Saturday, November 04, 2006

limited time offer.

what i've (re)learned in my philosophy of biology class is that evolution has at least three necessary conditions: (1) random mutation, (2) heritability, and (3) the scarcity of resources. which is just to say that (1) there will be occasional errors in the reproduction of genetic material from one generation to the next & that these errors will occassionally be expressed in the way a body is built; (2) that once a mutation has randomly occured, it can be legitimately passed on to offspring; and (3) that all of this mutating and inheriting is going on in a world where there isn't enough for us all to live and procreate infinitely. and evolution depends on how (3) plays out between (1) and (2): something is born different than its fellows-- will the difference improve it's chances for survival and successful reproduction, relative to those fellows?

i remember the exact moment that i figured out what was going on. i'd just turned 20, and the world, by way of some heavy reading and minor activism, was shifting in and out of focus. i was wondering: why? why would nice people (i knew they were nice-- they were my people) not want to help other people? this was no big-eyed bullshit question, and i stand by it. what, i wondered, could be the root of profound political disagreement between people who are all operating with the same basic emotional and intellectual repetoire-- or, more accurately, what kind of gravity was it that could pull objects of the same weight in such different directions. what was the logic? what was the law?

there isn't enough for everybody. boom. that's it. that's the thing, i thought: there has to be a way in which what's mine is really mine and you can't have it, because there isn't enough. the idea of ownership and deservingness has to compose the fabric of our most basic assumptions, because if it doesn't, then what's in my hands could as easily be yours, and if it's in your hand, and not in mine, there won't be more. there won't be enough. scarcity of resources. the struggle for survival.

i thought: aha! this is where you're wrong, grump-- you can endorse redistributive tax arrangments-- you can support gay marriage and the funding of clinics and pledging more of our gdp to foreign aid. because there's enough! you were taking for granted that there isn't, but there is. look at all there is.

i worked hard on that idea for awhile. then school ended. plans changed. i wasn't reading much political theory, and my activism was of a humbler kind. grump died, anyway. i just haven't thought about it much-- not explicitly.

but i've been thinking about it these weeks-- not about the old idea i just rehearsed, about something else. darwin says that two starving dogs struggle against one another for a piece of meat-- that they struggle against one another for survival-- but that a green plant in the desert stuggles, too, and not against other green plants, or any animal-- it struggles against the drought. scarcity of resources isn't just another way of understanding our lives in terms of bullshit capitalist competition models. because i'm not some fucking dog fighting for a piece of meet, and i'm not a green plant in the desert, but in my whole life, which will end, there will only ever be one fall during which i'm twenty four years old. this one fall that i'm a twenty four year old philsophy student in somerville, massachusetts is scarce. every moment that i have is scarce-- i only get it once-- and moments, generally, are scarce, too-- i only get some. and every moment there are many people, and for every person, there are a lot of things i want to be/do to/for/with them. and i can't even manage to be/do even a tiny fraction of those things to/for/with even a tiny fraction of those people (this is about time limitations, but also about how one path precludes another, and about other limitations-- the ways that i fail and fall so terribly short). and that's just true. it's lamentable, and (not but) lamenting is probably another lamentable way of wasting moments.

this is too long.


Boo said...

i'm fascinated by your brain.
and! i hope your hat turns up...

Jess said...

philosophy of biology sounds really cool. like a hour, three times a week, inside of a kubrick film. and i mean that in the best way.

Running Away said...

I recommend that you read Victor Frankl's book, _Man's Search for Meaning_, if you haven't already. I think this book would complicate the Darwinian notion that two struggling beings will duke it out with each other in order to survive. Frankl founded a kind of school of psychological thought based on his experiences in a concentration camp during WWII. I would be happy to talk with you more about this. xo, L'il B. (ps. this isn't my account. just e-mail me.)