Thursday, December 31, 2015

How far back matters?

I have heard the universe is about 13+ billions of years old.  That is an estimate, of course, but it may be about right.  The sun and the earth aren't quite as old but still very old.  I read recently that life seems to have begun on earth as soon as it was calm enough for some basic processes to get started.  We humans seem to be related to everything on the earth that is alive so the birth and development of life, plants and animals both, are relevant to us.

You can look up the shared genetic code between us and the apes (chimps, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans).  There is no doubt that we are different with our more developed speech and writing, transportation, government, culture and science but try reading Franz de Waal's "Our Inner Ape".  At first, I doubted the relevance of any comparisons between humans and apes but by the time I finished, I could certainly see many connections.  I just heard yesterday that our mysterious blushing might be related to various ways apes appease anger or other upsets in each other.  In trying to figure ourselves out, other primates and their history and development can be relevant.

I have read that William James, a respected early philosopher-psychologist (1842-1910), thought a measure of the present might be 17 seconds.  We might feel that the present is that long and before the last 17 seconds, we can feel the past. I can see that any event that ever occurred might be relevant in an investigation or development.  The 100th year to the day since my father-in-law's birth just passed.  Since he was a major figure in my wife's life, I feel that anniversary was a reminder that for humans, 100 years can be a rather short time.  I have heard that in Swahili, we can sort people in the past into those alive now, those deceased but were known in person by some who are alive now and those deceased long enough ago that no one living knew them personally and directly.

As a child, I was impressed at how quickly my parents and grandparents could tell how long in the past events in their lives were.  It seemed they really knew their dates and could do subtractions very fast.  But I also know some dates, such as the year of my birth, that of my sister's birth, my graduation from high school and from college.  I can usually tell without doing mental math where an event falls in relation to many marker dates in my life.  Similarly, I know our country's birth year, the date of the War of 1812, the date of the Civil War, of the WW I and WW II.  That ladder of markers of the past helps me have a sense of a deeper past than that of my own life.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Popular Posts

Follow @olderkirby