[blue rare]A Higher Form of Life

There is nothing more miraculous than you, nothing more astonishing than me.  The way we can hold our breath for such a long time, or peel an apple in a single long strip, or make music with our brains, our fingers, our breath.  The way we can sometimes set aside our own needs, our own damage, our own pain to ease somebody else’s; take somebody else into our arms, into our hearts.  The way we can fall in love and be happy sometimes, even though we, alone in all creation, know we will someday die.  At our best, there is nothing as impressive as us.

Unless, of course, it is the flowers that eat sunlight, or the birds that soar and tumble through the skies.  Or the skies themselves, heavier than whales, carrying lakes and lightning in their bellies, nearly weightless but sometimes vaster than cities.  Or the oceans that churn and swell beneath the skies, with their hidden treasures, fathomless depths, invisible miracles.  Or all those fantastical eternities that burn and spin beyond the skies, bristling with eternal secrets way above our pay grade.

What a strange universe we live in: part haunted house, part slaughterhouse, part costume ball, part pageant.  They say that the human brain is the only organ with the capacity to name itself.  There’s no question that the peculiar development of human consciousness, with its capacity for rational thought and self-reflection, is a razor sharp and bloodthirsty double-edged sword.  On one hand, it allows us the ability to apprehend our world, as well as imagine an incalculable number of new ones.  On the other hand, it enables us to create all kinds of deliberate and accidental mischief, makes us painfully aware of our own mortality, and encourages us to see ourselves as the measure of all things.  That’s textbook hubris, right there.

I went to the movies the other night, and it seemed to me that nearly all the trailers were for upcoming films depicting the end of the world.  Environmental devastation, social collapse, alien invasion.  These are things my dog is blissfully unconcerned with.  Which of us is the higher form of life?

Perhaps human consciousness is simply an example of poor evolutionary design, like vestigial tails, or the fact that some species of sharks give birth to offspring that form their teeth in utero.

Still, there’s no point moaning about it, is there? There’s no returning to paradise, we can’t uneat the apple.  Whether it was bestowed upon us through the beneficence of kindly gods, or (like some poisoned fairy tale spinning wheel) given to us by the bad fairy at the feast, we are stuck with this singular “gift.”

Perhaps there is a benign purpose to homo sapiens’ awareness.  Maybe it is our role in the universe to observe and record its horrors, its beauty, its complexity in the way that only our brains can.  Or perhaps we’re here as comic relief.  The jesters in the court, apocalyptic fools pratfalling our way into oblivion, making the gods laugh.  Most likely, we are just an accident that, for better or worse, has been waiting forever to happen.