I have a lot of theories. Some of them may resonate, and some of them will fizzle inside my head with the first morning cup of coffee. Some of them are timely in the current events sense and are likely to offend roughly half of you. Some of them are far removed from daily life or the mores of 2018, such as they are, and are much safer for me to espouse. One of the tricks of the Renewal universe is that the projection of reality I was making with the entire story no longer exists. I was speaking about things that have been overrun by current events. That’s the price of losing momentum with a story. It has been adapted.
Here’s the theory. We have been here before. It may not have looked like our civilization with Uber, and Facebook, and a graphics card that can pump out 140 frames per second, but we have as homo-whatever have seen high civilization before. I support this theory with the most observable of facts. Put a pile of blocks in front of any five year old and that child will build something. Put a crayon in that hand and they will draw something. This need to build and create is so intrinsic that I cannot argue that we have never built complexity before our very short timeline of history. I was building tree houses at eight years old, and I am clearly a late bloomer.
In the fossil record of ostensibly modern, tool-using hominids, how many climatic events have occurred that would have completely erased our progress? Ice ages, volcanoes, floods, sea level change? The subject is open to scientific debate, but I have a very hard time believing that we developed along the long tail graph of learning virtually nothing for millennia, and then suddenly bursting into Western Civilization. Even within the known timeline of our history, we have managed to knock ourselves back to lesser understanding and development numerous times. The rule of humanity is to advance, screw up, reset, and advance again. There is no guarantee that the next advancement proceeds further than the last.
Of course, the religious take on humanity defeats this whole premise, but I have a hard time taking the notion of an infinite God of all creation and corralling that God into 5000 years of human history. Wouldn’t a God who lives outside of time be able to start the rise of humanity at the beginning of time? Would that God take our failures in stride and find it more interesting to see what we do next than to dictate a linear path of our advance? Surely, we are less predictable than a shark. Free will is a blessing and a curse, people. But we won’t know in this lifetime. Perhaps we are only a step along the path to the ultimate expression of that infinite God. That’s not ours to know either.
As we speak, the fossil record of humanity is in disarray. The Leakey extension of Darwinism was simple and clear. Lucy was entirely understandable. She was short; we grew and migrated. With the advancement of genetic analysis, the picture is muddy. Perhaps 75 species blended to become us. Perhaps our genetic Eve, a common term a few years back, is simply the survivor of a gigantic volcanic eruption 75,000 years ago, which drove us to the brink of extinction and killed off a whole range of our two legged competitors. We may never know. Or, we may develop some kind of ground penetrating scanners that reveal cities from a half million years ago. We will excavate them and rewrite everything.
Even so, it’s pretty clear at this point that we have been tool users with opposable thumbs for a very long time – much longer than we were taught. This country has been around for 240 years. Sophisticated banking has been around for 500 years. The discovered, lost, and rediscovered aspects of math and science date back far enough to blow your mind. Studies of language are equally mind blowing. While we are inventing verbs and hashtags from social media, we can trace back recognizable language roots as far as we can track history. The point is that all the language we know or have ever known is effectively modern language. What came before that? The picture of our lives is that we somehow went from grunts to language, but that’s not likely. Odds are that entire languages rose and fell and all traces were lost to time. Cave paintings suggest that those images served as language, but that assumes that the people of that time were completely unsophisticated. That is like assuming that the abstract sculpture in a city square is how we communicate with each other – and we all know that no one has a freaking clue about what that sculpture means.
So conservatively, let’s say that humanity or its close precursors have risen to some form of high civilization five times in the past million years. What would those civilizations have looked like? Was it the Flintstones or the Jetsons? Did they burn fossil fuels or metric tons of animal dung? Did they encompass every theory of ancient aliens or were they just a lot better than we can believe? Do our myths and legends derive from older eras, or are they purely based on everything that happened since the last fall? Did these civilizations fall suddenly or grind into decline? Did they bump up against our history, or was there a long dark age that spanned an ice age?
Perhaps the most important question is that if we have risen and fallen, is there any reason to think we are different today? Are we somehow better, more advanced, more enlightened? Do we have a better chance at a permanent existence in high advancement than any hominid that came before us? One out of five are not the worst odds, but if we look around, maybe study a little history, there is no reason to think we are particularly well adapted to our version of civilization. How many ways can we set up the long road to the next version of humanity? In that gap lies post-apocalyptic fiction.