An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of July 2, 2017
Issued from Rancho Regenesis near Ek Balam ruins 20kms north of Valladolid, Yucat√°n, Mexico

READING XENOPHON

I've been rereading Xenophon's Hellenica, written some 2400 years ago, and detailing conflicts at that time between Athens and Sparta. You get used to the author offhandedly remarking that this or that city was stormed, all property plundered, the town's women distributed among the soldiers, then everyone either killed or taken into slavery. Both sides did it, neither the "right-wing" militaristic, dictator-loving Spartans nor the "left-wing" democratic Athenians were more guilty than the other. On both sides the wars were fought mainly over business concerns -- who got what access to which markets, which natural resources, which shipping lanes.

On a hot afternoon in the central Yucatan when nearly continuous thunder rolls across the lowlands from a storm passing in the north, and a Clay-colored Thrush sweetly calls his monotonous but very satisfying song from a Gumbo-Limbo tree beside the hut, I put down Xenophon and look around, thinking about the possibility that the general outline of human nature hasn't changed much these last 2400 years. I like to tell myself that humanity has advanced since those times, but nearly every day there's new proof that "civilization" and the peace it enables is a thin, flimsy and possibly temporary veneer barely keeping raw, violent human nature from expressing itself as it always has.

If this is true, and basic human nature is a problem, then what's the solution?

As the storm to the north gradually pulls away leaving only a few silvery splatters of rain on the Gumbo-Limbo's leaves, I'm thinking that maybe Nature will solve the problem the way She always does: If a species misbehaves or proves too unadaptable, then either it goes extinct, or else over time it gives rise to a new species more fit for living on Earth.

Going extinct is pretty clear-cut, so it's more interesting to imagine what that new, more adaptable species might be like. For instance, maybe we're seeing that new species starting to emerge right now, as more and more humans walk around coordinating their thoughts and behavior with information flowing across cyberspace, and more and more people augment their bodies with new hip joints, cosmetic surgery, Google glasses and such, and more and more people become dependent on drugs. Well, you who don't live in an isolated tropical forest see the trends better than I.

So, the new species will consist of computers integrated with various tools and sensors, encrusting a nucleus of what's left of biological Homo sapiens. This new thing will be kept healthy, "happy" and under control with drugs and other biochemical whizbangery. This all sounds perfectly loony but, when you look around, don't general trends point exactly at such an outcome?

And so I pick up Xenophon again, and read more about that long-ago conflict, glad that I'm in a time and place where a passing afternoon storm has left the air feeling and smelling so fresh and agreeable as the Sun begins peacefully to set.