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Suburban Tree Dialog 5 (Behaviorally Modern Human 2)

Me: When we left off our last conversation we had been talking about thinking long ideas and I mentioned I had been thinking of what humans would become if we succeeded in living with power and not destroying our planet at the same time. I think I am ready to talk more about this and see where we go with it.

Tree: I don''t have any ideas about it, that is your job. I know what soil, roots, water, air, the sun, my trunk, leaves, and branches will look like and how they will be. Why are you talking about being different, you will be the same unless you are talking about a very long time in the future when your kind might look different, you might grow roots or leaves.

Me: I''m not thinking that far into the future, although being part animal and part plant would be a pretty interesting development.

Tree: So you aren''t talking about becoming like my kind?

Me: Not physically anyway

Tree: In some other ways then?

Me: I think that people would have become completely responsible for the ideas, systems, and things we create and not relate to them as if they were existing on their own independent from us. I also think we would see our bodies like they were extended into the world around us all the time and that all the things around us were also extending into us all the time in the same way. We would see ourselves as more than we are individually.

Tree: So you don''t see yourself that way now? I see you that way, you and everything else are just that way.

Me: People don''t really see themselves that way except on rare occasions when the see all the connections that are occurring.

Tree; But what about you, how do you see yourself.

Me: I see myself as in transition to seeing myself as always woven into the fabeic of living things. I see it clearly and feel it fully some times but other times I see myself as separate and not connected.

Tree: So you see yourself in transition and you see others moving with you or not

Me: I see slow movement in most others but if we survive I think we will all be seeing things naturally and consistently as if we were always interwoven with all other living and non living things. The change would be something so useful in adapting to our environment that it would be very contagious. I also think it would be characterized as being adaptation that was not just useful to us, but useful to the whole fabric of life and that is why the adaptations would spread rapidly.

Tree: I would like to see that happen. Do you think it will happen in my lifetime?

Me: How long do you think you will live?

Tree: Another 120 years.

Me: If it is going to happen you will see it well before you die.

Tree: Good, tell me more about what you think it will look like. If you are right I will be able to watch this happen right here in my space of dirt and air, as I told you before there ae a lot of your kind close to me all the time.

Me: It is going to be hard to flesh out what I think about this. I see it dimly now and hope I will see it more clearly as I try to bring it to life in our conversation. It will be a little bit like when I rewrote Genesis, it will take some time and a few unexpected turns. Are you OK with that?

Tree: Our kind are the long thinkers, please don''t insult my intelligence, of course I''m OK with hearing you think it through. Even when you finish, it won''t be done.

Me: What do you mean when you say "Even when you finish, it won''t be done"?

Tree: I mean that the development of your kind into something different won''t be done when you finish describing how you think it will be. The way you imagine that development today will be part of a process that changes you, and you are part of your kind, so your kind is changing in a small way as you change. That is how we trees do it, I don''t think your kind is any different.

Me: You are right about how change happens with living things. An individual turns out a little different. If that difference can be passed down to the individual''s offspring and it helps them live strongly then it will be passed on more and more because the individuals with that change in them will do better than the individuals without that change. But with humans the issue is that the issues we will have to deal with and the changes we will need to make live partly outside us as things that we create.

Tree: why don''t you start there, with the things you make that are outside of you.

Me: I think that is a good place to start. I think that the second wave of behaviorally modern humans will not relate to these things as if the do exist independent of people. I think we will see such things as existing outside the immediate cellular definition of what a human beign is but not see those things as being independent of humans as cellular creatures. I think it starts with ideas that get passed from one person to another and turn into stories that are passed into broader audiences and then from generation to generation. Susan Blackmore calls these things mems and thinks it starts with the human ability to imitate something and remember the imitation of something. The language of imitation probably preceeded the emergence of spoken language. I haven''t read Susan''s book so I may have her idea wrong, so I will stick to my own idea of stories, as opposed to mems, being remembered, passed from person to person and then from generation to generation. These take on a life of their own that is related to but independent of their originator. As that process continues people relate to these sets of stories as if they exist environmentally like a mountain, water, a banana tree, or any other thing that simply exists along with our human bodies and our experience of each other.

I have gone through the genesis story with you because I think it is one of the powerful stories of the type I am describing, a story that takes on an existence beyond the lives of the individual people who hear and tell it. I can''t begin to list all of the stories of this type that exert an influence on what people do but as time goes on there are more of them and they are more complex, much like all the different living things that grow different and more complex over time. What I imagine behaviorally modern 2 humans to be doing is to take responsibility for these stories as if they were extended aspects of our human self over which we could exercise a significant degree of control. More of our time individually and collectively would be spent testing these stories for their suitability to our lives and freely revising them to help achieve our objectives. The objective that will stimulate this change of behavior is the need to have our stories help guide our way of living with the capability of industrial power as a part of a natural world that can maintain its health only in circumstances where it gets energy of the right type at the right rate. We are living in an energetic story of more and faster for us alone, which worked in the past but does not work any longer, and our story needs to change to the right amount at the right time for us as part of everything. This new objective is the most obvious need for change in human behavior but it will not always be the driving force. The change will be that we can change our stories quickly and skillfully and have that arise independently from many different sources and then facilitate that to sweep through the story network and reorient people all over the land. Everyone will know that this is simply the best story for now and any parts of it, or the whole of it can be changed at any time it seems beneficial to change the story. Freedom in relation to story, or meme if I understand Susan will be a fundamental characteristic of behaviorally modern human 2 culture. As long as we have this fundamental ability widely emerging the physicalization of these stories in print, economic and political systems, communities, and families will reflect that emerging capability.

The stories in science have been a good testing ground for the ever changing story ability of humankind. Even now the foundational orientation of scientific story telling is undergoing a moment where some people are saying the basic assumptions of the whole enterprise are wrong. This is the argument between traditional science as it stands and complexity science. I am not a scientist but I like the complexity science stroy much better than the current establishment reductionist science and it is heartening to see sch a fundamental stroy rewrite in action. Even within the reductionistic science establishment there is a way they propose new stories and new chapters to existing stories that encourages the story to keep changing. It is precisely that story telling ability that will characterize behaviorally modern humans 2 but in all realms of human story, not just science.

Tree: wow that is a lot to listen too all at once.

Me: Sorry I got going and couldn''t stop, I was excited to finally be telling this new story to you and following where it was leading me.

Tree: I didn''t mean I didn''t like it, I just had trouble understanding all of it, I don''t know the human context as well as you do, I''m a tree, I bet you don''t know the plant context like I do.

Me: You are right I don''t understand your context as well as you do. I will try to break it into smaller bites and include helpful context as I do so that you have a better chance of understanding what I''m saying. I think it would also help me understand what I am saying. It isn''t like I have this all written out in my mind ahead of time and then I dictate it to you. The way my mind works is that I see deeply into something and I have an insight but it doesn''t have many of the details or elaborations with it when it initially occurrs to me but I know I''m onto something. When I start to talk and write I start to see all the details and relations and I discover things that I wasn''t initially expecting.

Tree: I am happy to be an active participant in your developing story. I sense that you have more to say about stories and your kind taking responsibility for your own stories but I was inerested in what you had to say about the human body extending into the world around it and the things around the human body extending into it. That is the way it is for my kind and I was surprised to hear that your kind don''t see themselves that way. It is obvious to all living things, why is it not obvious to your kind.

Me: Thanks for reminding me about that, I didn''t want to leave it out of our discussion, but I would like to go on a little longer about story responsibility and story changing. One of the problems I see is that many stories are used to help one group of humans get an advantage over another, and even over nature as we saw in the Genesis story. One thing that would have to emerge in humans is a wide spread ability to notice when a story has that intent and to immediately suspect that story as being a useless story that doesn''t merit remembering, repeating, or imitating. The reason this would be an important widespread capacity is that story preservation and propagation has often been a tool that was most available to those who had power and they would, of course, tell stories that advantaged themselves over others. This dynamic has helped inhibit the ability of story responsibility and adaptability. A story that advantages one group of people over another and is paired with the ability to preserve and propagate the story, and then a powerful social order of the powerful that is a reality people inherit and live in keeps the story modification and replacement process frozen.  Science has a way of doing that for any field of science but that isn''t so in all the other types of story that are told, particularly those stories that say something about human identity and relationship to others. I better stop now I had planed an outing with my family and they are ready to go.

Tree: OK, lets pick this up later.

Me: So the foundation of the behaviorally modern human 2 would be a social process where people would be intensely involved in choosing the stories they would temporarily live by, the stories that would be powerful and meet the most important needs of the present situation that they were dealing with. Systems like politics and economics would be created to match the story of the time and there would be ongoing evaluation of the story and the systems to see if they needed to be replaced, altered, or expanded. This would be an individual and a collective process. The collective stories would be focused on what issues of the time are most collectively public.

Tree: what do you mean by public or private. You have explained this before in terms of the idea that people think they can own a tree, or some soil.

Me: That takes me back to the second way in which I imagine behviorally modern 2 humans being different than humans today.  I first described this to you by saying that people would see their bodies like they were extended into the world around them all the time and that all the things around them were also extending into us all the time in the same way. I am not sure how this would begin, or play out but I think it would be one of the strong themes in the first new stories of the behariorally modern human 2 period because it is a useful, and biologically accurate, way to look at how people interact with each other and all other living and on living things. It is a good way for people to motivate themselves to use the ability to create very powerful processes outside of them selves physically that effect all the living world that is close to them in a way that benefits the totality of life. In the future the distinction to what is on the outside of the skin of a person and what is on the inside will come to mean something different than it does today. When doing anything that is more than a biologically powered activity it will be natural to think of the effects on our surroundings as effects on our extended body. We will all be participating in a meta story that ses all lving forms as a mutually supportive interweaving of the great process of our biosphere and our planet''s relationship to the sun. I have been telling my story of semi-permeable boundaries and how they allow positive exchange from one thing to another and how the contact that things have where nothing material crosses the bourder that information about the contact of two things crosses. In fact now that the process of the great story will come further withing the sphere of creative ongoing engagement of all people, the information that is passed between things becomes as important as the material that is passed because it adds to the richmess and usefulness of the story.

Tree: What will these stroies say about trees?

Me: I think trees will play an ever changing role. the story that is emerging for me about trees is that trees have been an important member of the living land community for a very long time and they deserve great respect. I see you as a wise advisor and companion. I can''t know all trees but I can know some trees fairly well and come to appreciate their place in the fabric of our shared living. The ancestors of my kind lived in trees most of the time and ate the fruit of trees as their primary source of food. As the more human types of primates began to develop they spent less itme in trees but I am sure they still spent a lot of time near the trees their ancestors lived in. I think humans have a deep and happy history of relationship with trees and I expect that will emerge more clearly in our new stories as we get away from the notion that we are separate from other living things and that machines are our salvation. It is strange for me to see the notion of cyborgs emerging, which is a view of people biologically integrated with machines, and see no similar image of vegiborgs animals biologically integrated with plants. It shows me how far our stories have gotten away from seeing people as part of nature.'

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