Things that blow my mind about humanity

Sometimes, when things are tedious and saddening and gray, it’s nice to remember all the amazing  things about the Earth.

Like how the water you drank this morning has traversed the oceans and rivers and lakes and glaciers of this planet since it was created. Like how a snowflake you caught on your tongue floated down from a cloud and happened, by chance, to land right in front of you. Like how the Earth itself was created out of stardust, out of outer-space travelers, out of chance and luck. Like how life rose from particles to cells to fish to humans, and how those humans grew to conquer the elements, to flirt with the edges of their understanding and broaden their horizons.

I hate the Ancient Aliens TV show for many reasons, of which this is the most prominent. Why don’t we give our species any credit? Can’t we take credit for being the sole species to imagine, design, and build the pyramids? To create vessels that can transport us through land, sea, and air at remarkable speeds? Can’t we be proud of our species for all it has accomplished? For landing on the moon?

Yes, acknowledging the badness of our species is important, but so is acknowledging the goodness. Humans are amazing. We work together to create things we never could alone. We are amazing thinkers, creators, inventors.

When you’re feeling discouraged, try to remember: it was a group of humans no more special than you that invented photography, and that painted the Sistine Chapel, and that built every monument in the world. Aliens didn’t do that. WE did that.

It’s easy to forget. To take things for granted. To focus on the negative. To see yourself as separate from the thinkers and the doers. But you’re not. You have a universe of potential humming in your fingertips. When that potential is used for good, you become amazing.

If you’re inside, align your vision for a moment so you can’t see any windows. Almost everything in your sight was created by other humans.

I find that inspiring.

Adaptable

I’ve always found one of the most compelling things about the human species is its adaptability. To live so successfully in nearly every climate in every corner of the globe is amazing in both its perseverance and its stubbornness.

I do wonder sometimes what people would do if their land didn’t feel like a part of them. Perhaps everyone would make like the retired do and move to warmer climes. I doubt anyone would look to the harsh winters and disappointing summers of Massachusetts and choose it over the consistent loveliness of Aruba, if given the choice.

But, land does matter, and so people adapt–stubbornly, wonderfully. They adapt to having an ice scraper in their car at all times, even in July. They adapt to sudden heat waves followed by a week of sleeting rain. Here, we adapt to unpredictability. Perhaps it is a side effect of living in New England that makes me equate land to weather, but it is an important thing.

Beyond weather and land, people still adapt. They adapt to long commutes, to suffocating subways, to polluted cities or quiet nights. Moving out, moving in, people being born or dying. Nothing feels abnormal if it happens enough times.

It is this inane ability to adapt to whatever life throws at us that makes me wonder if we are meant to be a wandering species. I know we were at first, but then agriculture happened and now here we are. After the huge leap of my great-great-grandfather moving to America from Italy, my family has lived in the same 20 square miles ever since. Now, I feel a deep inner pull to leave. To adapt to somewhere else.

Maybe those who stayed in one place adapted to staying. Staying eventually felt normal to them. Maybe I’ll eventually feel that way, too.

Driving for nearly three hours every day has begun to feel normal for me. I don’t mind it anymore. I’ve adapted. Sitting in a cubicle for eight hours straight no longer makes my eyes hurt from the computer screens. I’ve adapted to these things I thought I never would, in an exceptionally short amount of time.

Let’s go back to weather for a moment. I’m sure everyone has an inkling that warmer weather makes people happier, and I believe it’s true. However, more than the cold, I think the unpredictability of New England weather has a profound effect on the population. Yes, we’ve adapted to the unpredictability, armed with layered clothing and umbrellas at all times. But it makes us anxious. Having to prepare for anything weather-wise makes us wary of other things too. Perhaps that is why my grandmother clutches her purse in the city as if it may be taken at any moment. Perhaps that is why I look both ways when  crossing one-way streets, my faith in drivers so low as to expect someone to go down the wrong way. Perhaps that is why so few of my family members have left the western hemisphere or gone below the equator. They always expect a sudden change, they expect the dangerous and unexpected due to their upbringing spent expecting a sudden snowstorm to brew from a mild morning.

When people have adapted to an ever-changing world (be it due to weather, technology, globalization…) they can’t help but feel anxious and pessimistic. Whatever is present—the sunny sky, the new iPhone, peace in the world, the economy—is only temporary, and will soon change for the worse.

We are adaptable, but some embrace that and some shy away. Some refuse to adapt more than necessary. Some don’t find it a hassle at all. Some adapt by moving, and some adapt by sitting still. No matter our view on it, it’s part of what makes us human and a huge part of what keeps us alive.