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What is our thing?

If there is one thing that spending time on a peaceful tropical island paradise does to the mind it is to clear it. I mean clear the mental fog. I don’t mean clear it of all thoughts entirely and leave you in a catatonia because if that was something that happened to visitors here then we would be the wrong kind of famous. Imagine visitor after visitor arriving on the white sand beach and after a few days of smiling they are each hauled off on a stretcher. Their smile as wide as ever, their glazed eyes unblinking as they stare unseeingly into the midday sun. This island is amazingly beautiful but it isn’t “mind blowing” in the way that your sensory organs will short circuit, so don’t worry about that. The beauty here is found in the nature of course. I understand that this is the case for any location in which we consider beautiful. The only exception for this would likely be a metropolis seen at night with some interesting lights or architecture. For the rest of the human experience, scenic beauty is nearly always rooted in the condition of the nature and wildlife. Imagine a glistening lake surrounded by lush trees and the sounds of birds. What if that same spot was a baron hell-scape with only the sound of the wind and the sloshing of the thick murky water? If that is your idea of beauty then you won’t like koh Bulon.

It is this fundamental fact of scenic beauty being intrinsically based on how thriving the ecosystem is that we must consider when we are thinking about our place in nature, as humans. This bipedal and hairless (for the most part) creature that we find ourselves existing as. What a mess we are, right? Well maybe not. Something that I often get asked is “what is it like living on koh Bulon?” On contemplating this question during the quiet times I think the truest answer is “it’s very human.” So I think that’s the best way to describe this place. It is a very human experience. After all our natural habitat is a naturalistic one teeming with all sorts of life. Jungles of concrete and steel are not our natural habitat and we have only recently being living in them on the grand scale of our history.

I would like to say that we humans have an innate instinctual tendency to invent however this might not actually be the case. If you look at most human works you will see them already occurring in nature in some form or another so this instinct we have might simply be an instinct to plagiarize. Even the most obscenely sci-fi works of humanity that seem so far away from anything natural you could be surprised to see the basic principal of these things occurring in nature already. A basic example would a pair of pliers. Forged from metal and needing a whole bunch of other materials and tools to produce something that a crab naturally has two of. If we try to go for another definitely human invention we can say electricity and its harnessing for our use to make light. If you go swimming here at night, if you go out far enough you will be surrounded by blue lights that are coming from the bio-luminescent bodies of many very small sea creatures. Even the concept of farming is not unique to humans as the Leaf-cutter Ants are known for cultivating Fungi for their own consumption. The ants go about collecting bits and pieces all for the purpose of feeding to their precious Fungus. They do not eat the things they find, it is saved for their crop. Considering that moving from hunter gathering to farming is considered one of the great changes in the human story, it is fairly humbling to see that we just copied what the ants had been doing.

And what about the internet? This unending and ever growing archive of all the information ever submitted by any human. All at our fingertips. Countless computers and servers all connected allowing us to communicate instantly and share information and resources. Surely this is ours alone? Actually no. It has recently been discovered that trees are linked and interconnected via the underground root systems and with the help of a certain fungus that is symbiotically connected to these root systems, they can communicate and share nutrients/resources with each other. Of course if you compare this to our own internet, the trees information network is a very slow one. However you must consider the metabolism and sense of time of a tree compared to ours. Some people consider this discovery to suggest that a forest could better be considered as one living, thinking organism. You could also say that it is a community of many living and thinking organisms, however that is a risky thing to say as that could also apply to us. Hundreds of billions of microscopic living organisms each playing a role in making up the physical form of a thing that considers itself to be a single organism. These organisms then do things like go to work for most of their lives and read online blogs.

But back to the topic at hand. So if most of our clever works and inventions occur already within nature, is there one thing at least that we can claim to be the masters of in this world? Possibly art, however what is art and what isn’t is very subjective. I think the answer is in something that we do or at least reap the benefits of everyday. Cooking. As far as I am aware, no such behavior occurs within nature outside of our race. Apes have been known to mix herbs so that might count as a salad but mostly cooking is our thing. We are a race of chef monkeys, if you’re into evolution. If not, then we are simply a race of chefs that act excruciatingly similar to monkeys a lot of the time. If cooking is indeed our thing then it is intrinsically linked to our relationship with fire. Without trying to appeal to the readers who might be pyromaniacs, fire is the physical manifestation of the concept of change. It was our harnessing of fire that allowed us to change our food from soiled lumps of whatever we pulled from the ground into dishes that without our effort, would never occur naturally on this planet.

I once read a short story, perhaps online, the source eludes me for the moment. It was an origins myth about man’s relationship and bond with the canines. As far as I remember, the story began with a family of early humans at their camp and a wild wolf hunting them. The wolf approached the man at his camp and bared his teeth and said “I am going to eat your child.” The man, his wife and their child had been cooking a lamb haunch on the fire with wild herbs and seasonings. In an effort to distract the wolf from his child he threw the lamb haunch at its feet. The wolf ate the haunch and it was the most delicious thing it had ever tasted in its life. The wolf requested more of this amazing food and so the man said “I will give you more of my food. But in return you will never hurt me or my kin and you will guard and protect us for all the nights and all the days from now until the end of time.” And so as the story went, that was the beginning of the bond between human and canine. Now I cannot offer a reference for that story as it is just something I remember reading somewhere. But the essence of it is interesting because it comes back to the topic of how our food just might be the only thing that makes us unique on this earth.

So next time your head is hurting and the concrete and steel is getting you down, go to your kitchen and make yourself a meal. Use whatever you have. And just before you take the first bite, think of the wolf.

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