How Our Lives Intersect

Below is one artist’s (Nancy Belmont) illustration of the many ways our lives intersect. In the video, she cleverly gave people yarn which they wrapped around a series of poles representing a number of possible groups to which someone might belong.

When the experiment is complete, we see the full picture and the various ways the participants’ lives overlap and the commonalities people share. 

We Are an Obligatorily Social Species

In an essay published on Aeon earlier this year, Kimberley Brownlee, an associate professor of legal and moral philosophy at the University of Warwick, made the case that our well-being depends in part upon our social connections.

“(There is) a growing body ofpsychological evidencethat indicates that supportive social contact, interaction and inclusion are fundamentally important to a minimally decent human life and, more deeply, to human wellbeing. For the most part, we need one another; we cannot flourish or even survive without each other. These fundamental needs are the ground for a range of rights that we neglect, but should not, including the rights to be part of a network of social connections.

In our individualistic, western culture, where the romantic image of the great loner prevails, it will take some argumentative muscle to show that we should adopt a different model of the ‘strongest man’. We could start with the thought that true strength lies in exposing ourselves to others’ pain and suffering, in being open to intimacy, and in being touched by others’ needs, loves, hates and hopes. The strongest person might well be the one who makes herself vulnerable to others while being determined to survive it and become a better person for it. The strongest person in the world is she who is most connected.”

I’ve tried to make the same case before (see below), that we are all connected and that this stems from our evolutionary roots as social primates. I won’t rehash those arguments here. Rather, it’s just another reminder that we are an obligatorily social species.

Our Essential, Fragile Bonds

Cosmically Connected Primates

Grooming

Chimpanzees grooming

20 Ways We Are Not So Bright

According to one estimate, about 108 billion humans have ever lived. The exact number is probably unknowable. However, one thing we can know with certainty is that all of them have been fallible. So far they have also all been mortal. And with billions of years of life behind us, we have enough data to indicate that pattern is likely to continue, unless there is an exception alive out there today (I doubt it). 

In any case, the fallible humans have a number of consistent flaws and frailties in our biology — senescence, bad backs, myopia, etc. We should expect evolved beings to have built-in limitations in their biology. My favorite quote explaining why this should be comes from Matt Cartmill, who once said: “Evolution doesn’t act to yield perfection. It acts to yield function.”

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Choose Love

Sometimes I tell my students that David Ortiz is the man who has brought me the most moments of happiness in life. That’s only half in jest; he really has compiled an amazing collection of hitting highlights that is hard to match. 

Even if you If you don’t follow baseball or have even heard of Ortiz, perhaps you can appreciate that he has tried to use his iconic status for something good. Yesterday, he gave a (very) brief speech before the Red Sox’ game, simply saying: “Let’s be kind to each other, and choose love.”

There are so many reasons to be cynical about a scene like this, but I prefer to focus on the good. Tensions and divisions are high in many places, and we could use periodic reminders — even a brief one from a sports celebrity — that we are all connected.  

davis_bossfpre1A_spts.jpg

07/19/16: Boston, MA: Before the game, the teams lined up along the baselines for a ceremony promoting racial harmony. Members of the Boston Police Department as well as civic leaders and clergy, and local youngsters lined up behind Red Sox DH David Ortiz, who spoke briefly. The Boston Red Sox hosted the San Francisco Giants in an interleague MLB baseball game at Fenway Park. (Globe Staff Photo/Jim Davis) (Source)

Thresholds of Inclusion

“Madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

Abraham Lincoln

 “Blood just looks the same, when you open the veins.”

 Karl Wallinger (Is it like today?)

 

If you wish to find someone just like you, who looks and thinks exactly the way you do, then perhaps the only place you can look is in a mirror.

However, here’s a thought. Imagine that as you’re looking at the mirror it begins to move progressively farther away from you. The further away it is, the more time that transpires before the light bearing your image reaches the mirror and returns. If, in this scenario, the mirror should reach, say, the distance of the sun (for the sake of argument, it’s a really big mirror), then the image that you would see is still yourself, only it’s you roughly sixteen minutes ago.

Broad Museum

Mirrors, at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles (source)

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Cleaning the Mess Left Behind in Laos

Good news. Two days ago, Voice of America reported that President Obama would announce more funding to remove bombs that the U.S. dropped on Laos. Some messes are so large that they can seem nearly impossible to clean up. The damage in Laos is so extensive that it will last for several more generations, but this is an improvement over the status quo.

The VOA video accompanying the story (below) looked instantly familiar to me, as it shows some of that damage in Xieng Khouang province. It looked very much like the area I saw the time I visited with one of the removal teams a few years ago. In fact, I saw some familiar faces. They do good work and deserve more support. 

Channapha Khamvongsa, the founder and executive director of Legacies of War, an organization that advocates for removing the bombs said this: “What was once thought to be an insurmountable task now seems achievable in 10 to 20 years rather than a century… The next decade is critical, however, and it is necessary for the U.S. to commit to a long-term and sustained level of funding for UXO clearance and victim assistance in Laos.”

Is the Human Species Sexually Omnivorous?

I wrote a new post for the “Evolution Institute” website. I had wrapped up the Humans are (Blank)-ogamous series, but a friend asked if I would write something for the site. So, this is what I came up with. It has a few snippets from the series, but the majority of it is new. I’m always tentative after writing, not knowing if it’s any good or not. Now that I’ve re-read it a few more times, I think it’s not too shabby. Anyway…

Is the Human Species Sexually Omnivorous?