When I was a kid you could buy “Lawn Darts,” large heavy darts for hurling across a lawn at a target. A potentially dangerous game, possibly deadly if you were a risk taker. They were one lonesome train whistle and drunk mom away from a sad country western song, “He killt his little brotha with a lawn dart…” but they seemed to be a popular toy despite their inherent dangers.
The other day I saw an article in Smithsonian magazine about the search for LUCA, the Last Universal Common Ancestor of all life on Earth. LUCA is a sort of single-celled Eve at the base of the tree of life that all life has evolved from.
With advanced DNA analysis, it seems that life’s earliest ancestors lived in habitat with no oxygen, feeding on hydrogen gas. So it was likely an organism living near super-heated volcanic vents where hydrogen gas was likely produced. You’ve probably seen the pictures of the habitat, those deep sea vents surrounded by weird tube clams and crabs.
Anyway, LUCA got me wondering about decisions when organisms acquired mobility. When you can move you have options. At that point the most import decision became don’t do anything that has a strong chance of killing you.
As creatures got smarter, two more important questions arose “Why?” and “Why not?” The trick is knowing which one to ask because most bad things happen quickly.
The positive things in our lives take time, usually a long time: learning new skills, fixing bad behaviors, building good relationships, rearing offspring making patience and determination among life’s primary virtues. Reinforced behaviors continue and behaviors that aren’t reinforced peter out.
Decisions about new things and situations can be difficult. Our families and experts are right about 98 percent of the time on the easy stuff, but only right maybe half the time on anything that’s unusually complicated, mysterious, or new. Who knows, if your gut feeling (intuition) disagrees with your family or the experts, take that seriously. Maybe you’re experiencing some pattern recognition that you can’t yet verbalize and their pessimism could be a failure of imagination.
Sometimes, you need to be selfish. Being selfish just means you’re taking the long view of things. That’s why on a plane, you’re told to put your oxygen mask on first before helping even your kid.
After personal needs are met, decisions automatically turn to how to make the world a better place. There’s an order. Humans are wired to take care of our own needs first, then family, tribe, country, and the world.
If you’re at a yard sale, don’t buy those seductive lawn darts.