There was little in the appearance of our distant ancestors to suggest the explosive change we would undergo as we left our African birthplace to populate every part of the globe in a mere 150 millennia. I doubt that any other species would have trembled at the sight of our ancestors and whispered. “Watch out for those two-legged furless apes. They’re going to take over the planet.”
We were not an impressive species in numbers, size, speed (an elephant can outrun the fastest human on earth), strength (a chimpanzee weighing a hundred pounds could whip me and probably you too), or sensory acuity, ( I know if I were swinging through the trees on a vine, without glasses, I’d smack into a tree and probably fall to the ground to be eaten by a saber-toothed tiger). The secret to our success was invisible, the two kilogram organ encased in our skulls.
The human brain conferred a massive memory, insatiable curiosity, and a remarkable creativity, qualities that more than compensated for our lack of physical or sensory abilities. And that brain had become aware of itself, conscious of its presence in time and space, capable of imagination and dreams. We observed; learned from accidents, mistakes, trial and error, and discoveries; remembered what we had experienced; recognized causal relationships; and came up with innovative solutions to problems.
Drawing on our experience and knowledge, we dreamed of our place in the world and imagined the future into being. By inventing a future, we could look ahead and see where dangers and opportunities lay and recognize that our actions would have consequences in the future. Foresight gave us a leg up and brought us into a position of dominance.
Our creation stories and origin myths provided answers to those eternal fireside questions. Distilled from generations of observation and insight, they were carefully nurtured and handed on to those who followed, providing meaning and insight into our lives.
Throughout human existence, elders have been the repository of experience, of knowledge painstakingly acquired over centuries about our origins, our purpose, and our destiny. And now I too am an elder.
David Suzuki, Co-Founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. He is renowned for his radio and television programs that explain the complexities of the natural sciences in a compelling, easily understood way.
David Suzuki Foundation
Solutions are in our nature
Creating Opportunities for Elders
Exploring Our nature
Creating with Our Nature