Clearly at some point along the path of human evolution, having a bigger brain became a better adaptions than bigger muscles. I have a theory that it has a lot to do with the fact that being the leader of the group gave you a better chance at finding mates and passing on your genes. At some point the guys with the bigger muscles were outwitted by the smaller, but more clever, guys. Over time we all had to develop bigger and bigger brains in order to outsmart each other.
There was more to it of course. Being clever also helped us outsmart the climates and survive in harsher lands. But I imagine those things had a more direct effects on our survival. How did we get to the point where we were we are inventing things like ballet and calculus? What does that have to do with survival? This brings me to my second theory, that maybe at some point the genetics that contributed to bigger brains and cleverness got a little out of control. Our brains got incredibly big and we started to experience some side effects. Ballet and calculus are symptoms of the condition known as intelligence caused by the uncontrolled growth of the hungry, tumor like, brain.
I’m kind of talking out of my ass here but these are the things that I wonder about when I think about why we humans do the things we do. The things that seem to have nothing at all to do with our survival. I think about these things the most when I wonder about my own urges to do things that are useless. Scratch that, my passion for doing useless things!
What do I mean by useless? I mean things like writing and having a blog, for one. I mean the way I have to make time to learn math I’ll never use. I mean the urge I have to doodle in notebooks. I mean the fact that I spend a substantial amount of my time wondering what is outside of the universe and what the Lisa’s in alternate universes are doing right now. I mean talking to people about whether God exists and if he does what is his nature. I mean reading essays and articles about why we have beliefs, intents, desires, and imagination. Why do I do these things?
Even as a society, why do we have comic book and Xbox’s? Why do we have podcasts and typography? Why do we want to watch the super bowl or the Grammy’s? Why do we study the stars and endlessly scroll Twitter? These things seem to not only have nothing to do with our survival, they seem to make our lives worse! We focus on the wrong things. Why aren’t we more like robots? That seems like it would be easier.
What I find particularly interesting when I examine my own reasons for doing what I do I find that I would always much rather be doing useless things. The useless things are the things that make life worth living. The useless things are things that make me feel alive!
I wonder if these useless activities are some kind of by-product of our brains developing in the way that they did. Like, it starts as self-awareness and gets out of hand. Cleverness and the ability to understand each other developed into culture, and story telling, and art, and music, and all the things that make us special. Then we developed a need for these things because the brain is hungry and craves information. We are driven to look beyond ourselves to learn more and more and then to teach others.
Whatever the reason, I am learning to balance useful and useless activities. Clearly I cannot learn to live like a robot no matter how much I know it would benefit my life and career. I’m trying not to think about these activities as useless either. At the very least they make me feel good, even though I may not understand why exactly. And anyway, what is useless to one person may not be useless to another. There may be a use for these activities after all, even though I can’t see it now.