CATS AND WHALES EVOLVING IN CAIRNS, NORTH QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA
The El Torito swims in from the Solomon Islands, ugly as ever, back lit by the early morning sun, replete with Walter, family, friends and toys. When I stagger sleepily on deck and see her gliding through the leads into the harbor, the first thing I think of is time - as in wasted time. Here it is, February. Five months have flown by. Five months! What have we been doing? Nothing. What are we going to do now? Who knows?
Freddy and I have breakfast and wait until they have finished clearing in and move El Torito to the piles. Then we go over for a joyous reunion. Walter and I sit down and, in his usual way, he knifes straight to the most embarrassing issue. "What have you been up to?"
"I haven't been doing very much of anything," I admit. "Just looking around."
He nods his head, neither sympathetic or surprised and asks, "OK, so what have you discovered about Cairns?"
"Cairns reminds me of a small Midwest American town. There is a Woolworth's (called Woolies by the Aussies), supermarkets and shopping malls full of US brand-name products with "made in Australia" on the label. They even have US magazines revised and reprinted in Australia - Time, Newsweek, Playboy."
Walter knows all this and is looking thoughtful, or maybe tired. "I also found out that while Australians might seem to be aspiring Americans, but they don't especially like Yanks up here in North Queensland. Cairns is a town on the move and tourism development is what it's moving towards."
"Met any interesting people?" Walter stifles a yawn. "Sorry, I haven't had a full night sleep for a week."
"We've met lots of people. Interesting? Well, there is a young American couple here, Ron and Susan O'Connor. They run a dive shop and own that big sportfisherman over there at the wharf - the Osprey. They want to meet you, so we'll head over there whenever you want."
Walter digests that for a few moments and I sit there unhappily thinking of how lethargic I've been. Shamefully, I haven't even gone diving on the Great Barrier Reef which lies some 40 miles offshore. In fact, since we anchored by the outer marker, the Research Vessel Moira has not budged.
Walter and his gang are ready to drop, so Freddy and I leave and return to Moira.
We are on the west side of the harbor. Walter has tied El Torito to The Sticks on the east side. The Sticks are a nest of pilings - North Queensland's answer to a marina. There are several large wharves on our side of the harbor - the side where the town is. We anchored on this side because it is closer to town and because I have an inborn distrust of outboard motors and a healthy respect for fast moving tidal currents. Outboards always work perfectly for me unless it is pouring rain, blowing hard, or pitch black with an outgoing tide moving at 5 knots.
Outboard motors have a sixth sense to let them know the worst possible time to quit and not start again. So, we anchored on this side. If the motor quits between Moira and shore, we will either be carried back to Moira or to shore depending on the tide. If it quit while we were half-way from one side of the harbor to the other, we might wind up drifting out to sea. In fact, we have rescued quite a few dinghies whose outboards failed in mid stream. Since we are the last boat before the long drift to the Great Barrier Reef, I feel somewhat obligated to go out and tow them in when I hear that late-night "HELP," drifting by.
Freddy and I slouch in Moira's cockpit and have one of our democratic ships meetings. "What do you think? Should we be friendly and move Moira over to tie up alongside El Torito." I table the suggestion.
"No fucking way," She looks at me like I'm some kind of nut.
This tough decision made, we sit and stare at each other.
"So what now?" Freddy grabs Walter the Cat and ruffles his fur.
"I don't know. Walter has no real plans yet. He just wants to get started with the business of settling in and immigrating here."
"Sounds terrible," Freddy mumbles, the cat belly-up on her lap.
"Yeah. I'm not especially interested in immigrating. Importing the Moira would be a horrendous expense. The combined customs and sales tax comes close to 65% of the Customs Department's estimate of the value of the boat." We don't have that kind of money.
"Right, so what ARE we going to do?" Freddy persists.
I shrug. I don't know. I have not been completely idle. I've been considering writing a book - about dolphins. And lately I've been doing a little research on evolution. About selection, to be exact. And we've been fixing up things on Moira, keeping her shipshape.
We decide to go ashore and wash the spinnaker in the fountain. Arlene and Rinehart from Ganesh come along to give us a hand. It is nearly lunchtime and the only people in the park are four Abo men, sprawled in a state of semi-consciousness under the hedge surrounding the park. They are accompanied by scattered wine bottles; the modern version of the ancient Dreamtime.
After lunch, spurred on by the need to do something at least a little biological, if not mechanical, I sit down and make some notes about evolution. Here's what I write:
The forces creating selective pressures on a population are close to (the same as?) Moirae. Random chance may play a part in evolution, but selection is certainly not random. Just the opposite. Natural selection. An interesting couple of words. Just what is natural supposed to mean? And what, exactly is selection when Natural does it? How can the process of selection be random when it is specifically targeting successful behavior?
Walter the Cat decides to take a more active role in this afternoon science project and relinquishes his post at the companionway hatch to sit on my navigation desk. His unfathomable eyes watch me write. Fed a gourmet diet complete with vitamin pills, he has grown to an enormous size, about 15 kilos and almost a meter long from nose to tail-tip. He sits like one of those statues of the ancient Egyptian Temple Cats.
What about the evolution of cats like Dr. Walter A. Starck III? Did man select cats or did cats select men? I look at him again. This particular furry monster walked out of the Solomon Island night and stood on my foot. Clearly, he selected me.
I write in my log, a strange story indeed about cats and whales.
What I have written? The idea is preposterous. Humans have damn near exterminated the whales. Not a very successful "great plan" on the part of the alleged universal whale mind. But then the best of plans do go astray. The whales could hardly have imagined the apes would become such perverse and nasty creatures.
"What's wrong?" Freddy looks up from her book.
"Nothing," I snap. Why do I feel like this? As I wrote in the log, I felt excited, like just thinking about whales let me see - really perceive - the mind web of the sea. The whole idea engulfed me, sucked me in, grabbed me.
I think back, as I often have in the past few months, to that moment when I faced the seven sperm whales in my hypnotic dream in the Solomon Islands. Whales? I shiver suddenly, as the memory of that sonic thrumming washes over me again. It is a memory as sharp and clear as the actual event. Or rather, the actual hypnotic dream.
"Damn!" I shout, jerking back from the desk.
"What? What is wrong with you?" Freddy puts down her book.
"Nothing, nothing at all, I was just thinking, uh, about whale evolution." But what really happened was this.
After I wrote the words, "Or rather, the actual hypnotic dream." I sort of just sat there thinking about nothing. Then I glanced down and discovered my hand was still writing. Without my knowing it!
My hand wrote the sentence about sonic thrumming all by itself.
Even as I write these comments, I feel an effort to divert the hand to write what my conscious mind wants to say. So, what the hell, I'll let my unconscious have its say.
"Consider man's evolution. Selective evolutionary forces are conditions and events in the ambient environment modifying human behavior. Long-term modification of behavior patterns results in selective advantages to statistical genotypes.
Religion is the most powerful, persistent selective force in the formation of the modern domesticated human. Gods, witchcraft, and the supernatural have obsessed hominids from the most primitive moments of human consciousness. Gods, Spirits, Souls and all myths and other metaphysical concepts exist in the mental and physical behavior systems of hominids. Belief in them was an active selective force originating and defining humanity.
For this reason, the conceptual realm of metaphysics remained a persistent vector of hominid evolution. Consider the selective mechanism of The Inquisition or of the Holy Wars. Or of any war. Humans justify massive wars, as well as governmental mandates for almost any action, on religious grounds. God gives humans strength to fight and die. God provides a mandate for patriotism. So help me God.
Religion gives social groups a belief system assuring the members of the tribe are something special, different from other hominid groups. Their faith will be rewarded by God, if not now, then later; after death. Providing, of course, the hominids behave as required by the social, political control system. Accordingly, by the millions, humans allow themselves to perish to gain the mythological higher reward after death. Or, in some belief systems, fear of punishment after death.
In the Western World, during the dark ages, hominids were selected rigorously on the basis of fine points of dogma set forth by Church bureaucrats. Followers, believers, the faithful, lived. Rebels, thinkers, non-believers, died.
In Egypt and the Orient, selection was more direct. The local government leader was the personification or representative of God. Hominids in these geographic areas believed, obeyed or died.
In this evolutionary progression, belief systems formed the vectors for selection. Church leaders or Official Governmental Representatives of God, acting according to their internal displays of these vectors, cast the selective web over the populations of hominids. Leaders and followers were manifested along the belief vectors. As a result of many generations of this selectivity, wild hominids were filtered into a population of domestic hominids genetically predisposed to leader-follower chains of command.
The isolation of hominid populations by belief systems also served to foster the genetic selective process. When possible, nearby populations of hominids with other religious belief systems, were actively selected against (killed).
Leaders - the hominids at the apex of the pyramid of power - became the ultimate followers, herding the entire structure of cultural evolution towards the golden carrot. When leaders see the golden carrot, what exactly do they see? Here is the crux.
To comprehend the machinations of the Moirae, examine the golden carrot. There are a host of decoy viewpoints concealing the nature of hominid control networks. There is a way past these decoys, passing a thread of directionality through the defenses enthralling humanity..."
"What are you writing?" Asks Freddy. "You look so intense. Much too serious." She gets up and comes over towards me. Quickly I scribble.. "Whales. Remember the whales... but it is only a receding echo of the inner voice dictating something about how humanity has evolved.