“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see” — Arthur Schopenhauer
It won’t require mastery of spin or influence on my part to convince you that we are products of our environment. We understand, at an intuitive, gut level, that there is an interplay between nature (genetic hand) and nurture (epigenetic/environmental influence).
Then it’s no wonder that, as a species living in a modern environment, we’re an unhealthy lot. And that those of our species who are truly healthy live a minimalist, hunter-gatherer existence. But the seeming dichotomy of “choose a cave-and-spear existence with health and vitality, or live in an abundant, technically-advanced age, but suffer disease and degeneration” is no more than an illusion of our own construct. We can have our proverbial, gluten-free Paleo cake and eat it, too.
We can, in fact, successfully navigate this new, expansive and wondrous environmental terrain we’ve created for ourselves. I’d go so far as to say it’s our destiny and duty as an advancing species to do just that. But in order to do so, we’ll need to break free of the old command-and-control, autopilot mindset we’re accustomed to and become comfortable with a critical, free and epistemocratic navigation system.
Though the Paleo movement encompasses so much more now, it began by simply questioning why these extant (i.e., “still existing”) hunter-gatherer cultures live free of what we term “diseases of modernity”: heart disease, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune conditions, whacked-out hormonal levels, cancer and mental illness.
On the one hand, it’s shocking that, as a society, it took so long to even ask that question. To be sure there were individuals — albeit (and, unfortunately) few and far between — who questioned this paradox. But the critical mass of individuals asking this question required to ignite a movement did not begin to coalesce until about 2000, approximately the time that internet connection became ubiquitous in the technologically advanced regions of the world. The same regions of the world, in fact, that were being ravaged by those aforementioned diseases of modernity.
That this was a question left unasked, at least at the critical mass level, is rather dumbfounding. It’s not as if these diseases of modernity just cropped up overnight. So why did we in the “advanced world” not see, or at least question, the correlation?
One possible explanation is the “Ships not seen” phenomena, an expression similar to “not seeing the forest for the trees”, and referring to concepts, theories, or ideas, that are in plain view, but that remain hidden from the mind.
The origin of the “ships not seen” phenomena as it is used in science refers to the famous Christopher Columbus story of how, upon his arrival to the new world, the indigenous population — if the story can be believed — could not “see the ships” approach even as they were harboured in plain sight. Supposedly this was because native indians were not in possession of the proper mental constructs to make sense of such a phenomena. Quite simply, this was an event that lay completely outside of their known reality, and thus lay hidden to them in a kind of perceptual blindspot.
A different voyage, through the same phenomena, is described in an account left by Joseph Banks, a botanist aboard Captain James Cook’s ship, the Endeavor, during the crew’s 1768 – 1771 expedition:
“The ship passed within a quarter of a mile of them and yet they scarce lifted their eyes from their employment; I was almost inclined to think that attentive to their business and deafened by the noise of the surf they neither saw nor heard her go past them. Not one was once observed to stop and look towards the ship; they pursued their way in all appearance entirely unmoved by the neighborhood of so remarkable an object as a ship must necessarily be to people who have never seen one.”
Now, whether or not these accounts can be believed in totality is beside the point. But the phenomena itself can at least act as a metaphor to those boxed into a certain way of seeing or thinking about things. Those “not seeing”, or at least, not questioning that which is in plain sight.
Heal thyself, harden thyself, change the world –