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— Alan Lightman You go to school, study hard, get a degree, and you’re pleased with yourself. You get a job, achieve things at the job, gain responsibility, get paid more, move to a better company, gain even more responsibility, get paid even more, rent an apartment with a parking spot, stop doing your own laundry, and you buy one of those juices where the stuff settles down to the bottom. You do all kinds of life things—you buy groceries, read articles, get haircuts, chew things, take out the trash, buy a car, brush your teeth, shit, sneeze, shave, stretch, get drunk, put salt on things, have sex with someone, charge your laptop, jog, empty the dishwasher, walk the dog, buy a couch, close the curtains, button your shirt, wash your hands, zip your bag, set your alarm, fix your hair, order lunch, act friendly to someone, watch a movie, drink apple juice, and put a new paper towel roll on the thing.But as you do these things day after day and year after year, are you improving as a human in a meaningful way?As humans evolved and the Higher Being began to wake up, he looked around your brain and found himself in an odd and unfamiliar jungle full of powerful primitive creatures that didn’t understand who or what he was.His mission was to give you clarity and high-level thought, but with animals tramping around his work environment, it wasn’t an easy job. Human evolution continued to make the Higher Being more and more sentient, until one day, he realized something shocking: It marked the first time any species on planet Earth was conscious enough to understand that fact, and it threw all of those animals in the brain—who were not built to handle that kind of information—into a complete frenzy, sending the whole ecosystem into chaos: The animals had never experienced this kind of fear before, and their freakout about this—one that continues today—was the last thing the Higher Being needed as he was trying to grow and learn and make decisions for us.
And when the alien representative is finished observing us and heads back to his home planet, I think this would be his sum-up of our problems: This struggle in our heads takes place on many fronts.A species on that step might think of us like we think of a three-year-old child—into consciousness through a blur of simplicity and naiveté. I think he’d very quickly see a conflict going on in the human mind.Let’s imagine that a representative from that species was sent to observe humans and report back to his home planet about them—what would he think of the way we thought and behaved? On one hand, all of those steps on the staircase below the human are where we grew from.When I dove into this topic, I thought about my own situation and whether I was improving.The efforts were there—apparent in many of this blog’s post topics—but I had no growth model, no real plan, no clear mission.