That we care about the state of the earth, that there are wild lands and lands that are cultivated by humans so that we can have what we need. It is shaped inherently by an ethic of care and perpetuated and shaped by place-ness.
It’s curious to me that people of the earth can be so blind and, if not blind, still perpetuating actions which cause so much harm. I understand the cycle is hard to step out of, but it still surprises, shocks, angers, saddens me that this is the case. On this little piece of earth that I’ve recently joined here in the Appalachian mountains, as I till the soil and plant seeds and drink from pure creek, I feel a sense of peace in my own action, yet I still wonder at the rest of the earth, at the world and where it’s headed. And this leads me to think of our natural inclinations. Is culture the dominating force and, if so, how can we help each other shift it along when ideas and ways of being tend to be the things most heavily “set in their ways”? It’s imperative that we start caring for water & air & reducing our consumption while creatively interacting with each other and our environments. How do you see our innate characteristics? What, if anything, is our genetic blueprint pointing us toward?