My Psalms 133, 134
Blessed in Assurance
Human beings have quite a few things in common, beginning with our classification as primates. Although some find it difficult to accept and others virtually impossible, science presents irrefutable evidence that we are indeed primates, members of the Hominidae family. The arrangement of human organs within the body is essentially that same as those of the great apes of Africa. We also share the same bones, though of varying size and shape, so not have external tails, share common circulatory systems and even blood types, and can fall victim to many of the same diseases. Both the apes and humans have similar hands with thumbs separated from the other fingers. The opposable thumb, so called because of its function that allows for excellent gripping, is common to both species. Additionally, both apes and humans are sexually dimorphic, meaning the males are somewhat larger on average than the females and posses greater upper body muscular strength. Additionally, both groups are omnivorous, eating both other animals and plants for food.
The differences are much less and, unfortunately for humans, have what might be considered less than desirable effects. Because humans are bipedal, that is to say they always walk upright on two feet, their bodies have adapted and changed. Humans have shorter and weaker arms than their legs and their feet are no longer able to work as effectively as their hands in grasping and manipulating objects. The need for balance created shorter toes on the human foot and an archon an elongated foot. The pelvis and spinal column also adapted for an upright position. Human posture facilitates the bipedal locomotion and the pelvis became shorter and more like an internal bowl which can cause greater difficulty when giving birth. Additionally, these changes led to human females going through menopause and shortening their child-birthing life-span. Their ape counterparts do not have such a limitation.
With a body now better suited for moving by walking or running, the human became a terrestrial animal with longer legs, powerful leg muscles and tendons that evolved into something akin to physical springs. The longer leg of the human requires less up and down movement and therefore less energy. These means humans can travel farther than their ape counterparts with a lower rate of energy consumption. The human body is largely hairless with many more sweat glands than other animals which provide cooling while running. Other mammals must rely on panting to cool down. While other animals have no problem outrunning a human for a short distance, human are the better endurance runners and can ultimately outrun all other land animals in an endurance run.
Psychologically there are differences of course but there are also some interesting similarities. Take for instance the elevator effect. So named because it was first observed and studied in humans in…you guessed it…an elevator, it has also been observed in any number of other similar settings by both humans and their primate cousins, the apes.
Put a group of people on an elevator and everyone stops talking. Couples can be engaged in polite conversation or heated arguments but the moment the doors open and they step onto the elevator, conversation ceases. Movement stops, the doors open, and conversation is resumed. While some might claim they have stopped chatting out of respect for the other elevator passengers or to maintain their privacy, psychologists believe it so be a safety mechanism. The theory is that if no one talks, then no one is in danger of starting an argument, thereby causing a fight in a contained area which would probably put everyone in harm’s way. After all, once the elevator doors close and the elevator is in motion, there is no escape. The so-called elevator effect serves to stop potential problems before they can occur.
Great apes seldom ride on elevators but they can be found in tightly enclosed areas. When they are crowded into such a small area, their vocalizations cease and all eye contact is avoided. Other markers indicating stress such as scratching are increased. While humans generally do not scratch while in elevators, indicators of stress can be observed. Clearly, primates prefer open spaces and a semblance of control in order to feel safe.
Humans are known for being the only species to kill themselves and their own kind when a lack of immediate threat is present. This is probably an unfortunate result of our more complex verbal communications. Other primates communicate but only as needed. Humans do so for entertainment and to impress. We are the only animal of any kind to create and use symbols as well as utterances and physical posturing as a means of communicating with one another. Additionally, our mental abilities allow and enable us to devise, develop, and use new ideas and technologies, though not always in positive ways. This has helped in our survival but also in our demise.
Our ape cousins are not unintelligent, however. Their mental acuity is that of a three to five year old child. That may not seem like a lot but remember, we learn by age five how to crawl, verbalize, walk, skip, jump, run, speak, feed ourselves, desire things, reach and grasp, as well as determine how to obtain what we want. Everything we do after those first few years is merely building upon the skills developed then. Thus, apes have learned to understand and use sign language.
With a brain three times the size of the ape, then why do we use our mental abilities to discriminate? We have the proof of our abilities and the means by which to verbalize our needs, our preferences, and our beliefs. Yet, we go through life feeling threatened. On an elevator humans subconsciously elect to do that which guarantees the best outcome for all involved. Once in the open, though, we often select behavior that dominates others.
With eighty-eight thousand chromosomes in the human body, less than two thousand account for racial, genetic, and gender differences. We are blessed with bodies and lifestyles that enable us to not only survive but to thrive. Why then do we lack in the assurance that we will? What fear drives us to war and dominion over others simply because they are different?
When mankind lives in unity, it has a greater chance to live. We cannot create an environmentally production corner of the world if everywhere else is destroying all of nature. We truly do live together on this planet. In discussing the butterfly effect, Andy Andrews explains: “You have been created in order that you might make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world.”
My Psalm 133
Grant us, O Maker, eyes to see you in our faces.
We never stronger than when we reflect your majesty.
My Psalm 134
Let us lift our voices together in joy for our being, Great Spirit.