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  • Writer's pictureJerome Michael McLaughlin

The future is ancient (part 1)

If you met someone who lived 10,000 years ago, would you find them to be an alien from another world or would you think, this person is just like me?

We are told modern humans first appeared in Africa about 300,000 years ago with brains as large or perhaps even larger than our own. They were followed by a line of anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) who arrived at least 200,000 years ago. But it wasn’t until brain shape became essentially as it appears today about 100,000 years ago that our true antecedents made their appearance. During this period, we were still hunters and foragers roaming the land that teemed with game and the abundance of naturally occurring fruits, nuts, grains, and other immediately available sources of nutrition.

Over the next one hundred millennia, these modern beings would spread out across the globe and develop exponentially across a spectrum of things we would refer to as almost exclusively human – tools making, technical skills, abstract thinking, methods of communication, belief systems, medicine, art, etc. We learned to survive and obviously thrive driven by the desire to seek “a better life” - a place where existence was perhaps not as harsh or difficult or dangerous. We became more efficient, more productive, more deadly, and one might even say, more wise.

We learned as we went, honing our skills and perfecting our abilities through an endless and often painful series of trial and error. We educated ourselves on what stones worked best for making certain tools. What wood was best for making the straightest spears and arrows. What bones made the best hooks to catch fish. What plants made the best twine or alleviated certain ailments. What to eat and what to leave behind. What would kill and what could heal.

Alongside our education in the physical world, we also learned what it means to be human – to think, to believe, to speak, to create, to live, and live together. We added concepts and practices to our store of knowledge about how to exist in a world filled with chaos, uncertainty, and the vast unknown. Most critically, we learned to subdue our own inner beast and transition into an entirely new modality - a conscious, thinking being. The rules and laws of the mind became a whole new category for this emergent being to grapple with.

But learn we did. We not only invented a new way of life, a means to satisfy not only the demands of the physical self and the tribe as a whole, but we built a store of knowledge about HOW to live. We learned there were certain ways of thought and practice more effective or beneficial to living together in larger groups. We adopted new modes of thinking that could calm an overactive mind that now made more pressing demands upon the physical self. We built myths to explain the mysteries and bound them into stories to pass down to the next generation so that they too might understand and carry on.

Our ancestors sacrificed themselves to teach those of us in the future how to behave and what it means to be alive, aware, and filled with living spirit. A spirit that remains as mysterious to us as it did to them.

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