Are We Just Domesticated Animals?

Many of us have Neanderthal DNA.

I just read a really intriguing article entitled 8 Billion People: How Different the World Would Look if Neanderthals Had Prevailed. And just like that, down the internet rabbit hole I went. The next article I read was Future evolution: from looks to brains and personality, how will humans change in the next 10,000 years? And that article, in turn, led me to Would we still see ourselves as ‘human’ if other hominin species hadn’t gone extinct?

These articles have my mind reeling. Of course, just by reading the titles, it is quite obvious that the information that they contain is based on a heaping helping of conjecture. But each one provides very logical arguments as to why they have reached their conclusions, so it’s hard not to buy into their theories.

I’m going to cherry pick these articles to reveal the speculations that made me blink the most. (I tend to blink when my mind is blown. It’s my way of blocking out the blinding light of the epiphany in question long enough to mull it over at my own pace.)

I was drawn to the first article because I am fascinated by archeology and all things Neanderthal. I love the fact that so many of us have Neanderthal DNA. I have often wondered what the world would be like if Neanderthals still existed.

This article explains that even at their height, there were only about 10,000 Neanderthals living at any one time, so the odds of us Homo Sapiens coming across one would have been very remote. And yet it did happen. DNA doesn’t lie.

Neanderthals were much more wary of outsiders than we were. They tended to hang out in small family groups. This made it hard for them to achieve the genetic diversity that we had. We know this because their skeletons reveal more deformities, on average, than homo sapiens had during that same era. So, if they had prevailed over us, it’s likely that the planet would be a lot less densely populated. They wouldn’t have been inclined toward building large cities or communities. But then again, their isolation would also mean their communities would be less apt to be wiped out by infectious diseases as ours tend to be.

What really astounded me was that this article compared our skulls to Neanderthals, and then compared domesticated animals to their wild counterparts, and they drew some interesting conclusions. For example, cows tolerate being crowded in with other cows more than their wild ancestors did, and we handle crowds better than any Neanderthal would. Our brain case is more bulbous than a Neanderthal, and a dog’s brain case is more bulbous than a wolf’s. Domesticated animals tend to have thinner jaws because of the things they eat, and we have thinner jaws than Neanderthals. We share the smaller tooth size of the domesticates as well, and our nose is less projected, too.

We are more genetically inclined to be friendly than the Neanderthals were, and this means we were more willing to cooperate with one another to survive. We shared tools and survival skills and resources. We had more emotional connection to other animals, so we domesticated those animals. Neanderthals did not do that. Those animals helped us survive. Homo Sapiens survived extreme weather changes because we could depend on wider networks when there was a crisis.

Another little tidbit that article provided was the idea that if the Neanderthals ruled the world, mammoths would probably still exist, because there would be fewer people to hunt them to extinction. If Homo Sapiens didn’t survive to exploit and destroy this planet, it wouldn’t be in as much danger as it is today. Things could have been so different.

The second article asks the question, what will humans be like in 10,000 years? Based on past evolutionary trends, if we don’t manage to destroy ourselves between now and then, it is likely that we’ll be taller, our bones will be less dense, and we’ll live longer. Our brains will shrink. We’ll be more agreeable and cooperative in order to survive our increased population. The article says, “A bit like a golden retriever, we’ll be friendly and jolly, but maybe not that interesting.”

That thought makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like the idea of humans moving more and more toward conformity. It’s the nonconformists who are the innovators, the creators, and the leaders.

And throw that whole “survival of the fittest” thing out the window. We’re less apt to be killed by predators than we once were. Despite sensationalist news to the contrary, our world is becoming increasingly less violent. Our evolution is now much more about sexual selection than anything else. If we are, in fact, domesticated, we’ve done it to ourselves.

When mere survival doesn’t consume your day-to-day existence, you feel less pressure to have offspring, so you can take your time maturing. If other creatures are any indication, this means that our lifespans will get longer, and our fertile years will be extended as well.

With our improved nutrition, medicine and hygiene, we are less apt to die young. With our desire to spend more time training for specialized jobs, we are increasingly inclined to put off childbearing. We’ve done these things to ourselves. And these trends also impact our genes. Our increased height stems from both better nutrition and our genes, as women tend to prefer and select taller men.

Since we use tools more than brute force to survive these days, and since we can make a living by being sedentary, our bones have become less dense. That trend is likely to persist. We no longer need to be strong, so our muscles are shrinking. Our jaws and teeth have shrunk because we now eat more cooked meats than fibrous raw vegetables. We’re losing our wisdom teeth for that reason.

As we spread across the planet, different groups became isolated from one another, and these groups had very different standards of beauty, so the members of these different groups looked less and less alike. But now, we are travelers. We are no longer isolated. Chances are (and I’ve always wondered about this) we will eventually become rather generic, with one skin tone, and one hair color. But this article also posits that gender differences will become even more pronounced as we select for more masculine looking men and more feminine looking women.

It seems that our brains grew over the millennia, but they started shrinking right around the time we invented farming. (And that is not a poke at the flyover states, just so we’re clear.) One theory is that life became less demanding, so our bodies stopped allocating as many calories to brain production. We also started specializing our skills rather than having to be good at everything to survive. That also came about as we built civilizations and could rely on others to do various things.

For what it’s worth, domesticated animals also evolved smaller brains. Have we bred into ourselves the tendency toward compliance and thinking less? That’s a scary thought.

We no longer have to be aggressive to survive. That trait, in fact, does not mesh well with living in a society. It wouldn’t be surprising if we bred ourselves away from aggression. Living in densely populated areas means that more outgoing and tolerant people will thrive. I’m all for increased tolerance, but I weep for the fate of us introverts in this scenario.

The wildest theory, though, is that as we become more politically divided, we could eventually develop into two separate species. I know that I, for one, would never mate with a MAGA Republican. And they probably feel the same way about me. That could have some fascinating repercussions in the distant future. This is not beyond the realm of imagination. For example, religion and lifestyles have created genetically distinct groups such as (this is their example, not mine) Jewish and Gypsy populations. Food for thought.

It may be, though, that we will have an increasingly more conscious role in our evolution moving forward. For example, if you won’t marry unless you get your parent’s approval, aren’t your parents, in essence, selectively breeding you? Also, if you’d be shunned by your community for marrying someone of a different faith, your odds of doing so drastically decrease.

Another weird selection concept has to do with computers and their algorithms. If you’re going to meet someone online, your computer will most likely have ruled out a whole host of other people that don’t match what it considers to be your “type”. Yes, you get to “swipe right”, but it’s these algorithms that decide which faces are presented to you to accept or reject in the first place. That’s kind of scary. You only breed with people you meet, so in essence, computers will impact the way we evolve as a species. Not just computers, but the corporations behind them. Shiver.

After all those blinks, you’d think I’d have been hesitant to read the third article, but no. Curiosity is my driving force, it seems. This article had more to do with what makes us human in the first place.

We are different from other animals in that we can articulate complex ideas. We create extravagant forms of art. We can imagine how we want things to be and then work toward making that a reality. We have complex social networks, and some of us, at least, feel responsible for one another.

Don’t get me wrong. Many animals communicate, use tools, create things, and mourn their dead and care for their young. In essence, the only thing that makes it seem like there’s such a wide gulf between ourselves and other primates is the 20 or so other human species that no longer exist to bridge that gap. Our species didn’t emerge fully formed and utterly different. It took eons to get where we are. It took a million years to learn to walk upright, and another million to devise tools. As our brains grew, our technology became more sophisticated. That technology freed up the time for us to become creative.

In case we get too proud of ourselves, though, remember this: Neanderthals were sophisticated hunters. We know they made tools, jewelry, and cave art. The shape of their ears meant they could hear subtleties of speech. They also buried their dead and took care of their living.

Since their DNA is still in our species, we bred with them. It would be easy to think that this was due to violence, that some poor unsuspecting homo sapien female was kidnapped and raped, but this third article brings up an excellent point: for their genes to still be with us, they had to also successfully raise these children, who then grew up to be treated as humans and accepted by groups, which allowed them to have and raise their own children, and so on. That makes voluntary inter-mating a lot more likely.

Who knows. Maybe the Neanderthals sang and danced and laughed with friends, and gazed at the stars in wonder, and worshiped gods. Maybe they told stories and gossiped and passed on information and loved and taught their children. That sounds pretty darned human to me. And lest we forget, it took homo sapiens hundreds of thousands of years to replace Neanderthals. So these people weren’t grunting pushovers.

One last mind-blowing concept. Our skulls are bulbous, unlike adult Neandertals, but very similar to Neanderthal babies. Domesticated animals, too, have skulls similar to the babies of their wild ancestors. Baby wolves, for example, are more playful, less aggressive, and more willing to meet new creatures. They also have more curiosity. These are traits that dogs also have compared to wolves, and they’re traits that Homo Sapiens have compared to what we know of Neanderthals. Strange coincidence, no?

We like to think that we won out over other hominin species because we are somehow superior. But it may just have been dumb luck and the ability to cooperate through the randomly occurring catastrophes that did it. A slight difference in the world could have brought about Neanderthals trying to figure out all these weird Homo Sapien bones they keep stumbling upon, and writing articles like this one or the three above.

And, not for nothing, we share 50 percent of the same genes as a banana. Isn’t that sobering? We really should get over ourselves.

Harrison Ford, if he were a Neanderthal.

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We Are Animals

Many of us mean well. Some of us really do try to do the right thing. But…

Many of us assume that we humans are superior to other animals on the planet. No one actively promoted this belief to me. Maybe I picked it up by osmosis as a child. I think it’s a common attitude held by many religions, so perhaps I got it there. But I have to confess that my gut reaction is to not lump humanity in with other creatures.

I think that some people would even take exception to the fact that I’m calling humans animals. They’d find it insulting. In fact, there are several definitions of the word, and upon close inspection, they seem rather contradictory.

1.	a living organism that feeds on organic matter, typically having specialized sense organs and nervous system and able to respond rapidly to stimuli. 
2.	an animal as opposed to a human being. 
3.	a mammal, as opposed to a bird, reptile, fish, or insect. 
4.	a person without human attributes or civilizing influences, especially someone who is very cruel, violent, or repulsive. 
5.	a particular type of person or thing. 

While a different attitude may not come naturally to me, the more I see what people are capable of, the more I realize that this sense of superiority so many of us hold is absurd. On the whole, we are the most destructive, selfish, cruel and greedy creatures on earth. If anything, we have a lot to learn from the natural world.

In many ways, non-human animals are superior. They don’t tend to destroy their environments. They don’t usually wage war or commit murder. Their worst lies are along the lines of, “I didn’t destroy the couch cushions! Really! It was the cat!”

The more we study other animals, the more we find that they can and do help one another, even if they’re not of the same species. Many are loyal and loving. They like to play. Predators may seem cruel on nature programs when they’re hunting, but there’s no evil intent there.

Those animals that we deem to be a nuisance have only been made so because we’ve taken away their natural habitat and have forced them to survive in our unnatural one. Is it any surprise that these circumstances have brought out the worst in them? Whose fault is that?

We have so many more choices and opportunities than other animals do. We could be a force for good. It’s shameful that so many of us choose to behave badly. I’m not saying that all humans suck 100% of the time. Many of us mean well. Some of us really do try to do the right thing. But it’s those baser tendencies that we all seem to have to resist in order to be good that have me increasingly worried about our future.

If you want to see the very worst of humanity, hop on over to Reddit, to the PublicFreakout subreddit. On that page you’ll find footage of people freaking out on planes and getting kicked off, Karens throwing fits because they aren’t getting special treatment, bigoted individuals showing their true colors, people who feel wronged seeking revenge instead of justice, students attacking teachers, customers attacking restaurant staff, people overreacting because they have to wait, road rage, police brutality, intimidation, assault, theft, and all manner of political outrages.

Really, it’s appalling. I know it’s a frustrating world out there, but violence, cruelty, selfishness, and dominance are not the answers. Poor choices are not working for us as a species. It feels like we are devolving, and there are so many of us that that is a scary prospect, indeed.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go hug my dog.

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Witnessing the Fall of Civilization

“B****, you better back off…”

The day before I wrote this was a surreal one for me. It seemed like an endless parade of the very worst of humanity. I have no idea what I had done to deserve VIP seating for this shameful display, but whatever it was, mea maxima culpa.

It was my day off, and yet I still had to make the drive to Seattle because I had a doctor’s appointment. Fortunately, the building where the doctor’s office is located has a parking garage, and I decided to take advantage of that rather than circle the building for blocks, in the blistering heat, in hopes of finding a more affordable space.

Much to my shock, I got to park at the space closest to the door which is, in turn, closest to the lobby elevators. Dear Husband calls this Doris Day parking, and who am I to pass that by? So, having suitably garaged the car, I made it to my appointment in record time.

Things didn’t start going sideways until after said appointment. I expected to breeze over to my car and toodle off about my business, as one does. But no.

You always see violence going on in parking garages in the movies and on TV. It makes you wonder why anyone would even consider entering one of these places, let alone leaving their valuable car therein. But I had never witnessed anything nefarious within one myself, so I walked into the parking garage without giving anything much thought. My car was right there, just waiting to be ignited. (Well, that’s why they call it an ignition, right?) I could hear a car approaching. That didn’t concern me very much, because, you know, that’s what cars do in these places.

So imagine my surprise when the vehicle in question came around the curve and stopped at a cock-eyed angle, completely blocking the driving lane, and… just sat there. It was creepy enough that I decided to kind of hunker down in my car with my doors locked and wait until this person moved on before I pulled out. I hadn’t been seen.

Then another car came along. The driver waited about 10 seconds, because why on earth wouldn’t car number 1 move under these circumstances? I mean, common sense, right?

Once it was clear that the driver of car 1 wasn’t a team player, the driver of car 2 laid on her horn. Since we were in the bowels of a concrete garage, this naturally echoed off all the walls to the point where none but the dead could have ignored it. The air was fairly vibrating with hornage. And yet car 1 didn’t budge.

Now I was a little concerned. Did this person have a heart attack or something? The building is a medical complex after all. I peeked over my seat. Should I get out and take a look?

Fortunately for me, before I could do this, car 1’s window rolled down, and the lady within screamed, “F*** YOU!!!”

I took that as a sign that she was in great shape, so I stayed put. “Okay, here we go,” I thought.

And then car 2’s window rolled down. She screamed, “Move your f***ing car!”

These were both middle aged women, alone in their nice cars, getting ready take off their earrings and throw down. This left me with nothing to do but clutch my pearls.  And then again with the horn. Enough already!

This prompted the lady from car 1 to leap out of the car. The blaring horn had my ears ringing, so I can’t be certain of what she said, but it was something along the lines of, “B****, you better back off…”

That would have been plenty for me. I’d have thrown it into reverse so fast I’d probably leave my torque converter bouncing down the ramp. GTFO first, call 911 later, you know? But not this lady.

She leaps out of car 2, slams the door and starts screaming. “You are in the f***ing way! Move your G****** car NOW!”

I was wishing I could employ the exit plan that car 2 had so stupidly decided against. Torque Converters can be replaced, right? But by that time my window of opportunity had disappeared. They were facing off right behind my car.

Never in my life have I seen two women punching each other in the face. Maybe I’ve led a sheltered life or something, but oh shit, they were whaling on each other, and I was freaked out. As they tumbled away from me, I heard a man shout, and saw him running toward the action. I took that opportunity to take off.

When I got to the ticket booth, I told the attendant what was going on, and he sighed and immediately reached for the phone. I suspect I’ll never find out what happened next, because I was not about to stick around to talk to the cops, especially since from my perspective, both of those fools were at fault.

Oh, and by the way, the lady in Car 2 was wearing scrubs. I know that our healthcare workers have been under an extraordinary amount of stress for the past few years, and I feel for them, but come on. I’m sure there are much easier ways to get fired than to show up in your own ER, having given as good as you got.

Feeling nauseous from the adrenaline dump, I then had to drive back home during rush hour. And people were road raging right and left. (Did I mention it was an extremely hot Tuesday afternoon?) People were tailgating and honking and swerving. I just tried to focus on getting home in one piece.

But before I got home, I needed to stop for gas, and since the station is right in front of a grocery store, I decided to go in and pick up a few things. Because, you know, what else could go wrong, right?

Wrong. I walked in, and there were no empty carts anywhere in the store. They were short staffed, and no one had gone out to collect the strays in the parking lot. People were pissed. I decided it was too darned hot to go back outside, so I just figured I’d put things in my grocery bags, and if anyone accused me of shoplifting, I’d try not to react like the women in the parking garage.

After I had picked up about half of my items, I noticed that a fresh-faced stock boy had left a line of carts full of things to be shelved in the middle of the aisle and had walked away. So I grabbed the cereal boxes out of the first cart, dumped them into the second cart, and pretty much ran away with the empty. People were eyeing my cart as if it were a porterhouse steak. It’s a jungle out there. What had come over me? I felt no sense of remorse for stealing from someone who is probably still in high school, and most likely couldn’t care less. And besides, to quote Ferris Bueller, “If I’m going to be caught, it’s not gonna be by a guy like that!”

As I wheeled the cart away, my items comfortably ensconced therein, I considered the irony of stealing a cart so as not to look like a shoplifter. I headed toward the deli section. On a day like this, I deserved elephant ears. Nothing less would do.

My timing was just abysmal that day, because I rounded the corner just as a very large man grabbed a tiny woman by the arm and spun her around. That was going to leave a mark. He bent down, inches from her face. His eyes were bulging, his face was red, and he spat out, “WE’RE TALKING ABOUT TWO DIFFERENT THINGS!!!”

Whatever that means. My instinct is always toward rescue, but I couldn’t have overpowered that guy. And besides, the woman just rolled her eyes at him as if she was used to such treatment. (If he’ll do that in a grocery store, she’s probably used to a lot more behind closed doors.)

I stood there at a distance, bearing wimpy witness, until he let her go, though. She just scoffed and walked away. I wish I could have told her that his behavior is unacceptable, but I feared escalating the situation. And she was an adult, after all. If she wanted rescuing, she could have run toward the cashiers and screamed bloody murder. If that had happened, I might have mowed him down with my stolen cart to increase her lead. Oops. But there’s only so much you can do for people.

I finished my shopping, feeling sad and tired and wanting nothing more than to go home to Dear Sane Husband.  Naturally, the checkout lines were long, so I just stood in queue with my eyes closed, waiting for this fresh hell to be over so that I could stuff my face with elephant ears on the drive. At home, I’d create a distraction from all the self-soothing carb crumbs covering the front of my shirt by giving a couple ears to DH. That would make him, effectively, an accomplice.

After finally getting past the cashier, I headed toward the exit, past the jewelry department, through women’s wear, feeling disgust that they are already trying to sell sweaters when it’s 90 degrees out. And then I walked into the alcove, the sliding doors within reach, my car within sight like a light at the end of a beastly tunnel, and that’s when I saw a guy off in the corner. He was conveniently located where he couldn’t be seen from inside the store. He was dressed in black from head to toe. He had a duffel bag that appeared to be at least three feet long. He was squatting down with his back to me, and he was rummaging through it as if he were on a critical mission.

I didn’t stick around to see the contents of that bag. I ran to my car, hopped in, pulled to the other side of the parking lot, and called the store. I asked for security. But what I got was voicemail. FFS, if someone is calling security, maybe there should be someone available to answer the phone! I called again and pressed zero and got some teenager who clearly hates her job. When I told her about the sketchy guy rummaging around in a big duffel bag in their north alcove, she just said, “Okay…”

Useless. I sat in the parking lot for a second, thinking how crazy the cops were going to think I was, because there’s no law against rummaging around in a duffel bag. But after the day I’d had, with its constant reminders of how uncivilized and hate-filled people have become since 2016, and how many innocent people have died because of it, I had no choice but to call 911.

After the usual explanations and descriptions, they said they’d send someone out, and I truly hope they did. They had my number if they had any questions, so I took myself out of firing range as I dove headlong into my elephant ears. Home has never been so sweet.

I spent the evening in a stupor, and that night I slept as if I had been hit with a brick. No one ever called, and I didn’t read about a mass shooting in women’s wear the next day. So maybe sometimes a duffel bag is just a duffel bag. Unfortunately, these days, you can never be too sure.

Now is the perfect time to stay at home and read a good book. Try mine!

Have We Lost All Humanity?

How do you see this wonderful woman fall and not do anything to help?

This is my dear friend Carole.

Normally, she doesn’t look like this. Normally, her outer beauty isn’t this battered and bruised. You can still see the inner beauty, though, shining through her eyes. Look closely. Note her intelligence, her sense of humor, and her indomitable spirit. In her late 70’s, she still has a zest for life that I’ve come to love and admire since we first became friends through my blog about 8 years ago.

I’ll let her describe how she came to look like this.

“On Monday about 1PM it was bright and sunny, a beautiful day. I stopped just across the FL/GA line to get gas. I was thinking about the good times I had had with my family at Disney, and wishing I had a few more days with them.

“Well, the pump wouldn’t give me a receipt, so I headed inside to get a copy. Returning to my car, I lost my footing on the curb, and down I went. In slow-mo, I saw the sidewalk coming up to kiss me, and I heard the sickening sound of a hard-boiled egg being crushed on the counter, but it was my nose. PAIN unimaginable.

“There were 3 or 4 people pumping gas. I lay there maybe 2 minutes, checking mentally each part of my body to make sure nothing was broken, and if I was bleeding. Not one person made a move to see if they could help or even ask, “Are you okay?”

“So I went inside and the two employees asked all the right questions, offered any assistance and generally made me feel better. I hung around for an hour to make sure I wasn’t going to risk my life or anyone else’s life, then headed home.

“I accidentally missed a turn in Atlanta and couldn’t find my way back on the interstate. I stopped at a Jiffy store to ask for directions and the man started smiling real big. By the time he got the directions out of his mouth, he was choking, trying not to get out a full blown belly laugh.

“Back on the road home, after driving about 10 hours, I pulled into a hotel. I spoke to someone through a teller window to ask for the cheapest rate. She had this big smirk. $89.99.  I said, “That’s your cheapest price?” So I drove all the way home.

“I got home at 1:45 am. I am assuming that all the people’s reactions to me were because they thought that I was an abused woman on the run.”

Personally, I’m horrified to know that multiple people left my dear friend lying on the pavement and no one did a thing to help her up or check on her.

Recently, my husband and I saw a woman fall in a parking lot and we stopped our car to get out and see if she was okay. My husband helped her up, brushed her off, and made sure she was not in need of an ambulance before we left. Isn’t that what a normal, decent person would do? And yet I’ll never forget that 20 years ago my 92-year-old neighbor once lay on the sidewalk with a broken wrist for two hours as numerous people walked right past her.

So the fact that no one went to Carole’s aid isn’t that unusual. People just can’t seem to be bothered to do the right thing anymore. It sickens me. And the idea that people found her condition funny, that there was no empathy for her situation whatsoever, disgusts me to the very marrow of my being.

Is there no compassion left in this world? Don’t we give a fig about our fellow man anymore? What has caused such a lack of humanity? How do we get it back?

I’m ashamed of the human race right now.

By the way, Carole says she’s feeling much better. I’m glad to hear it. But it should have gone much differently. Lest we forget, we all fall down sometimes.


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Are We A Cancer?

Unrestrained growth that damages the tissue it comes into contact with.

Driving home from work at 11 pm the other night, I was listening to Alternative Radio during my lonely 45 minute commute, and I heard a speaker whose theory is now stuck in my head. The only remedy for that is to stick it in yours. Sorry.

The episode was entitled The Human Cancer in the Covid-19 Era. It’s been several nights since I heard it, and since I was driving, I couldn’t take notes, so my apologies to Dr. Stephen Bezruchka if I get anything wrong. Having said that, the gist of the talk was that cancer, in essence, is unrestrained growth that damages the tissue it comes into contact with. And that pretty much sums up humanity.

Think about it. Our cities and villages used to be perfectly encapsulated inside walls, but now we’ve burst forth and taken over the countryside. We build right over the top of fertile land. We pollute our waterways and the very air we breathe. We send out tendrils in the form of highways so that we can continue to survive. We are responsible for the total annihilation of other species. We’re destroying our host, the planet.

We are also responsible for this pandemic, and the pandemics that will surely follow this one. By destroying animal habitat, we are forcing animals to live closer to us. We live cheek by jowl with the bats and the birds and the swine. And the closer we get to them, the more we will pass diseases back and forth. We’re doing this to ourselves.

Now, everywhere I look, I’m seeing cancer. It’s really depressing. It’s such a helpless feeling.

There is some good news, though. As sentient beings, we can cure ourselves if we want to. We can find gentler ways to live upon this earth. We can choose not to reproduce at this horrifying rate. We can protect undeveloped land. We can eat less meat. We can focus on green energy. There are so many things we can do.

I genuinely believe that change is coming. We really don’t have a choice if we want to survive. The scary part is that I have no idea what the world is going to look like after this pandemic. I only know that we are long past the point where we can take anything for granted.


Now is the perfect time to stay at home and read a good book. Try mine!

Big History

Macrohistory, not microhistory.

If you took any history classes in high school or college, especially if you are of a certain age, those classes most likely revolved around human history, or even more arrogantly, white upper class male human history. You couldn’t be blamed for thinking that nothing existed outside of the salons of Europe until we “discovered” America.

Yeah, if you’re like me, you had a brief obsession with dinosaurs. But you probably didn’t consider that history. You thought of it more as paleontology. You certainly didn’t classify the big bang as history. That was astronomy.

Yes, we are taught to put everything neatly in their own little boxes. Geology, archaeology, biology, chemistry, physics, genetics, environmental studies, psychology… each has its niche, and never the twain shall meet.

But you know, that’s kind of like studying individual trees without examining the forest. It’s like focusing on one book without ever looking up at the wonder of the library. How short sighted of us.

Thank goodness there is now an academic discipline that looks at the big picture. It’s called Big History, and instead of focusing on the 10,000 years humans have been around, it looks at time from the Big Bang to the present.

Granted, biting off a 13.8 billion year chunk of time and trying to swallow it whole is no mean feat, but in a lot of ways, it makes a great deal of sense. An interdisciplinary approach is much more three dimensional. How could one possibly study the fossil record, for example, without understanding geology? How can we ever have a grasp of the cosmos and our place within it without looking at the many causes and effects that intertwine with one another?

You can’t understand human migration without a grasp of climatology. You can’t comprehend the elements that make up life on this planet without having a sense of chemistry. It’s macrohistory, not microhistory. It looks for common themes across a variety of disciplines.

Oh, to be young and have the time and the energy and the wide-eyed innocence to be willing to rack up debt and go back to college! It’s such an amazing time to be learning. Rock on, big historians!


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What I Thought America Meant

When I was little, I was taught that I lived in the greatest country in the entire world. I thought we set the best example, and that based on that example, other countries would aspire to be better, and someday the whole world would be just as wonderful as we were.

Everyone would be free. There would be no war. Every individual would have equal opportunities. The world would be one big safe, happy, teddy bear of a place. I was so proud. I felt so lucky to be an American.

To me, America meant generosity, compassion, justice, safety, equality, freedom, dedication, love, and integrity.

If you had told me back then that I’d become increasingly ashamed over time, I’d have been pretty darned disappointed. Disgusted is the word, actually. And even horrified every once in a while. (Simply because I can’t work up the energy to maintain horror for long periods.)

How must the rest of the planet view us when we say things like domestic and gang violence are no longer valid reasons for asylum? What happened to “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free”?

And when did we become okay with children being yanked away from their parents? Do we think those traumatized children will grow up admiring us for that? Do we think those children deserve punishment? Guilt by association?

We were supposed to be the poster child for human rights. Are we? When our president shakes hands with Kim Jong-Un, the worst human rights abuser currently alive, and says he’ll “probably have a very good relationship” with him, it doesn’t do much for that image.

I also thought we’d be the saviors of the world. But we are one of its worst polluters, biggest consumers, and we live in a culture of selfishness and waste. We can’t even hold on to our national parks, which is an embarrassment, because we were the first country to even conceive of them. The planet cries out for us to take climate change seriously, even as some of them are sinking into the sea, and instead of setting an example, we back out of the Paris Accord.

Apparently we value the profits of gun manufacturers more than the lives of our children. We allow the very worst of our law enforcement officers to become murderers without any real consequences. We step over our homeless veterans in the streets. And we don’t seem to think anyone has a right to health care.

We elected a man who brags about grabbing pussies, thinks that white supremacy is acceptable, and uses Twitter to lie without remorse. We take great strides to make it difficult to vote, but that’s probably a waste of energy when no one can seem to be bothered to do so anyway. We spend more time keeping up with the Kardashians than we do with the real current events that actually impact our day to day lives.

We have become fat and bloated by our laziness and greed. We flaunt our hate. We exaggerate our fear. We demonize education and journalism. We are not who we said we would be.

I once told a cousin that America is an experiment. You’d think I had peed in his Post Toasties. How dare I say that?

Well, Cuz, do you still think we are solid as a rock, unchanging, and will last forever? Do you really think that this thing we have become has staying power, above all other regimes that have come and gone throughout history? Are we a shining example of the best of humanity? Have we reached some bright pinnacle? Should everyone want to be just like us?

I wish I could be that little girl again, with the star spangled banner eyes. I wish I was full of optimism and hope for this country’s future. I wish I still thought I was one of the good guys.

But I have to ask: Are we becoming our best selves? Because if we can’t do better than this, if we don’t want to do better than this, then there’s really no hope. And that scares me.


Check out my refreshingly positive book for these depressingly negative times.

Too Convinced of Our Own Permanence

It really surprises me how oblivious most people are to our dire situation. Between the insane twitterings of the man we chose to lead the free world, the nuclear saber rattling, the imminent environmental disaster that we have brought upon ourselves and yet seem content to ignore, and the ever-increasing worldwide paranoia, the Doomsday Clock ticks on.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Doomsday Clock, it’s basically a unit of measure that has been maintained by the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board. They’ve kept adjusting this measurement, back and forth, as circumstances have dictated, since 1947. Originally their calculations were based solely on the threat of global nuclear annihilation, but in recent years they’ve also taken climate change into account.

The clock is now set at two minutes to midnight. Only once since 1947 have we been so close to the end. That was in 1953, when the US and the USSR were testing our first thermonuclear devices.

This is a big deal. And yet no one seems to care. It’s time to wake up.

We all make fun of teenagers for thinking that they’re immortal and for taking risks that no sane adult would ever contemplate. But the truth is that we all think there is some sort of permanence to humanity. We don’t really believe that anything we could do could cause the end of life on this planet. Not really. And because of this, we are taking stupid, teen-aged risks.

Tick tock, people.

Doomsday Clock

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book.

Who’s the Animal in This Scenario?

One of the most distressing features of social media is that it really highlights the more despicable aspects of humanity. If I’m not reading about some sick $&*@(% who buried a dog alive, leaving only its snout exposed, causing its eventual death, then I’m seeing pictures of men cheering as roosters slice each other to ribbons. If I’m not hearing about people who get off on torturing black cats at Halloween, then I’m learning that the Amish (whom you would expect to have a moral compass), are some of the worst perpetrators of puppy mills, because they see dogs as livestock to be exploited. And how does one hunt not for food, but for fun, Trump Junior?

And then there are all those animal rescue videos. It warms your heart that all these animals are saved, rehabilitated, and given forever homes, yes, but it’s horrifying that they were abandoned in the first place. Seriously, how hard is it to spay or neuter your pets, or, here’s a thought, not take the responsibility of owning one if you don’t have the maturity to follow through?

And don’t even get me started about people who tie their dogs up in the back yard, all alone, even in the worst weather imaginable. Because I’ll cut a b****, if I have to, to prevent that. I really will.

There is nothing lower than someone who abuses, neglects, abandons, or tortures a helpless creature. How do people who do that carry on with the rest of their lives? How do you send out for pizza while you have dozens of animals starving in their own filth in a shed somewhere? How do you read your kid a bedtime story after having reveled in the painful death of a creature that you’ve forced to fight for its life? How do you decorate your Christmas tree after dumping kittens on the side of the road like so much garbage? How does that work?

Trump Junior

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book.

Aggression is the New Regression

In the near future, when the leader of the free world is going to be someone who publicly declares “I’d like to punch him in the face,” and also condones waterboarding and other war crimes, can an uptick in violence be far behind?

There is a thin veil between humanity and aggression. That veil is called morality. The reason we don’t devolve to a society of cavemen is that we have developed laws and codes based on this morality. It keeps at least some of us in check. Violence is wrong. We all used to know this, at least on some level.

But soon we’ll have a leader who is willing to pierce that veil, and do it with a smile on his face. I’ve recently noticed a lot more adult bullying and intimidation. We are regressing. We are losing our civility. Check out this video of a man kicking a woman down the stairs. There is nothing on earth that can justify this type of behavior.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a violent world, and always has been. Every woman I know has been abused in some form or another at least once in her life.  It’s hard to feel safe in that atmosphere. But the only thing we seemed to have in our favor was public outrage. Now the outrage seems to crop up when we don’t behave aggressively enough. It’s a different world.

I don’t know about you, but I’m scared. I’m also disheartened.

I leave you now with a link to a television clip from Morocco, in which a makeup artist is demonstrating how to cover up the bruises you receive from domestic violence so that you can “carry on with your daily life.”

For this, I have no words.


Check out my refreshingly positive book for these depressingly negative times.