30 July 2005

Across the Gulf of Species

Can you talk to a whale? Can you communicate with a gorilla? Can you describe your deepest hopes and fears to your cat, and expect it to understand and feel sympathy? There is a gulf, a chasm, that separates us from other species. Part of the gulf comes from the different evolutionary paths our respective brains have followed. Another part of the separation comes from the different experiences in the womb and after. Different upbringings don't you know, what?

Communicating with a next level human will not be as difficult. Neither will it be as easy as communicating with your identical twin, or other sibling. Part of the problem will be that we will not be communicating as equals.

Imagine a family where one of the siblings is bright, happy, and successful. Everything he does shines and prospers. Now imagine another sibling in the family whose mood is always dark, who stumbles in his thoughts when trying to solve most problems, who is never able to finish a task, who reaches for chemical solutions to his problems. Think of the two siblings sitting down and trying to relate to each other.

These two are not equal in their ability to earn a living, to have satisfying relationships with other people, to solve daily problems and plan exciting and enjoyable leisure time. They will live in different environments, drive different cars, dwell on problems of entirely different levels. Their range of travel will be different, their scope of thought will be different, their ultimate ambitions will be different. Yet they will both end in the same place. Is it really true that "all is vanity?"

What if the happy sibling lives 500 years, while the dark, brooding, addicted sibling lives only 80 years, and produces nothing much more than his own unhappiness, spread among a few friends? What if, on the other hand, the happy one sires dozens of children, happy like himself and intelligent? What if "happy" invents solutions to shortages of energy, solutions to hazardous environmental pollutants, cures for degenerative diseases, means to travel to outer space more economically and more safely? What if "happy" is survived by dozens of children, hundreds of grandchildren, and thousands of great-grandchildren--all of whom he had a chance to meet, know, and love? Would the lives of "happy" and "unhappy" be equally vain and pointless?

At the time "unhappy" is lying down on his deathbed, with great relief, "happy" is just getting started. Happy may attend his brother's funeral, if he is on Earth at the time. Or he may send flowers if he is too far away. Regardless, "happy" will quickly move on to his plans and goals, momentarily saddened at the wasted life of brother "unhappy," but soon busy with his life. Will "happy" ponder at the vast waste of millions, or billions of "unhappies?" Probably, from time to time. Not for long. There will be too many things to be done.

Is "happy" good or bad, for humanity as it is? A few "happies" could solve many of humankind's most difficult and intransigent proglems. Between level humans might tolerate a few, like they tolerate a few mega-billionaires among them. If "happy" started producing hundreds, or thousands of progeny "happies," a clash of cultures would be inevitable. Between-levels would feel threatened, for their own sake and for the sake of their children. "Happy" must realize this.

To be a "happy," will be to cross the gulf of species. To cross the gulf, but to never stop looking back and beckoning your cousins to cross with you.

Thanks to Sam Cardon.

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