Out of Africa: Part 2

By Jim Selman | Bio

I’m half-way through the safari. We’ve experienced total immersion in the Hadze culture, experienced the world’s eighth natural wonder—the Ngorongoro Crater—and the world’s largest zoo—a 10 mile by 12 mile caldera with 1,800 foot walls. We’re now in the Serengeti. As luck would have it, we’ve connected with part of the great migration of plains animals—hundreds of thousands of primarily wildebeest and zebra.

It is easy to imagine what our early pioneers must have seen as they crossed the plains and witnessed millions of buffalo grazing. Such a tragedy that short-sighted greedy and opportunistic people slaughtered so much of our heritage. And how wonderful that a few early visionaries like Bernard Gerneshi and his son Michael worked to preserve the Great Crater and the Serengeti for all mankind for as long as there are human beings to enjoy it.

It’s difficult to be here without thinking about the past. After all, this is where we all began. But more importantly, it is equally hard not to reflect on the future as well. It is not difficult to imagine that our ‘modern’ life as we know it could end or at least transform into some sort of cloistered existence. Here there is nothing to buy, nothing artificial ‘to do’, and, for the most part, life is about surviving in harmony with other living creatures.

I’m not anti-civilization, and I don’t cliam any particular insight into human existence that hasn’t been explored deeply by more able observers than I. But I don’t think that the goal of evolution or progress is to exploit the world’s resources and less developed peoples to satisfy the comfort and egos of the few.

It is true that in thousands of ways we have improved the qulaity of life for many, but at the cost of the multitudes. Now the challenge of increasing population is closing doors on all of us and environmental pressures are threatening to destroy much of the possibilities that science and modern civilization have created.

Out here in the Serengeti only the fit survive. What makes one species ‘fit’ may differ from one animal to another. It seems to make sense here. I think our challenge in coming years is to collaborate with each other and align on what ‘fitness’ means for us—our values and real commitments. And then we must be willing to live (or die) by those values and someday evolve into a world that can work for everyone.

The Great Crater is just a metaphor for the world we all share. It is not a paradise, but it is clean, beautiful and just. There is no greed, and there is enough of everything necessary to go around. The only ‘old’ animals are the ones who have proven to be both wise and competent leaders. And at the end of the day, the only bullshit is on the ground and life goes on, one day at a time.

© 2009 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.