Messages In Bottles

When I think back over my life, I’m struck by the realization that I have spent the greater part of it on my own.  I never was much of a social type.  I was always a bit ‘different’.  I was never sporty, having no hand and eye coordination at all.  I was that kid who was never called out to be included in a scratch team, until they ran out of players.  When my friends were reading ‘Phantom’ and ‘Superman’ comics, I was reading Dickens.  When my contemporaries were out playing together, I was far more likely to be off on my own, fishing or hunting.

Socially, I was always geeky and not at all interesting to most of my classmates.  I could dance, about as well as I could throw and catch!  Even when I think back to my life as a small child, I can remember being around people, much of the time.  But I think I was always alone.

Having limited social contact, I spent a great deal of time reading and my ‘friends’ were authors …… people who I never met, but felt that I knew intimately.  I always enjoyed books about exotic places, about science, medicine, engineering and space.   At age ten, my two most treasured possessions were my fishing rod and a microscope that I got for Christmas.

I did have the good fortune of having some wonderful school teachers along the way (and some absolutely hopeless ones too).  But the teachers I responded to best, were those who had a passion for learning and who shared that passion and enthusiasm with their students.  They also taught me to subject every new piece of  information that came my way, to the logic of my own mind; to beware of pre-conceptions and to make my own decisions.  I didn’t realise at the time, that they were helping to ensure I’d spend a lifetime on the outside fringe of society.

When I reached High School age, there was a rather arbitrary process by which students were segregated into groups, according to their perceived academic strengths.  All of the brighter kids were steered towards higher mathematics, chemistry and physics.  The lesser students were assigned to a general course, where the emphasis was on more basic skills.  Science was limited to biology and the mathematics that was taught was basic, ‘use it in real life’ type stuff.  I was a member of the group that was considered less academically gifted.

Looking back at that system, I now realise, with the benefit of maturity, that it was fundamentally flawed.  What we were given to understand was the hallmark of intelligence, the thing that was most likely to get you into the higher academic group, wasn’t intelligence at all.  It was malleability.  The students who were inclined to accept information without question and to limit the scope of their inquiries to that which was acceptable to the teachers…. were the ones who were perceived as being ‘academic’.  Let me give you an example of what I mean.  If you just accepted the rules for building and dissecting mathematical equations, then you went right on to the exercises that provided practice in their application.  It you were inclined to wonder WHY the rules existed and HOW they worked .. if you queried the basis of that which you were being told and sought to not only know HOW to do a thing, but also to understand WHY … then the system really had neither the time, nor the skill, nor the inclination to foster your INTEREST.

I was that kid who was still back there, struggling with the new information … needing a why and a how … while my peers had gone ahead with applying what they had been told … without question.  They were the smarter kids.  My endless curiosity was disruptive to a class environment and I was constantly distracted by that which was irrelevant to the system’s moment.  A butterfly that alighted on the window sill of the classroom was likely to hold my rapt attention far more than what any teacher might have to say.  In short, I wasn’t a good student.

Its probably not surprising that, having as a small child, enjoyed unlimited freedom and solitude to explore whatever took my fancy, I didn’t develop the discipline that might have fitted me for success in the classroom.  Acceptance, compliance and acquiescence are the qualities that best fit us for life in a classroom, a cattle race, the military, a sweat shop or for general society.  The Education system didn’t have any time for ‘why’.

The irony of my life is that, while I was probably hopeless as a student in a classroom (and probably the bane of many a teacher’s life) I was at the same time, an incurably keen student of any and everything, outside of the formal education system.  I have been observing, studying and striving to understand everything about my world and the society that I live in, pretty much all my  life.  And I have always been at a loss to understand how we, as a society, can be so technologically smart, while remaining so sociologically inept.

Primitive man was a pretty basic creature.  He only had two goals … to survive and to breed.  He hunted, he made war and he had sex.  In order to help him with hunting and making war, he fashioned large clubs and other weapons, and he decorated his body so as to appear as fierce and frightening as possible.  In order to attract mates he (and she) adorned their bodies with decorations, hung shiny objects from their persons, stuck bits of bone, wood and metal through their bodies and painted their skin.  All of these strategies imitated what the other animals around them were doing at the time. And he invented religion and worshipped that which was around him ,,,, the earth, the sky, water and nature.

The life of primitive man was violent and uncertain.  He died in war, in accident, in childbirth, from starvation and disease.  He lived in caves or in crude shelters and he wore the skins of animals for warmth.  He sometimes froze to death. But as a species, he has endured.

Roll forward 50,000 years or so and what a difference we see.  Modern man flies through the skies; we can even travel to space …. in vehicles that our forebears could not even have conceived.  We build sophisticated shelters where we control the climate and our dwellings are crammed with all manner of amazing gadgetry to make our lives luxurious and easy.  We even divert water and other resources to any location we like and we have command over fire and lightning (electricity), wind and rain.  We harness the resources we require, we farm those creatures we consume as food and we till the ground to grow our crops.  We harvest the resources of ages, trapped deep in the earth and we have harnessed energy in abundance.  Life is a good deal easier for us, than it was for primitive man and we’ve learned so very much about our environment and about the (now) tiny planet that we live on.

We have grown up so much, as a species.  We have created technology and fashioned our environment to suit our purpose and our comfort. We look back at early man and can only wonder at how he survived at all.  We acknowledge intellectually that he is our ancestor but we hasten to distance ourselves from his crude lack of understanding and his animal-like brutality.

Its fascinating to me, that mankind has come so very far, technologically speaking but sociologically, he hasn’t evolved at all.  What does modern man do?

Modern man is a pretty much the same as his earliest forebears.  We only have the same  two goals … to survive and to breed.  We rarely hunt nowadays.  We farm our food and, if we hunt at all, its either  ritualistic or its done for recreation, That’s right.  We kill other creatures for fun. We still make war and we have sex.  In order to help with hunting and making war, we have fashioned some far more sophisticated weaponry …. from the sawn-off shotgun of the bikie or gangster .. to intercontinental ballistic missiles that destroy nations.  We still use decoration so as to appear as fierce and frightening as possible.  Nowadays, its more likely to be  a bikie’s colours or a nation’s flag but the principle remains unchanged. And to attract mates we still adorn our bodies with decorations, hang shiny objects from our persons, stick bits of bone, wood and metal through our bodies and paint and tattoo our skin.  All of these strategies imitate what the other animals around us are doing. But we have become so sophisticated, that we have evolved beyond the old religions.  WE treat that which is around us ,,,, the earth, the sky, water and nature ….. with total contempt.

I could never understand how it can be, that we have achieved so much understanding of technology, while seemingly not evolving socially very much at all.  We still kill each other, we still follow the same basic mating rituals that the other animals do and we are raping poisoning and destroying our beautiful planet.  Unlike our forebears, unless we really can begin to UNDERSTAND our place in the web of life, we will NOT endure. Unless we can learn to ask WHY, and not simply to accept what is, there can be little hope of social progress or technological sustainability.

I wonder if the reason that we haven’t evolved, other than technologically, is because the course of human progress has ALWAYS been controlled by the clever kids.  The people who most carefully conformed to existing systems …. were the ones most likely to inherit control of those systems ….. those people who are content to know the how, without needing to question the why.  Radical thinkers have rarely made an impact on contemporary thought or changed present society.  They were often outcast by the existing establishment, only to be discovered and sometimes accepted by some subsequent generation.

I have been watching and studying my fellow man for fifty nine years now.  And I’ve done it, not as a person who simply hears and accepts, but rather as one who observes, questions and strives to understand.  I think I’ve noticed a few things that other people haven’t,.  I’ve had a few ideas that don’t seem to be present in mainstream thinking and I’ve noticed some downright scary things about the direction we are heading in, as a species.  Most of the knowledge that I gained as a child, came to me through books … the writings of other people.  So it seemed a natural evolution that I would seek to share my thoughts and the things I feel that I’ve discovered, through writing.  So I started a blog!

Its a funny thing, writing a blog.  I don’t think anyone actually reads my stuff.  I am still alone, a castaway on my little island of thought.  And I keep writing my messages. bottling them up and throwing them into the e-ocean before me.  So far, nothing has ever come back and I fear that the best that my mind has to offer might be picked up, puzzled at briefly and discarded by the clever kids.  And that no thinking, questioning, fellow searcher will ever get to discover, to consider and to respond to my thoughts.

I guess I’ll keep writing and sending my ideas off on the internet sea, and hope for a day when you, my soul friend, will discover them.  And if there are enough of us, together, maybe we can rescue the world from the clever kids, before they destroy it for all of us!

Andrew Caddle  2013-10-12

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