Douglas Adams, he of the phantasmagorical Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy penned another set of books based around Dirk Gently and his Holistic Detective Agency. Gently believed in the fundamental interconnectedness of all things and used that belief to solve his clients’ problems and charge them huge expenses.
He was onto something (not the expenses; that has ‘crook’ written all over it).
Back in the early 1970, as a 16 year old I decided to take a history A level. They are the exams we take here in England (and Wales) as a precursor to going to University; such choices are important. My history master, a short, swarthy Zapata moustachioed Trotskyite called Colin Boun was determined that we would be different and chose for us an entirely new syllabus – Modern History and International Relations: 1945 to 1974. We started in 1973 so we would be examined on history that had not then occurred (I hated Richard Nixon for very personal reasons as his resignation, occurring just outside the examined period caused consternation a few weeks before the exam as to how we should reflect it in our US domestic history course – the long term damage his criminality did to the trust in the political system was, frankly, a sideshow). That course was pretty unique, not that we 16 year olds realised it. We were just blown away by his ideas and his approach.
He challenged our thinking in many ways. One was on the environment. He told us about the growth of Greenhouse gases and how our planet was warming and this would be an environmental disaster. In 1973. Pretty cool guy, Colin. We, smarty pants that we were, told him what rubbish this idea was. We had had some grim winters; what on earth did he mean about greenhouse gases and a warmer planet?
That’s when we were introduced to the work of James Lovelock. He is the author of Gaia theory which I have mentioned before.
The Gaia hypothesis proposes that living and non-living parts of the Earth form a complex living interacting system that can be thought of as a single organism
At the time, in the 196os the notion that the planet was one organism and if you impact one part all other parts may be impacted too and in ways both unintended and incalculable was derided as hippyish, new age nonsense and unscientific. It still has its critics, especially those like Dawkins who see natural selection as antipathetic to such a model.
And true, the theory has changed and developed over the years but today it has much more scientific backing and credibility. Lovelock pleaded with us to change our habits. Today a lot listen, but a lot don’t. Lovelock has opined (in The Revenge of Gaia) that it is now too late to change and make any difference to the outcome of man’s callous impact on our planet. I’m not such a pessimist but the point here is, optimist or pessimist we are all in this together and we, in the UK cannot just go blithely on in our own temperate little zone, glorying in the fact we can grow vines and make decent wine because our summers are better and not be cognisant of the changes that are impacting elsewhere.
There is another theory – the six degrees of separation or the small world problem – which posits one human can be connected to any other in no more than six steps. Many studies have looked at this since the original 1929 notion and nothing has been conclusively shown. However in all of these studies a proportion, often a significant one does correlate. And perhaps our own experiences show this. Sit in a bus in Bolivia, or a cafe in Bhutan and find a local with whom you can converse. Or walk into a bar in Sydney or Sebastopol and talk to the first person you meet. Chances are there’ll be a link between you somewhere, some common ground.
We live in an ageing world. As you age you tend to become more conservative (small ‘c’ not wishing to offend my liberal minded friends) and resist change and novelty. Become more insular. After all Brexit is the epitome of that issue and while I doubt we will change the decision, resistance isn’t futile. Possibly.
Yesterday I attended a Bloggers Bash with a mix of visitors. The Facebook live broadcasts from the event were watched around the world. In relative terms we are small but with an extraordinarily wide reach. We connect, we converse and we learn from each other, mostly about how similar we are in our hopes and aspirations and fears.
Ok not everyone looks like this…
… but even without the inner Smurf rising to the surface, we must not let that urge to narrow our focus to be an excuse to become inward looking and ignore, or worse, deny our fundamental interconnectedness with everyone else. After all, if you look at life’s building blocks, our DNA we are within less than 0.1 percent of being exactly the same as each other. And we share approximately 60% of the same DNA as a banana.
Do not look for differences, people, celebrate our similarities. After all, had your distant ancestors taken a different path you could have been a yellow fruit.