Thursday, October 29, 2015
Watch the ants. They venture out into the world looking for something and counting on their limited instincts for survival. Down in the hole, there's a culture that unifies their society. They have short memories, small data banks, and primitive behaviors that have amazingly sustained the species for millions of years. The genus formicidae is a good example of an adaptive survivor.
But, there are no ant bicycles nor refrigerators. Imagine what a colony could do with a refrigerator or electric lights. Do you think the Georgia fire ant army plans for its next meal with strategic emplacements and tactics borrowed from Sun Tsu? Is there success due to genetic probabilities that worked out just right? How much of ant history comes from learning? Did evolution play a role in ant development? Did body language and pheromone communication develop little by little over millions of years, and was it pursued by an intelligent hunt searching for improved ways of survival? Did advancements in food gathering and survival rates build generation after generation on the developments of previous generations? Did lessons learned by one formicidae subfamily help other subfamilies survive?
I watched the black carpenter ants march off through my wood pile following seemingly known trails to look for food, like dead insects and other tidbits. It seemed they could work independently and in pairs to do their jobs. Even though it seems these ants I watched knew how to find suitable home sites and prepare dens for their simple lifestyles. They seemed to be happy in their work and the epitome of cooperation. I wondered if they would cooperate with me if we could talk about it.
The formicidae cannot think thoughts about bicycles nor refrigerators. That makes me suspect humans can't conceive of bigger concepts, either. I'm talking about concepts so big and unknowable that neither I nor any other human can imagine them. But, I'm going to try to take a stab at the unknowable. That's what these thoughts are all about.
I think there are higher forms of reality somewhere. Forms we cannot imagine. The forms probably are not like us, not visible, not warm nor energetic. Maybe there's matter involved or maybe there's energy, or something unknown, but those are primitive concepts for the higher reality. It's a sure thing an unknown entity is invisible to the human eye, and it's undetectable. I wonder if the carpenter ants suspect we're up here riding bicycles and driving cars? It's probably foolish to waste time wondering about some unknowable thing, but it's a fun mystery to spend time with.
How would an ant go about nailing down an answer to some unknowable mystery? Well, if the ant cared enough, he could allot a few minutes to the job. He could start with the known and do what my art professor suggested during his lecture on creativity: assume the opposite of everything you know. Go from there. The ant might think there's something so big or so small it can't be sensed by the available sensory mechanisms. He could suspect temperature might be involved. Maybe there's something so cold or hot it's unapproachable. Complex structures might be the answer; something so complicated it would appear to be infinite or endless or everywhere. Kinda like gravity. Ants know about gravity.
There are things we humans think we know. But, the truth is that we only know about them. Like electromagnetic radiation...radio signals. We know how to generate radio signals and we know we can detect them from satellites billions of miles away. What about that? You might sense that I'm impressed about our ability to know so much about something and still not know what it really is. I am. Do you suppose an ant can be impressed? We don't know, but I'd say even though ants know about gravity, they don't know what gravity is. We don't know, either. Wait! What if ants...