Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Reverse Adaptation

I was complaining to a friend of mine about the heat the past few days and he related an anecdote about his brother in the army in Iraq. The brother came home and was constantly cold, despite the mid 80s temperatures. He told him that before he came home, he went out of his bunker to have a smoke with a friend. They commented how beautiful and cool the night was. One of them had a thermometer on their watch. It was 98 degrees out.

The term for this is "acclimatization"... the adaptation of an organism of adjusting to its environment.

I was thinking about this again as I was watching an interview last night on The Daily Show. The author being interviewed had written a book called Born to Run regarding a hidden group of Indians in the canyons of Mexico who can run hundred of miles... in sandals. The tribe is immune to many of the sicknesses that we struggle with... among them cancer and heart disease. They are pacifists and don't know the ways of war. But like Forrest Gump... they simply run. For hundred of miles. One older man profiled in the book had just run a race that would equal about four marathons.

We are fascinated as a culture with adaptability. Our reality television is rife with it... Survivor, Amazing Race, The 1900 House, and of course, I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. All of these shows focus on living without the things we take for granted. Darwinism at its best.

When I think of adaptation, I think of adapting to more difficult environments, like my friend's brother who thought that 98 degrees was "cool". I don't often think of the invisible, and possibly more isidious, adaptation that we all are making every day. The adapation of the lazy... of the entitled. We sit on cushioned couches in air-conditioned ease buying food pre-packaged in stores while gathering information from tiny boxes that sit in our laps. We have adapted to a world of ease... as easily as sliding into a hot tub. It feels good. And we collectively say... "ahhhh" when something comes along that makes our world even easier.

You can put positive and negative spins on either side of the coin of course... we are enlightened... and specialized... and working together in a great concert of society. And those that live in the canyons of Mexico are backwards, and ignorant. It is all about perspective, I suppose. What is it that is important right now? For me... getting off this sofa to make myself a sandwich. Tomorrow... I might have to go hunt my own food. But I will cross the Darwin Bridge when I have to. I just hope the toll isn't too high. Because at a certain point I wonder if the entitlement that we all seek has made us the weak that will get weeded out.


  1. As always, love the blog. It's exactly what I needed to hear this morning! You rock!

  2. As always... thank you for reading.

  3. We really are so delicate and so hardy, all at once.

  4. "Because at a certain point I wonder if the entitlement that we all seek has made us the weak that will get weeded out."

    Quite a thought provoking question...

  5. Ah - you know this subject is a favorite, and one I am so passionately torn on. I often wish I had the guts to go find a remote place where I could reverse a couple hundred years or so, and live more natually. Using parts of my body OTHER than my brain for menial, but life-sustaining tasks. Appreciate time, and sunlight, and sheeps wool and whatnot. I think progress has a bad side-effect. We've moved along so far, we've forgotten how to be human.