Humans are such strange creatures. We were once just nomads, living off whatever nature offered and then we met fire. Fire was a challenge, we knew it as something to be avoided, worshipped, even. Then we learnt to harness it and so began the first stage our evolution into settlers. We learnt to cook the meat we hunted and then decided we needed to add a bit of flavour to our meat. And so we learnt to farm. Step by little step, we crafted the modern society we live in today — where skyscrapers abound. The creatures who had only ever walked the earth taught themselves how to fly.
Modern humans navigate a more complex world than our humble ancestors could ever have imagined and in spite of our great achievements, many of us remain paralysed.
We have built concrete jungles to replace the ones where we once fought the elements. The animals who once dared to hunt us have now been hunted into near extinction. Our societies are sophisticated, the social stratification that was once deemed essential for our survival has been outlawed in our constitutions. The lawlessness of nature has been replaced with reams of paper that lay out a rules based order — an order that relies on compassion and a sense of justice. The arbitrariness of the past set aside for equality, for freedom of choice, for individuality and expression.
Yet, within ourselves, we are sometimes stuck. Afraid to move, to speak, to fight, to act. We, who have conquered so much can occasionally be ruled by the part of our brain designed for our ancestors to avoid danger.
We, the very creatures who once worshipped the moon and stars have now seen them up close, touched them, broken off bits of them to study in our labs. We’ve seen our humble little world from the heavens.
Do you think the prehistoric man who balked at the sight of fire ever imagined the scale of our achievements? Do you think, if he had, that he would have run from it? I don’t.
We are all, each of us, afraid.
Afraid of the unknown, afraid to upset the status quo, afraid to take a step closer to the edge of that cliff.
Facing challenges is how we as a species have evolved. It is how you too are built to evolve. Conquering fear is no less than a duty we all have to those who came before us and those who will come after us.
You are but another in a long line of humans who each had to face terrible odds to find themselves in this moment. It is how they responded in that moment which has brought you a cosy fireplace, and then replaced it with a radiator.
The next time we feel that jolt in our spine, the heartbeat in our ears, I hope we will remember that just ahead of that fear lies evolution. Lies triumph.