The Things We Swallow #2Basil knew for sure our origins were mysterious. But he couldn’t swallow the children’s stories peddled by grandpa Ralph and others. It was preposterous. That the world was created by some Ethereal creature who fancied us as a people during the past two thousand years only, after declining to create people for the previous 600 million years that there’s been large scale life as we know it on Earth, or 10 billion years since the Ethereal made the universe. How bored must Big E have been waiting to come up with us? The first nine billion years this omnipotent hadn’t even thought up life. Was that dumb or what? Slow thinker to say the least. I suppose after nine billion years when Big E finally hit on a structure for protozoa and then relatively quickly added sponges and jellyfish, and all those Old Ones from the Burgess Shale, it must have thought it had cracked the code. But then Big E showed what a wicked horrid Ethereal the Ethereal was, by adding stings and poison, and making things like Chironex fleckeri, that lays out tendrils that entrap you while you’re swimming, and can kill you with its stings in five minutes. Was that the Ethereal sense of humour? Like Inch pulling wings and heads off flies. While the Ethereal was chuckling over that it got other really cute ideas, to invent worms that would live inside flesh and suck up their innards, or eat away their livers, or blow up flesh with elephantiasis, ready to be named by the Big Words once Big E got round to dreaming up elephants. But the Ethereal held all these in abeyance until Big E invented livers and elephants later on. On the Ethereal drawing board. Prototype flatworms and tapeworms and nematodes. Then for a while Big E had the fish (so he gave us thirteen prong killers) and the dinosaurs to play around with, and must have been sidetracked by the beauty of the coral reefs it created. But then when Big E finally got to think up hominids, and let them walk about, upright, and made a variety of humans, the Ethereal fancied only our Southwest Asian ancestors, not those from the Amazon rainforest, or from Alice Springs, or Kwa Zulu. Us, meaning we European generated Caucasians nowadays, but descended from the fancied ones of Southwestern Asia, commonly and eurocentrically known as the Middle East, because in their days of pre-Copernican selfpraise, Europeans looked east to the Far and the Middle and the Near. These folk were the christians and those they broke away from, the jews. With the muslims in there somewhere and then the hindus and the rest all believing they had a slice of the action as well. Two thousand years of that.
Yet that Ethereal ignored the 100,000 years of people like us in sub-Saharan Africa, never showed any interest in making them the chosen people, impregnating some virgin and having her give birth to the Ethereal’s own son on some straw while sheltering in a cave at Klasies River Mouth, and saying how special that lot were because now the dumb slow Ethereal had finally worked out how to make them big brained and tall, and guess what, look just like us. Or the bigger brained Neandertals, who didn’t really look like us, but did in some ways, with brains larger than our own, and maybe therefore more intelligent than us. Why didn’t the Ethereal send a daughter among them, to live in the Neander Valley or the Dordogne and grow grapes for French wine? Had Big E had the brains to send a daughter, instead of a son who only had interests in disciples and revolution, but had no interest in breeding, she could have bred like crazy and created a lineage of half-god-half-Neandertals who may have been capable of anything. Fifty or a hundred thousand years of red wine. Chess. Computers. Geometry and algebra. Cheeses. Moral philosophy. Jazz and zydeco (without the slavery). And yes, the wine. But no, the blighted Ethereal had to make us wait until times were tough and a niggardly someone and his henchmen forced agriculture upon the rest of us, shattered the good life for 50% of the planet’s inhabitants, replaced by hard agricultural labour, and grapes and wine had to follow as our inventions, not Ethereal ones.
In addition, with a little thought, we could have had ethereally generated peace on Earth fifty thousand years ago, a hundred thousand years ago, or even way before that, that lasted through the present day. Among a breed of humans smart enough to maintain it that way. For we Homo sapiens have never been that smart. Nowhere near as smart as we think we are anyhow. Perhaps a Homo neanderthalensis community would have been. And if god-impregnated, who knows, sky’s the limit to peaceful solutions and the good life. For like all early hominids, Neandertals were hunters and gatherers, and with their large brains and their leisure time, presumably had access to the good life, for they had not to agricultch, as many of our ancestors did after about 11,000 years ago, and many of us still do today. By all archaeological and anthropological accounts, hunting and gathering is as often as not a pretty good life, an affluent one even, while we know that for those at the bottom of the heap, in the toiling classes, the field labourers, the vassals, the peasants, agricultural life is one of woe. Hard labour, more hard labour, scant returns and oppression from your king/queen/baron/duke/lord/master/owner/
Why did the Ethereal only send one offspring anyway? If Big E was interested in the welfare of those who were created to occupy the place created, why not impregnate stacks of females and make a complete genetic stock of godsmart folk? Likewise the Ethereal paid no attention whatsoever to the Pithecanthropines who inhabited Java nearly two million years ago, or the ones who strode the African savannah back to some 6 million years, the Australopithecines and the rest. Could have had offspring everywhere. Was the Ethereal blind in one eye? Or did it have only one eye? Or no eyes at all. Did Big E hover over Southwestern Asia like some ethereal smog, oblivious to what had been created elsewhere, shunning its own work, all these other peoples it had put breath into?
We, said Basil, are supposed to swallow such guff.