“At bottom every man knows well enough that he is a unique being, only once on this earth; and by no extraordinary chance will such a marvelously picturesque piece of diversity in unity as he is, ever be put together a second time.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
I grew up in an environment that stimulated free thinking, independent thought, and strong opinions. We were always given choices to begin with. The consequences of our choices — would ultimately provide the learning — we’d get in the bargain. Our dinners started with a stray thought and diverged into animated discussions and heated debates. The youngest of three children; it took me years to find my voice.
After my siblings left for college and my mum made more trips to my hometown, my father and I continued our tradition: to discuss social issues or politics or science. I found myself on the opposite side of the dining table, and more often than not, with the opposing viewpoint. We came from two different eras in time and schools of thought. We rarely saw eye-to-eye on an intellectual or philosophical level. Most discussions ended in deadlock — followed by moments of quiet.
“One general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.”
― Charles Darwin
Last month, on my visit home, I found myself seated, once again, at the old dining table — with the opposing viewpoint. This time, the topic was ‘evolution’. My father, a self-made man, quoted “survival of the fittest” to make a point about the correlation of strength (mental or physical) and survival. And although, I’m an admirer of evolution and its fundamental principles; I also believe that if we take this quote literally — we could end up with disastrous results. History has proven it time and again.
“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
― Leon C. Megginson
I have a problem with ‘strength’. Probably, because, I’ve spent the better part of my life to be perceived as a weakling. Who can truly judge what strength is and who or what needs to survive? And if strength was the ultimate decider of survival; the dinosaurs wouldn’t have been extinct today. We need to read between the lines and look closely at nature again. Especially because, we live in complex times, with so much information and very little assimilation.
“A curious aspect of the theory of evolution is that everybody thinks he understands it.”
― Jacques Monod
“For our own species, evolution occurs mostly through our behavior. We innovate new behavior to adapt.”
― Michael Crichton
I was the least likely candidate for travel. I spent my teen years, salivating at far-flung destinations, empty roads, and new cultures — although, a part of me, never believed I would be strong enough to tame my ‘fears’. ‘Strength’, for me, lies in identifying what keeps us back and the will to overcome it. There’s nothing wrong with being ‘weak’ or ‘different’. Not being able to accept those with weakness or difference wherein lies the problem.
“Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.”
Looking through the windows of time — we can observe how cultures and dynasties ruled and faded. More often than not, it wasn’t the strongest kingdoms that survived. It was the ones that were open to change — that thrived.
“Human beings are so destructive. I sometimes think we’re a kind of plague, that will scrub the earth clean. We destroy things so well that I sometimes think, maybe that’s our function. Maybe every few eons, some animal comes along that kills off the rest of the world, clears the decks, and lets evolution proceed to its next phase.”
Like most of our earlier discussions, my father and I could only agree to disagree on this topic. Days later, after I had some more time for quiet reflection, I realised, our viewpoints are like the parallel lines of a railway track — always running together — only to converge at a distance.