First Steps


Some time before I was born, about five hundred thousand years ago, I suppose we all lived in tiny widely spaced communities as separated from each other as it was possible to  be: living in caves , getting by on a day-to-day basis. There where no laws, alliances or any other but the most primitive connections. We survived on  hunting and scavenging. Everything we had , we had on our own, and certainty was more a matter of hours rather than years. Gods came in many guises. Sometimes they quarrelled with each other, and their view of the individual was not always benign. Anger them and you could drink to your ruin.

Gradually society developed and moved through different stages until that primitive man is now clothed, for many of us, in all the apparel of modern society. When we are born we reach out to what preserves and protects us, normally our mothers, and we don’t know whether we have been born into that primitive land or a modern one: we are just moved by the instinct to survive. As time wore on nations and societies developed,  until things changed utterly.

Now that little baby, nestling in it’s mothers arms is subject to a thousand regulations for its protection and, apparently, is instructed that there is nothing to worry about. Someone might come and attack me. “Don’t worry about that sir, our well-trained police force will ensure public order and safety in your area: just keep eating the milk-shakes”. Violent tribes might come and lay waste to our village and take all we possess. “Don’t worry sir, our well-trained army will protect you from any uncivilised interest in your home or land”.

We are told that we don’t have to worry because the state has taken care of it all. That primitive caveman finds that as long as he does some harmless work, and stops waving his spear around he will find food ready harvested at the local store and a television  to blanderise any emotion or experience he cares to investigate. Of course it gets more complicated than that. Drinking too much alcohol we weave our way along the pavements shouting out abuse or some formula for world happiness, only to be informed by some passing gentleman in a blue uniform that we are “disturbing the peace” and subject to instant arrest and a night in the cells. Our baffled primitive instincts look on in bemusement as the body they are cased in is escorted away to reflect on its behaviour. We notice with unease that someone next door has a newer kitchen or more fashionable dress.

In some cases the basis for real worry is absent. Food is plentiful, the roof rainproof and the wide-screen television makes a constant statement that we have arrived and moved far from the caves of our ancestors. Somehow that is not enough. We remain alert for dangers and threats, and finding none that immediately challenge us we search until we find some. Anxiety can become a way of life, far removed from the need to survive. We can retreat into a private world of unease, sure in the knowledge that either we have missed something, or that no one else recognises the danger we are in. Cased in a life of plenty, our ancestors would have been amazed at, we sniff around us and identify dangers in guises beyond their understanding or experience.

Protected from ourselves and others by an all embracing and emasculating state we seek out new anxieties sensing  threat just beyond the horizon. Sadly our ability to demonstrate anxiety rather than celebrate our brief time on earth is in constant evidence. Were we able to see and meet with our caveman ancestors he would be baffled by our circumstances but when we expressed the sense of danger that exists around us he would nod his agreement. Everything is different but nothing changes. Sometimes we stand in the garden of Eden staring at that apple.. Longing for what we don’t have: ignoring what we do. Acceptance of where we are is not a failing. We just think it is.  As Auden sad quite recently, and as that caveman might have felt, looking down on his newborn child, “We must love one another or die”.

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About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in character, community, creative writing, Life, life2 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to First Steps

  1. An insightful, reflective and well-written read for the morning, thank you! I think it is vital to remain aware of what is truly important, beneath the surfaces, and the changing fashions or times. My mother used to say that the most important thing in our lives are relationships, so I think she would have agreed with you!

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  2. Ina says:

    You hit the nail on the head here, as much as we have changed, we are still the same as the cavemen sometimes. So many irrelevant issues consume our days, while the importance of life, (the other people, and how we get along with them,) is overlooked. Thank you for this food for thought. 🙂

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  3. aawwa says:

    I enjoyed that – thanks!
    Lorraine

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  4. Lady E says:

    Mmm, definitely food for thought once again… I don’t think being a caveman had anything over being one of us though. We still have anxieties, perhaps they are more complex, and less immediate now, but still, we essentially remain quite powerless to control our destinies I think.
    One thing I disagree with is the notion that we live in an “all embracing and emasculating state”. In my opinion, our states are here to keep a certain social cohesion, to protect the poorer or weaker ones. They don’t always do that of course, but that’s a case for another debate! 🙂

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    • That was really what I meant.anxiety remains regardless of the period of history you deal, or the objective dangers you face. Fair point about the state. It’s possibly more emasculating than the town hall was five hundred thousand years ago. Once mre. I am very happy to be corrected. With my personality, you have to be.Always love your comments by the way

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  5. A friend of mine was quite fond of saying that, evolutionarily-speaking, it hasn’t been that long since we swung out of the trees. Cave people or business people, we all have the same basic needs, I think. As societies become larger and more complex, the structures and rules we create to impose order become larger and more complex. At the heart of either a primitive or modern society, however, is people struggling with the same basic human conundrums: how to navigate the environment in which they find themselves (enter economic systems and technology), how to be with each other without killing each other(enter family structures, laws, governments), and how to answer questions that are unknowable but we still want to know (enter philosophy and religion).

    Sorry, I feel like I’m back in one of my sociology classes–didn’t mean to launch into a lecture. But your post got me thinking… 😉

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    • Ah. I launched myself into your area of expertise. Either a brave or foolish thing to do. I was trying to write more about the fact that we will always find something to be anxious about regardless of our circumstances. Perhaps that bit got lost in the wash. Your lectures are always worth hearing and I am always happy to be corrected

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  6. Wonderful writing! Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

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  7. Lafemmeroar says:

    What a beautifully written message for modern man. Well done. Sometimes I feel the irony in our “evolution.” We’ve separated ourselves from our “natural connections.” Thanks for writing this. Going to FB it now 🙂

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  8. Beautiful piece! We do have to chose to love and let go of our fears. It’s the best way to live!

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  9. Kirri White says:

    Serious food for thought as always…

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  10. You always have the most profound and interesting articles that make me think and always put a smile on my face. I just love this post

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  11. nelle says:

    “Longing for what we don’t have: ignoring what we do. Acceptance of where we are is not a failing. We just think it is.”

    Yes. Perception as our reality.

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  12. Aurora, HSP says:

    This is such a good piece! I wrote something similar many years ago not a fraction as great as this but with the the same underlying theme/message. It seems you have climbed inside the nether regions of my mind once again. How will I ever have time to write anything of similar calibre if I spend all my time reading everyone else’s great writing on here? LOL Nice work.

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  13. –**** “We must love one another or die”.****

    Dear, Ducky,

    ………….But One must define the word “LOVE.”

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  14. Texasjune says:

    I’m late to the party for comments – Hi Ducky! Good job!

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  15. Big Al says:

    I guess the biggest difference is: back then you could just hit you future mate over the head with a club and drag her back to your cave. Now she expects dinner and a movie. Societal evolution – man’s curse.

    Seriously, you are on the mark with this. One of man’s greatest foibles – the never-ending search for something to worry about.

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  16. eof737 says:

    A lot has changed since our caveman days… I like the idea of not having my tooth pulled without anesthesia… I’m not sure why that came to mind… Hey, a little anxiety goes a long way. 😆

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  17. enermazing says:

    *thumbs up*! – We sure have traded in our ability to live in the Now for an illusion of safety. Good that we can change this any moment, every moment, NOW 😉

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