Dance

Funny things happen in my brain at six in the morning; it’s a fairly regular occurrence so I’m not too worried. For the last week or so my brain has been working on a concept of life, or more precisely the effect of humanity on other life on Earth.

The image that started this cogitation was an 18th century assembly room, like in Pride and Prejudice, where all the dancers are dancing with their partner, but they’re also dancing together as a group. I was laid in bed trying to get back to sleep, and suddenly this image and the words “It’s a dance, not a war” burned across my mind.

I definitely wasn’t getting back to sleep after that.

I’ve been working on these words and this image for the last week or so, as I said. My conclusion?

Life on Earth works because everything has evolved to fit it’s niche; each living being dances its own steps and the collective effect is to produce the whole. Until comparatively recently in the history of life on Earth humanity occupied its niche, danced its steps, and was part of the pattern.

Sometimes we, humanity, Homo sapiens, started making little changes in our dance steps, which didn’t cause too much damage to the overall pattern of the dance. In fact other, neighbouring dancers – dogs, domestic livestock, plants, insects, bacteria, viruses – changed their steps slightly to fit in. That is to say, other species evolved to fit the niches we created.

Those species further outside human influence – dancers in a different part of the ball room – were affected little or not at all.

But then we got cocky.

Forgetting that humanity was just one dancer in the Assembly Rooms of Life on Earth, we started acting as though we owned the place. We started making demands for resources that weren’t ours to take, we wanted every other species to accommodate us, for our comfort alone. We redecorated the place without considering the needs of others.

The management are probably not best pleased. Whether you envision the management as deities, the Universe or the Laws of Nature, the only course of action that will prevent us getting barred – human extinction or serious reduction caused by wars of resources, or new diseases we can’t cure that evolve in the conditions we provide, or starvation because of climate change and loss of soil – is to change our behaviour.

We need to stop stealing other dancers’ booze, and hoarding all the sandwiches.

We can’t change the past behaviours we humans have exhibited, and we’ll struggle to undo the damage – the paint will never be the same again and the other dancers might not be so willing to forgive us for kicking them about in out wild abandon – but we can learn to return to the dance, that allowed life to develop into such a beautiful and complex pattern.

I’m not saying we need to return to hunter-gathering or subsistence farming, or that we should give up the technology we’ve developed, just that we need to be more aware of the other dancers in the Assembly Rooms, other life on Earth, and alter our behaviour and attitudes to take that awareness into account.

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