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Dorien Grey

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Blogs by Dorien Grey

Ponderings
12/27/2010 5:19:34 AM    [ Flag as Spam or Inappropriate ]

Asking questions to which we can never know the answer shouldn't stop us from asking.
When my mind wanders—which it does constantly—it sometimes goes a bit further off the beaten path than normal. Today I found myself pondering imponderables, revisiting one of my favorites: just how fascinating our species truly is when we take a moment to step back and look at it as though we were an alien seeing it for the first time.

I wonder, in fact, if an alien race coming across us for the first time might not in fact consider mankind be a single, living organism, and each of its members—each of us unknowingly an individual cell within that organism. I’m not sufficiently versed in philosophy to know if anyone else has advanced this theory, though I’m sure someone must have at some point. And considering that the universally-recognized “prime directive" of our race is "preservation of the species," a case might be made for that idea.

Ours is a civilization of rituals, created by individuals to protect and preserve the species. These rituals are so deeply ingrained in us that we never stop to think about…or marvel at…them. But without them, civilization—and we as individuals—could not function. We establish, and for the most part observe without thought or question, laws designed for the common good—pulling over when emergency vehicles pass, for example—which is in fact an extension of the preservation of the species imperative.

As individuals, we are programmed to be protective of those closest to us: our family and our friends. The closer they are, the more protective we feel of them. Yet in emergencies or disasters, we are capable of demonstrating amazing courage in coming to the aid of others we do not know. Why? We never give it a thought…we just do it. We establish schools and hospitals and police departments and fire departments to benefit not only ourselves as individuals—how often do you personally call on the police or the fire department, or the armed forces?—but to assure, in effect and in fact, the continuation of our species.

All of these things emphasize our instinctual recognition that we are part of something larger than our individual selves, and that we have a duty to our fellow humans. The Golden Rule is more than just a moral compass for us as individuals; it's foundation rests in our prime directive: survival of the species.

Our individual need to acknowledge that we are part of something greater than ourselves is also reflected in our need to gather together, and the comfort and pleasure we derive from it. Because no individual is truly capable of relating directly to every other human, we operate on a sort system of concentric circles radiating outward. The first ring is our immediate family; the second our friends; the third our acquaintances; the fourth our chosen allegiances, of which patriotism is an example. We derive pleasure from gathering together, at concerts and theaters and sports events. We create books and music and plays, and find a sense of universality in them. Yet how many of us recognize, when we sit in a concert hall or at a ball park, or gather together on holidays exactly what we are doing and why?

So many fascinating imponderables. So much of what we do is instinctual, and we never give thought to why we do what we do. The other night, I attended a concert and was struck, as I always am, by the fact that when the conductor enters the hall, the audience applauds. Why? (Applause itself is a unique human ritual to which another entire blog could easily be devoted.) That we do not applaud between movements of a lengthy piece, even though the orchestra has stopped playing has its own fascination: how does everyone know what to do, even in a piece of music we’ve not heard before? Obviously we take a cue from the others in the audience. But how? Why?) And this is just one small example of how we as individuals automatically act and react as part of the larger whole.

I hope I’ve not bored you with this little meandering, but I trust you find such things as fascinating as I do. And if you’ve not thought of such things before, please do. Our capacity for fascination is boundless, yet we too seldom exercise it. We should do much more.

*****
Another entry will be posted next Monday, and I hope you will come by. In the meantime, if you enjoy my blogs, I hope you might consider reading one of my books. You can check them out and read the first chapter of any/every one on my website, http://www.doriengrey.com


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