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November 5, 2019

The Ants Running Without Purpose?

Patricia A. Kelly

They appear to run in circles, but they actually lead productive lives. They spend their entire lives promoting survival and reproduction of their species. They create and protect their homes, secure food, and care for their young.


These activities take up all their time and are laudable in natural terms because they promote the continued existence of their kind, namely “Ants.”


A number of years ago I visited the Australian outback and the sacred rock Uluru, or, in English, Ayers Rock. Tourists have always wished to walk up this rock, maybe because it’s there. I don’t know.


There is a handrail there, to assist walkers, as some have fallen to their deaths. Upon visiting the site, the alternative to walking up the rock and disrespecting it in the eyes of the Aborigines is to walk around it in order to look at the multiple cave paintings by ancient Aborigines. If you make that choice, you will see the tiny line of walkers in the distance appearing to be, you guessed it, ants.


The reason I bring this story up is in response to watching us people live our lives.


Our existence began in the Middle East and spread to other areas as our numbers grew. Depending on the resources available, wherever we landed, we developed our lives and cultures.


If we found ourselves on a rocky, chilly, small island in the South Pacific, we spent our days catching fish and staying warm. No one was exempt from this work, so no one had time to become a lawyer or a scientist. All, no matter how smart, just kept on hunting and fishing.


If we ended up in the golden triangle of Eurasia, we found some wild grains that were good to eat and figured out where and how to grow them in a controlled manner. Then some people had time to became farmers, others hunters, others weavers and sewers and mayors and lawyers, even doctors. These people thought the ones on the chilly island were a little stupid, and maybe of an inferior race, and so on and so on. (Check our “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond.)


As we became civilized, accidentally destroying more isolated people with our diseases, we started inventing things. There were new types of heating and even cooling devices, intermittently fashionable clothes, toys, animal-driven vehicles, and then cars and even airplanes.


We created asbestos and fiberglass insulation, coal mines and plastic, national highway systems and big box stores. Some of our inventions were wonderful, such as disease preventing vaccines. Others, such as asbestos, plastic and the coal heating system are causing lots of trouble, so we’re now figuring out how to un-invent them.


We developed complex and effective medical systems. Most babies began to live to adulthood in civilized countries, so we started working on how to prevent conception, or even end lives in utero to prevent unwanted births.


We found that our inventions could keep people alive much longer than they could function independently, so we began to spend more per person on medical care in the last year of life than the entirety of life before. Now we’re considering whether to end people’s lives when they are nearing the end or suffering painful illnesses.


We have taught ourselves in the United States that credit is a very good thing and that one should borrow money and pay it back with interest to acquire homes, cars, clothing, toys, swimming pools, etc. Waiting and saving for things is out.


So, now, people can make a living selling pre-owned things on the Internet. There are movements in favor of minimalism and living off the grid without any electricity, running water, or store-bought food, with its’ long shelf life and limited taste.


We’ve developed what some now call “fast fashion,” cheaply and artificially made clothing from Third World sweatshops in a style someone mysterious decides we should wear each year. We have the cold shoulder, leggings, wide-legged pants, fur, fake fur and no fur. We run out and charge it all on our credit cards, wear it for a year or so, unless it wears out sooner, and then donate it to charity, where someone else buys it and re-sells it online for someone else to wear.


We modify our food with all kinds of “improvements” such as pesticides herbicides, hormones, genetic alterations, and then, large numbers of us seek to do away with these “improvements” to eat unaltered food.


That brings me back to the ants, who lead purposeful, meaningful lives, and then die with one little spritz of insecticide. They may look silly as if they’re running in circles, but we’re the ones doing that.


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