Saturday, April 9, 2016

Kindness & Communication (Hair Helmets, Part 2)

To review: Last week's column was about hair helmets with a couple of (hopefully) amusing wanderings down side alleys to see where they led. My original intent was to make fun of not only hair helmets but other methods that we allegedly rationally driven homo sapiens employ to improve our chances of mating and reproducing.

However, my plan, as happens often as not, fell apart. Hair helmets wound up being the only contrivance discussed, and when I got to the end, I was suddenly seized by a strong notion that I should've also discussed what, if anything, sets us apart from our fellow animals. Which I will...

But first (it's not you, it's me) I want to get into how this sort of thing happens, since it will no doubt continue. Don't say, gentlereaders, that you've never been warned.

I've mentioned in at least one of my columns, and should and will add to what you will find by clicking on the Read This First Please or Glossary tab of my site, that my writing style is an edited stream of consciousness. That is, though I start out with a notion ranging from vague to specific, I give my muse and an imagined gentlereader free reign to gently push me in whatever direction feels right.

However, I then edit ruthlessly, guided by the twin goals of clarity and humor, sometimes deleting entire columns. F.Y.I., I've deliberately and officially stopped referring to my posts as posts. They are now and henceforth, my columns. After all, I've yet to miss a week since (self) publishing my first column on 7.23.15., just like a real columnist, who actually gets paid. This change in nomenclature serves two purposes.

First, it helps me to maintain the discipline necessary to prove to a syndicator, publisher, editor, agent, Google AdSense etc. (I really need to find the time and inclination to do whatever I need to do to make some money from this. As it is, I'm having too much fun just writing love letters to my daughter, son-in-law, and my grandkids -- the Stickies -- to hopefully occasionally be reread after I'm long gone) that I'm a worthy investment.

Second, I'm faking it 'till I make it. I'm acting as if. I'm keeping hope alive. I'm, uh, maintaining a good attitude. You know, doing all that sort of stuff you're supposed to do to be successful at something that the people who make a successful living teaching people how to be successful at something advise us to do. I'm also subtly and secretly manipulating and hypnotizing my gentlereaders to look past the sale and assume I'm destined to be a wildly successful writer so they will stick with me and tell all of their friends they should be following me.'s a secret.

Yes, Virginia, I do think we are more than just another animal that happens, fortunately for us, to live at the top of the food chain. However, I also think it's very important that we don't forget, so to speak, where we come from. Scott Adams, the man that cranks out my favorite daily comic strip, Dilbert, and also writes a blog, not to mention an occasional book, says we're easily manipulated moist robots. He also maintains that we mostly use our rational abilities to justify our irrational, emotionally driven behaviors after the fact. In my semi-humble opinion, he's right.

Big but.

There are two ginormous characteristics homo sapiens have that separate us from our fellow animals. There are arguably, and probably, more. And who knows? Maybe the folks that claim dolphins and/or elephants and/or _____  function at a level equal to, or even superior to us, are correct (though I have my doubts). And, of course, many people the world over understand and cherish the meaning, importance, and significance of the deceptively simple phrase, good dog.

For the sake of simplicity and clarity, though, I'm going with communication and kindness.

Communication first. You don't have to be human to communicate successfully, in a limited way, with your fellow _____ . In fact, it's possible for all sorts of creatures to communicate, in a limited way, with all sorts of other others who communicate, in a limited way, with each other.

I'm sorry, I'll stop (GRIN).

A full blown language, on the other hand, even a very simple one with a limited vocabulary, creates a network. Language is the wiring, so to speak, that links my mind to your mind to their mind. This was the first internet and just like the current electronic, ever growing, planet-spanning one, it increased our processing power exponentially.

Writing and reading eventually supplemented oral tradition and made it easier for each new generation to build on what went before.

Had computers never been invented, we would still (and did) be able to do a lot of amazing things. After all, 7.3 billion heads are better than one.

Pooping indoors and disappearing the results by gently pushing on a tiny handle. Effortless access to sparkling clean hot and cold water by turning some tiny wheels. Climate control via pushing some tiny buttons. Et cetera. We take for granted what our not too distant ancestors would've declared to be magic, and then tortured and/or killed a bunch of folks to mitigate the bad juju.

Life is, and always will be, subject to unpredicted crap storms. Utopia will never be just around the next bend. But as you're working your butt off, plotting and scheming and hoping while impatiently waiting for your financial position to improve, you'll always find a way to keep the utilities turned on.

Kindness? Yup, kindness. That is, if you expand the definition of kindness. If you include everything from the evolutionary advantages that resulted from tribal cooperation to choosing to be the grup in the room to the teachings of the ethical and spiritual traditions that state we must love and take care of each other.

Yes, other species cooperate to get stuff done, particularly stuff that ensures the survival of the group.

But we can consciously decide to at least try to get along with that moron we work for, and not just for the sake of ourselves. We can do it for our family, our fellow slaves, our customers, our patients, or our _____ -- or not.

Every kid on the playground knows who's cool, who's OK, and who's a bully.

"Wo, oh, what I want to know, is are you kind?" (from the song "Uncle John's Band").

Have an OK day.

©Mark Mehlmauer 2016

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