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Posts tagged ‘human evolution’

Droog Tells a Story

Droog sprints around the campfire before the six members of the gang he hangs out with. He whistles and puffs, pounds his chest and leans over the crowd. He flashes a toothy grimace, gestures wildly. He can’t count how many folks are there but he knows by their faces and smells if one is missing. Droog is the very first human being, a creature different from the monkey hanging by his tail in the tree overhead. He isn’t threatening his gang in a power play or forcing anyone to submit to his demands. Well, not now, anyway.

Droog, you see, is telling a story. The gang he hangs with is mesmerized because they can’t wait to learn what happens next.

The monkey is used to Droog. He’s seen him before and senses when it’s time to high tail it out of there – before Droog grabs him by that long tail and slings him over the fire, making crispy monkey tenders out of him. Monkey acts from instinct and experience. Self preservation is a big deal to him. If monkey is female, she’ll protect her baby with everything she’s got. Hanging overhead of Droog and his gang is fine as long as the ground hoppers leave monkey and her crew alone.

When the big water rushes toward them, they all run – monkey and human. When the big mountain spits fire, they all run. When the giant animal with dagger teeth leaps at them, they all run. Monkey and human run from threats when instinct and experience declare their lives are imperiled. Fire mountain, flooding water, and bounding predator all plan to end their lives.

Monkey and human run and run and run. They climb and hide and cower and watch to make sure they’re safe. When the all clear bells sounds, they go back to doing what they like. Eating and mating and hanging around with each other in a safe place, pulling off ticks and fleas. Monkey and Droog are much the same in these ways. Food, sex, safety. Except this is where it ends with monkey.

Droog stepped over the threshold of humanness, one level further along the evolutionary tree. Maybe we should call it a bramble bush, given how erratically that tree spread its experimental developments. Mab, Hund, Wurf, and all the rest of the human gang do one thing that monkey never does. They tell stories.

Mab scrapes ocher from the river bank and smears it onto rocks, making images that tell stories.

Hund pounds on a dried gourd in a rhythm that quickens and ebbs, making sounds that tell stories.

Wurf hauls a stone out of the earth and carves shapes into it, making forms that tell stories.

After years of watching the very youngest children play, I noticed that all kids tell stories. Putting rocks and leaves in patterns, jabbering to plastic blocks and stuffed animals, toddling outside to hug a roly poly, they tell stories the whole time. The narrative, even if gibberish, infuses their activities with meaning. They tell stories even before they can talk or have the ability to understand the craft of storytelling, Yes, parents read to them, but even the littlest ones are compelled to tell their own stories.

Telling stories is one of the big differences between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom. Droog excels at retelling the run from danger. Bellies fed, sexual desire sated, and safety guaranteed for the next few minutes (even though they can’t count and have no concept of time,) the gang raptly listens and watches while Droog scrabbles, tumbles, waves his arms, wiggles his rear, spits and grunts to tell the story of the fire, the flood, the capture they all just evaded.

Monkey strips bark from the tree and chews. He’s aware of the manic nonsense Droog pulls every once in a while – he’s seen it before but can’t make anything out of all that wild gesticulation except to know that he’s safe in his tree, tail looped around a branch, eating bark. Monkey can’t figure out why Droog is cavorting in the firelight, and he can’t improvise a routine either. Monkey not only can’t tell stories – he can’t perceive when they’re being told.

The gift of free time allows monkey the luxury of hanging around the branches fluffing his neighbor’s fur. That same wealth of time grants Droog his moment of theater. The story of the chase, of the hunt, of birth and death, of visions, of the promise that it will all happen again tomorrow because it happened yesterday, and they all lived to tell about it today.

So here I am, a few evolutionary levels advanced from Droog, a few years older than the kids I observe, telling stories. One day my stories will be available in print and you’ll see they aren’t much different from Droog’s or the toddler’s. My characters run from fire, flood, and monsters with big teeth.

Sharon tells a story.

 

Prehistoric cave art image courtesy Pixabay

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Born in a Treacherous Time

I’ve been looking forward to the publication of  Born in a Treacherous Time by Jacqui Murray. Not just because she’s a good friend but also because I’ve had the privilege of reading part of the book and was captivated by it.

It’s the story of Lucy, a Homo habilis woman who struggles to survive in prehistoric Africa when volcanoes erupted without warning, animals attacked from every region, and waking each morning was not guaranteed. She faces challenges that force her to use her physical prowess as well as her mental skills, sometimes trying to convince the members of her tribe that she has solutions that may protect them.

Murray employs interesting characters living in a challenging time who face obstacles from surviving the daunting environment to grasping moral dilemmas. Her description of this prehistoric era puts the reader into the period when Earth was dangerous and beautiful, the very nebula of human development, and a moment of precipitous change.

I had a chance to talk with Jacqui about her newest book, asking questions she was generous in answering. Following is the interview.

 

Thank you, Jacqui, for agreeing to take the time to discuss your newest book, Born in a Treacherous Time .What one characteristic would you say allowed Lucy to survive in a world populated with saber-toothed cats, violent volcanoes, and predatory species who liked to eat man?

 

Really, with our thin skin, dull teeth, and tiny claws (aka fingernails), Lucy had no right to survive against the thick-skinned mammoth or tearing claws of the great cats of that time. But we did. The biggest reason: Even then, Lucy was a problem solver. She faced crises and came up with solutions. Where most animals spent their time eating and sleeping, Lucy had time left over. This, she used to solve problems.

To me, that thoughtful approach to living, one no other animal exhibits, is why we came to rule the planet.

 

How do you differentiate Lucy (the book’s main character) from the folks who probably led to her species’ extinction?

 

Homo habilis (Lucy) was a brilliant creature, worthy of our respect and admiration, but probably too kind for the next iteration of man, Homo erectus. Lucy would rather flee than fight, didn’t kill even to eat, and didn’t create offensive weapons. As a result, her first line of defense was flight.

But, in this story, you see evolution at work. Lucy does what she must to survive, even if it ultimately means killing.

 

We know Lucy’s species, Homo habilis, died out about the time of this story (1.8 million years ago). Is this story dystopian—meaning Lucy loses in the end?

 

Homo erectus (Lucy’s arch enemy) was a violent species of man. Their skulls were significantly thicker than Homo habilis–a sign that they got beat about the head often and survived. He routinely kills to survive, thinks nothing about that strategy, but I leave it open whether Lucy’s species ‘evolved’ into this more robust species or was replaced by them. We just don’t know.

 

I have to mention how compelling the book cover is.

 

Thank you. The artist fulfilled my hopes.

 

This excerpt is from Kirkus Reviews:

Murray’s lean prose is steeped in the characters’ brutal worldview, which lends a delightful otherness to the narration …The book’s plot is similar in key ways to other works in the genre, particularly Jean M. Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear. However, Murray weaves a taut, compelling narrative, building her story on timeless human concerns of survival, acceptance, and fear of the unknown. Even if readers have a general sense of where the plot is going, they’ll still find the specific twists and revelations to be highly entertaining throughout.

A well-executed tale of early man.

 

I hope this article has excited you to read Jacqui Murray’s Born in a Treacherous Time.

 

Book information:

Title: Born in a Treacherous Time

Series: Book 1 in Man vs. Nature collection

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Cover by: Damonza 

Available at: Kindle US, Kindle UK, Kindle Canada

 

 

 

Resolution

The human species has evolved so far that we no longer live in trees or walk on all fours. Still we hurt each other like primitive savages with words and blows and turning away.

I bellow. You sob. I slash. You fall.

I try but I fail all the time.

I try but I fail all the time.

I regret. I am ashamed. Please forgive me.

It is up to me to make the one individual change that will impact all of you in the best way possible.

My New Year’s resolution is to make a sincere effort.

It’s time for me to walk upright, to open my fist, to forgive everyone, to let you speak, to hear your heart.

I must amend. To amend is a singular characteristic that identifies a human being.

I kneel.

Still, I am naught but one small part.

 

 

Just a thought 24

 

Galaxy image courtesy Pixabay.com