The Eye of the Fly


In a study published in Journal Science, researchers found that flies have the fastest visual responses in the animal kingdom. The study suggests that this rapid vision may be a result of a mechanical force that generates electrical responses that are sent to the brain much faster, for example, than our eyes, where responses are generated using traditional chemical messengers. The fly’s vision is so fast that it is capable of tracking movements up to five times faster than our eyes.

FruitFly460I realize that the fly would trade this one strength for even twenty-five percent of our brain power, but one has to wonder why the fly was given such an incredible eye compared to our relatively weak one. Why would we be granted the most complex brain in the animal kingdom, and not have the physical advantages inherent in the eye of the fly, the ears of the owl, the various sensory receptors of the snake, or the nose of the bloodhound? Wouldn’t we be able to better use those gifts better than those mindless animals, and insects, that don’t know enough to appreciate it?

The obvious answer, from the Darwin perspective, is that humans don’t need these extra senses for survival, or to avoid predators. The more interesting perspective, I believe, is that having an extra sense would prove such a distraction that it might inhibit the tedious, arduous process of developing the complex human brain.

In every young human child’s development, there is a constant push and pull. Parents and teachers push children to develop habits that they hope will eventually develop that brain as it matures. They know that if that child is going to find any measure of success within the species, he or she will need to be pushed to develop that brain to capacity in a manner that can be painstakingly, gradual. Some would argue that no human ever reaches the maximum capacity of the brain, but it’s not much of a reach to suggest that if we were distracted by a super sense we wouldn’t come as close as we currently do.

It could be argued that there have never been more distractions, pulling children away from the painstakingly, gradual process with promises of instant gratification and the subsequent definitions that result in the child’s peer group. It could also be argued that while there are more distractions now, there have always been distractions, and coaching or teaching children how to avoid distractions has remained constant.

Although there are numerous benefits to a young child engaging in athletics, it could be argued that it is an impediment to the optimal development of the brain. We’ve all known exceptionally gifted athletes. We’ve all seen them receive preferential treatment in classrooms, and we’ve all seen this impede academic achievement. The exceptionally gifted athlete is usually recognized early on, and while there are some attempts at developing a well-rounded character, everyone –especially the child— knows where the focus is.

“Keep your grades up if you want to maintain eligibility,” the adults surrounding the gifted athlete will say, but they rarely coach them to achieve academic excellence, and this is eventually displayed in the post-game interviews of those few elite athletes who have achieved the professional level.

imagesThe same distractions can be found among the beautiful. Both genders learn that beauty is power, but most would acknowledge that the beautiful female has far more power in the room than anyone else, including the beautiful male. Most beautiful females learn, at some point in their lives, that no matter what they do in the classroom, their mental prowess will always be considered secondary to their physical attributes, and that they would be probably be better off if they just sat there and looked beautiful. They subsequently learn to speak less often, so as to silently soak up the power their beauty wields in the room?

Both of these superficial exaggerations could be called distractions in human development, and those who have these physical characteristics learn to employ their own distractions to keep people from focusing on their lack of intellectual development by criticizing those who wasted their time devoting precious resources to developing the brain.

“Did you read Lord of the Rings when you were a kid?”

“No,” the beautiful reply, “I was out getting laid.”

“At fifteen?” the nerdy brainiac asks, “because I read those books at fifteen.”

“Yes,” the beautiful person responds.

“You were getting laid so often that you didn’t have time to read?”

YES!”

That exchange is not a direct quote from the TV show Friends, but it’s close. It encourages the idea that meaningless sex trumps any other activities of youth. “I was out climbing trees, playing football, listening to KISS, and collecting Star Wars cards.” 

“Really, because I was out getting laid.”

Sex between immature individuals should be the goal in life. It is the end game, and the end of the conversation. No one ever thinks to ask, “What did all that sex end up doing for you?”

“Doing for me? What are you talking about? I was having sex when you were reading Tolkein, the comic strips Dondi and Peanuts, and all of those stupid Chose Your Own Adventures you nerds read.” 

“Did you forge the relationships you had with these people in such a way that it helped you have more meaningful experiences that helped shape your life in profound ways in life?” 

“No, I was having sex with them.”

We’re not to question the idea that if we could’ve had more sexual experiences when we were young, we’d be better individuals now, or at least cooler people. Others drop the philosophy that if we had sex more often as young people, we wouldn’t be such a stick in the mud now. Some of us did have such an opportunity when we were nine or ten-year-old, but we turned them down because we were scared, and we weren’t ready. So, if we said yes to that incredibly beautiful sixteen-year-old babysitter, we’d be better people now? 

Due to the fact that so many people laugh at such admissions now, we’ve been conditioned to feel shame, regret, and embarrassment about that fact. We feel shame admitting that, and we regret it almost every day. Why, because we have been conditioned to believe that that exchange of fluids will make us different people. This line of thinking gives credence to the idea that we never truly escape high school. We all wanted to be the cool kids in high school, and no amount of rationale will ever defeat this. Even when we reach our forties, and beyond, and we begin to appreciate our nerdy, reading youth for what it was, we still find it difficult to defeat the superficial, hyper-sexual Friends mentality.

On the flip side, no one would say that reading the Lord of the Rings series is an optimal component of a child’s development, it does put that child on the road to every parent’s holy grail: The love of reading. A goal made all the more difficult by the instant gratification philosophy put forth by the Friends show. It did not, nor will it ever make a person better or cooler person 

For most of us, the opportunities to be sexually active at a young age were there, but some of us were too busy being kids, doing kid’s stuff, and as I wrote, we were simply too scared. When this Friends joke came along and told us that if we were truly cool, we should’ve been doing that all along, we regretted being that nerd that was too scared, enjoyed reading fantasy books, and mindlessly enjoyed our youth. We thought we missed out on something fundamental that made them better than us. In truth, such a philosophy will eventually catch up to them when the one thing that separated them from the pack, sexual activity, becomes more and more meaningless to them as they age. Like a drug user, they might vie for more and more of it for more meaningful sexual interactions, to try to recapture the euphoria they felt when they were virgins touched for the very first time. At some point, after a number of ruined marriages and meaningless encounters, they might realize that their life has amounted to nothing more than a series of superficial indulgences that have amounted to nothing more than a superficial life.

That’s another question I might have for these Friends’ types, if I agreed to have sex with my babysitter when I was nine or ten, would sexual interactions prove less meaningful throughout my life, or would it prove so meaningful that I would develop a sexual addiction? Another question, on the same plane, would sex become such a primary driver for me that the rest of the otherwise normal, youthful activities I experienced between 10 and 18 be rendered comparatively meaningless?   

It is for all these reasons that some of us find it difficult to sit quietly through those sci-fi movies that depict an exceptionally gifted, physical men and women who are also an exceptionally gifted intellect. There is just no way, some of us want to shout. Some of them might be smart, for there are always exceptions to the rule, but not that smart, not exceptionally gifted smart. There’s always a trade-off, especially if they’ve been an exceptionally gifted, physical specimen since birth. They wouldn’t need to go through the painstakingly gradual process of developing an exceptional gift that separated them from the pack. They’re already exceptionally gifted physically, and they have been since birth, and we all know there is always a trade-off in this sense.

This trade-off would eventually rear its ugly head if we had the brains of a human, and the eye of the fly, or the hearing of the owl, or the nose of the bloodhound. Something wouldn’t be honed to maximum capacity, for any of these super senses would likely prove to be too much of a distraction to those easily distracted for those young minds undergoing the painstakingly boring, gradual, and humiliating process of human development, and our place atop the animal kingdom would surely be a little more tentative.

Finding the Better, Happier Person Through Change


Are you happy? I mean happy. You can tell me. I’m just an anonymous writer. Are you happy? Whisper it to me. You’re not? Well, what are you going to do about it? Are you just going to sit there like a chump while the rest of us are living in the land of sunshine with fortune smiling down upon us? Go out there and get you some happy sistas and brothas!

I used to believe I was on the cusp of being happy. I thought I was so close that if my Dad would just loosen the purse strings a little and purchase this one, solitary item of the moment for me, it would launch me through the entrance of the land of hope and sunshine. I wasn’t running a con game. I truly believed that if my Dad would just purchase this one pack of KISS cards for me, it would go a long way to helping me achieve my ideal state.

“No!” was what he said (cue the dark and foreboding music). He told me “No” on more than one occasion, and there were even times when he would follow that ‘No!’ up with a heaping pile of “Shut up!” (Cue the B roll, creepy B actor with bushy eyebrows that point inward, playing my dad in this reenactment.)

A part of me believed that the constant “No’s!” I received from him manifested into a personality disorder in which I wanted to buy things, but I was scared that I wasn’t worthy of them. Another part of me wondered what kind of man I would be today if he purchased everything I wanted. Would I be a spoiled brat? Would I have some sort of obnoxiousness about me that expected to be able to have everything I wanted (see deserved) regardless if I had to go into debt to get it? Would I be one of those “I deserve it” adult babies who permeate the culture? Another part of me knows that I would’ve had to work my through whatever psychosis my dad chose to inflict on me, and that I would probably end up in the exact same place I’m in right now.

The point is that most of us believe we are in some location on the emotional equator just south of happy, and some of us will live our whole lives down there blaming our parents for it. Most of us are not miserable or depressed in the sense that we need medical assistance. Most of us are just a little south of unhappy, and a little unsatisfied with the way our lives turned out. We had incompetent parents, we grew up in broken homes, we never had any money, we were bullied in school, and our grades weren’t what they could’ve and should’ve been, and if we were able to do it all over again … We wouldn’t want to go through it all over again.

We are who we are, based upon what we’ve been through? Are we happy? Could we be happier? What do you got?

Was I unhappy in that temporary sense that every teen is unhappy when their parent tells them no? I’m quite sure that if a talent agent spotted me in the dramatic aftermath of one of my dad’s denials, they would’ve had their guy call my guy, and said, “That kid’s got the goods.”

As evidence of the fact that my dad did buy me things, I was one of the first kids on my block who had all of the cards necessary to complete the puzzle on the card backs. Did any of the items my dad purchased for me make me happy? I’m sure they did, temporarily, but throughout my reflective examinations, I have found those moments conspicuously absent. I’m sure I received some sort of validation from those sparse moments in life, until the next time my dad and I went to the department store. The next time we went to a store, I had the same notion of being on the cusp of happiness again, and I believed his decision could affect whether or not I would end up in a land of sunshine once again. When he decided not to make those purchases, the cyclical drama would begin again. The question is, was I so unhappy that my definition of happiness was dependent on my dad’s decisions in department stores, or did I enjoy casting him as the bad guy role in the end credits of my psychodrama?

What I thought I was talking about, when I talked to my Dad about making these purchases, was definition. I wanted to be a somebody who had a certain something that someone else had. I wanted to be a have in a world where I felt like a have not, and I knew that those who have are happier. I was also talking about fulfillment, whether I knew it or not. I was talking about a patch, or a hotfix, to correct a bug in my operating system that I thought would help me live through the teenage, “all hope is lost” software program that I just downloaded to my hard drive. I thought was talking about helping him help me become a real player in a world of people that had such products.

How many otherwise unhappy people had parents purchase those KISS cards for them at that seminal checkout counter of their lives? How many of them walked away realizing that that was it. One simple pack of KISS cards was all it took. That moment may have occurred thirty-five years ago, but I’m happy now. I reached the point, after all those years, of fundamental happiness. I have no wants or desire any more. I am what you could call a fulfilled man.

“And Dad, it was those KISS cards that you purchased, when I was all but thirteen years of age, that accomplished that for me. I find it hard to believe too, but all I can say is I told you so.”

Are we happy people in a fundamental sense, or do we define fundamental happiness based on attaining things? If we experience fundamental unhappiness, we may not know what caused it, but we know we need things, and change, and things that change us. We need constant change. Change results in definition and redefinition, until we achieve the ideal state of being that we believe is forever beyond our reach, but one solitary purchase away.

We are oysters in search of a process through which we can change our interiority to protect us from our internal intruders. It’s silly to believe that one pack of KISS cards, of course, as we need layers upon layers of calcium carbonate to shield us from the forces of interiority, until we create that pearl. This process is similar, yet different, from the outer shell we create to protect us from possible external intruders.

The intruder inside us is unhappiness, and to defeat it we need to undergo changes equivalent to those the oyster uses. We’re all animals after all, and we’re required to change, adapt, and evolve throughout life for our survival and for survival of the species? It’s natural, it’s science, and we’re not that much different from the oyster?

Are the changes we require biological, sometimes, but sometimes we just need some sort of change to give us a lift out of the tedium of today, regardless what we did yesterday, to give us a brighter tomorrow. If we’re unhappy, in a manner we define, how do we achieve fundamental and constant happiness? To what do we resort? How do we define ourselves, and if we make sweeping changes, are we ever happy in the aftermath, or are we in need of more change?

✽✽✽

A friend of mine resorted to drastic change. She pursued it. She achieved it. She needed it. The drastic change was so elemental to her makeup that she believed it bisected her personal timeline into a B.C/A.D. demarcation. When she and I talked –after years of separation from the drastic change– she no longer wanted to discuss the B.C. (before change) life that I knew. That discussion seemed irrelevant to her compared to the A.D. (after decision) lifestyle that she was now enjoying. She was no longer the person I knew. She changed, and any observer could see that my attempts to relive our past bored her. Since it had been so long since we last spoke, however, the past was the only thing we had in common. It frustrated her. She found a way to make this conversation relevant, or enjoyable to her, by asking me how the characters of our shared past would’ve reacted to her drastic change … if they had lived long enough to see it.

The question that I would’ve loved to ask her –as if I didn’t already know the answer– is did any of these fundamental changes do anything to help her achieve greater fundamental happiness. An inevitable ‘yes’ would follow, for change is good, change is always good, but more change is better. Once she accomplished these drastic changes, was she able to wipe those memories of a rough upbringing off the slate? Yes she was. Did these changes accomplish everything she hoped they would? Yes they did. These questions would go to the very heart of why she decided she needed change, and very few would admit they were an utter waste of time, but the greater question would be was this change so complete that she would no longer need further, drastic changes in future? I’m quite sure that the next time I run into her, she will have undergone a number of other, drastic changes, now that she’s married a man that can afford them for her.

“Could you achieve the same amount of happiness without those drastic changes?” I would’ve loved to ask her.

“Yes,” I’m sure she would say, “And I did try them. Nothing happened. I needed change.” Fair enough, but how much effort did you put into taking inventory of everything you have that should make you happy, versus everything you could have that could make you happy, and how much have you lost in the pursuit of these total transformations?

If we run across the rare individual who admits that their transformational changes didn’t accomplish what they thought they should, they will have their remedy all ready for us. They will tell us that they need more changes, other changes, and a metamorphosis into something no one considered before. The point of all these changes is to save them from what they were, or to prevent them from becoming what they might become if they don’t change. At some point in this process, they invest so much in change that they cannot turn back.

Are we ever happy? I mean happy! Or, is happiness a state of mind that can achieve internal activation after a series of events occur in a very specific way that we define? We’ve suffered damages that leave us damaged, and we can’t fix them on our own. We have flaws, but there is hope. There is always hope. We can change, and changes can change us. We have the money. We have the technology. We can rebuild it. Better than we were before. Better…stronger…faster…happier. We can make more money, with a different job, a better job. We can have more love … more sex … better sex if we can find a way to change. We might consider having an affair on our spouse, as that could shake things up, cause some turmoil, and lead to couple’s therapy and renewal of sorts that could lead to makeup sex. An affair could also lead to a divorce, but what is divorce? Divorce can be messy and awful, but it can also lead to change, drastic change. We might need pharmaceuticals, and alcohol to help us through it, but it could lead us to refocus on our beauty and losing divorce weight, as we become more concerned with our appearance. We might buy better products and supplements that could lead to more gym time that will lead us to be thinner and happier, until it dawns on us that tummy tucks, collagen injections, and more colonics could change us quicker and better. We’ll need more boob, or better boobs, at some point that will lead us to feel younger, better, and thinner. We’ll have more definition, we’ll be more feminine, or less feminine, and more masculine, and who cares about gender specifics anyway? We could live the rock and roll lifestyle. We’ll have more “me” time, but that could lead to more alone time that could lead to more introspection and some depression. It always does. It will also lead us to focus on the fact that we need better appliances, more extravagant vacations, and more “me” time and greater self-indulgence, until we get what we deserve. Something different. Hey, I’ll try anything once. Changehappinesschange…repeat if necessary.