12/17/2009
Natural selection

If Charles Darwin is to be believed, we are who we are right now because we survived the things the world threw at us. Natural selection, yes. Creatures with lots of fur may survive a terrible cold spell, but will probably drop dead at the first sign of a heat wave. We don't have gills, but fish do. We swim but need oxygen. They jump around on land until they become our food.

It's a very random thought considering I wasn't listening to a science podcast on my way home earlier. What I was listening to is Wiretap, this Canadian radio show that's not exactly comedy, or at least how most of us define it. Jonathan Goldstein, after all, is a humorist, and me listening to a humorist and actually laughing at his stories means I'm a sad, sad man - but that's not what I'm here for. Where were we? Not exactly comedy. All right.

The past few weeks they've been airing short stories from this collection. It's one that I probably won't be able to buy, but I don't plan on buying it anyway, because it invokes existential thoughts, and they always keep me up at night. More of questions about life, really, peppered by ideas that we are just experiments by a bunch of organisms, ideas, whatever, perched atop asteroids. Tonight, the voiceover said, our universe's billion-year existence is because we're an experiment that's way behind deadline and way over budget. They can't figure out what makes us stick together and what makes us let go so quickly. "They couldn't understand what we humans refer to as love," the voiceover poignantly concluded. I wanted to hit my head on the vehicle's window.

Yes, I did end up thinking about natural selection.

I remember when I was a kid. There was this particular template we had to adhere to at such a young age. Mine was influenced by movies on television. Elementary, then high school, then college, then a barkada, then a girlfriend, then marriage. It had to be in that order. Nothing should change. Nothing should overlap. The idea is, we're born into this world thinking that our very goal is to settle down and have children, and maybe watch them settle down and have children. Well, there's working, but only after you're married. It just happens. Naïve, really, but we were pre-configured to go about things that way.

At this rate, I'm not supposed to survive. The story earlier mentioned people who look for their "adhesion" - that's what they call it - and people who don't want to. People who just chance upon it. People who cut it off altogether. I'm the old-fashioned sort, perhaps, the sort whose main purpose, as much as I try to steer myself towards a different direction, is to find that adhesion. The very point of happiness. That's what I think. Elementary crushes treated more like an adventure novel rather than a series of life-or-death challenges. Naïve, still. And then you meet people whose main purpose in life is to stay away from anything that resembles a deep connection, because it will hurt them, and they have seen the light, and they are preparing themselves in case a war breaks down. They will survive. My sort won't.

That mindset surely will spread, the way it's already spreading across my generation, from one-night stands to being one step shy of the holy orders. No, I can do this on my own, and I don't need anyone else. And yes, this will lead us to survive the possible effects of food shortages and air pollution and whatever else that overpopulation brings. Maybe they're just watching out for themselves, because nobody wants to get hurt, badly hurt, but it takes more than conviction to stick with it. I said I won't marry precisely because they said they won't, and I'm still here, looking.

Their sort will multiply by asexual reproduction, probably. My sort will die alone, but not without trying, and that should be tragic... unless that mindset's been changed, too. Natural selection. Damn it, Charles.

And your responses...

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