Let There Be Light

On a stretch of African savanna, very near the edge of a forest from which flows a small stream, stood a creature, a hominid only forty-four inches tall. This creature, unlike similar in many ways to its evolutionary ancestors, yet vastly different from those of its bloodline who would follow hundreds of thousands of years into the future, shared certain life characteristics with all other mammals. Perhaps those same characteristics were shared by other species of animals stretching back to the beginnings of life. Each day, this hominid would look around wondering where its next meal would come from, how it would be able to remain safe from its enemies, who might be its mate, and when it might find shelter. These questions are common to the wolf, the weasel, the woolly mammoth, and the vast individual beast roaming in herds that it would hunt in a quest for survival as they are to the squirrel and chipmunk.

Then, on one specific day, a day not unlike every other that marked its short lifespan, something unique in time happened to this creature. It formed an abstract thought; the first in the history of the Earth. In wondering about the seasonal appearance of the herd that it hunted, it added a new characteristic – why. Why do the great deer travel here each time the grass turns brown? In that moment, the future of all humankind was transformed.

Simple questions relating to its survival, and that of its mate, progeny, and others in the group with which it lived, became subjects pondered and shared.

  • Why does the sun sink only so far in the sky in the cold times before returning to bring warmth and new life to the savanna?
  • Why do the grasses we eat grow in the same place each season?
  • Why do only some members of the group give birth?
  • Why?

Why? The search for knowledge is fraught with danger and has been the source of both joy and terror since that first abstract thought. Each why evoking a hundred others. Think about it.


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Saturday, 25 May 2024