In the 200,000 years since Homo sapiens first appeared on the planet, our ability to use and create resources has improved dramatically and our population has exploded.
When I reflect on the tremendous technological, demographical, and social changes of the past ten, fifty, and hundred years, it seems to me the most significant change concerns how we associate with each other.
Thanks to our increased economic, political, and communicative powers, many of us seem much more willing to create relationships and groups based on personal attachments and shared purposes that are unrelated to brute proximity and / or blood relations.
We also seem more inclined to accept that persons can — and maybe even should — belong to more than one group.
I say “seem” because I suspect some humans always have been willing to associate in this fashion and, because some of us can in fact associate in this fashion now, I suspect we always have been able to do it.
After all, from an evolutionary perspective, we are the very same primates we always have been. The tools we use are different, there are many more of us but, biologically speaking, we are very much the same.
I also suspect we didn’t associate in this fashion only because of a scarcity of resources and a superabundance of coercion. Without today’s technology and freedoms, it was simply impossible for the necessary connections to be made.
The lesson I draw from this line of thinking is that some of us are on the frontier of a new kind of living that was, until now, impossible. I also suspect, because I have faith in the species, it is a kind of living that will one day be taken for granted.
Therefore, in this ephemeral moment of unrealized possibility, I think we should nurture, cherish, and celebrate these new opportunities, relationships, and groups. I am even tempted to say, we should create these relationship and groups as a matter of duty because so many persons previous to us who had no choice but to go alone into the wilderness.
I won’t make this strong claim, however, because I am sure all those brave persons who ventured into the unknown wilderness alone — whether it be real or allegorical — did so because they longed for a world where a person could choose to live and associate how she pleases — even when it means being alone in the wilderness.