18 October 2012

Humans as Ants

The basic patterns we see in nature are foundational, and repeat throughout the universe.  From the atomic to the galactic, these patterns repeat themselves, over and over.  The chaos of ordinary living organizes itself into these patterns again and again, into infinity.

Tasty broccoli or Fibonacci sequence? Both, actually!

This is an essential feature of the universe we find ourselves in.   It's part of the fabric of reality which enables our very existence. We are ourselves enormously complex, chaotic, yet seemingly miraculously ordered communities of cells, bacteria, and systems, that work together so well we appear as individuals.

Which is why we should pay so close attention to the little details in nature, as they can often tell us something about our own lives.   Every time I'm out in the bog, I learn a little more: about myself, about others, and about the world.   I see something new, and my perspective broadens.

As a part of a community of billions of people, it's hard not to feel like an ant.  While we do sometimes think of ourselves as rugged individuals, out to change the world, I tend to fall back to feeling like an ant in the colony.  While a select few seem to be in charge and definitely like to try and tell us how we ought to live, the vast majority of us are more than happy to simply be a part of society.

We take our cues as to how to behave from our family and friends.  And we learn, well enough to get along with each other, for the most part.   Ants are similar, and most of the time, they work together as one to survive, succeed, and raise a new generation.

But not always.  Sometimes, ants make mistakes.  They follow the wrong cues, they get lost, and they don't know how badly they've gone astray.  They never figure it out, either. They just keep on going in the wrong direction until they're all dead.   The result is this: the Ant Death Spiral.

I hope humans aren't quite that similar.  But sometimes I wonder.

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