While driving my wife to work today I commented on a strange epiphany that hit me a few days ago when driving along that same road past the local community swimming pool. The pool had caught my eye because they have begun the preparations necessary to ready it for opening, a sensible thing since May has arrived, I suppose.
But, I digress.
The thing that struck me that day as I drove by the pool was the fact that the concept of pools is simply an extension of natural animal instinct. Throughout nature you can find examples of animals seeking out bodies of water, whether they be lakes, streams or watering holes, to cool off in the warmer months. All of us have seen the nature films of zebras and hippos at play in their African watering holes, after all.
The pool is an obvious extension of this instinct. When it gets hot, jump in the water to cool off. Simple enough. The thing that struck me, though, was how we, as human beings, have managed to create a watering hole which belongs exclusively to us. We don’t have to watch for predators or unsavory visitors that bring the ambiance of the place down. (well, perhaps we haven’t really solved that one yet)
We have, for all intents and purposes, made an exclusive club with a “Humans Only” sign prominently displayed outside.
When I explained my reasoning to my wife she made the comment that this type of instinctual extension is not limited to the pools. Grocery stores, after all, are a similar extension of the hunting/gathering instinct. And, once again, we have managed to find a way to concentrate our food into an exclusive location where we don’t have to compete with other species. The closest thing to competition here is who will grab that last can on Pringles when they go on sale.
The examples are everywhere, but when you look at it from that angle it makes for an interesting view. Our evolution as a species can, in some ways, be viewed as the founding of an exclusive fraternity or social club. You just have to have the right genus and species to get in. We will, of course, invite the occasional outsider into the club, but all in all it is fairly exclusive.
I know it is an oversimplification, but given the way we have endeavored to separate ourselves from the rest of the world as a superior species, can it really come as any kind of surprise that, with that mission accomplished, we now turn on each other and look for reasons our particular group is vastly superior to the others? We as a species seem to thrive on the conceit that we have overcome all others and sit at the top of the heap.
Perhaps. But, perhaps it is that very part of our nature, the thing that drives us to have a sense of superiority over those with whom we share this tiny plant, that will be our downfall. Maybe, just maybe, that is what will tear us apart as a species. Ego, self-righteousness, and the whole spectrum of other issues lead to one thing.