One party over, several more to go:
Rohatsu (Bodhi Day) — Buddhism
Hanukkah — Judaism
The Unprecedented Martyrdoms — Sikhism
Winter Solstice — Wicca and Paganism
Christmas — Christianity
Zarathosht Diso — Zoroastrianism
Omisoka — Shinto
Those are only this month’s religious holidays! Add Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, and all kinds of sport-watching gatherings and December is a blowout.
We are odd creatures that way. I don’t know for sure, but I can’t imagine that caribou, for example, gather for anniversaries or to celebrate National Caribou Day. They do have an annual gathering for birthing at their Alaskan calving grounds each spring, and it’s smack dab in the middle of the migratory route. But wouldn’t you know, the calving grounds are avoided by the non-birthing cows, calves, and bulls who wander leisurely back to the summer grazing lands to await the return of moms and progeny. Now no one wants to picture a celebratory gathering of naked mole rats, just saying. Nor contemplate an annual commemoration of important earthworm battles in history. But humans? We populate the calendar with events big and small to gather around, party to, or ponder with somber rituals.
What do you suppose that says about us as as species? Perhaps that we are herd animals with a remarkably robust sense of self-importance.
That we are herd animals is likely an offensive idea to those for whom a sense of self-sufficiency and uniqueness is central to their self-image. I think of such people as old bull bison wandering alone on the prairie preening with an inflated notion of their self-sufficiency and beauty. Never mind the copious elements and residents of the intricate ecosystems required to keep that lone bull alive, he just traipses through consuming the results of nature’s abundance. Likewise, those living off the grid or with a back-up for their back-ups so their merry homes never go down in a power outage or disaster. They neglect to think of the genes they inherited that provided mechanical aptitude, generational wealth making possible or easier their successes plus the generational nurture that shaped their capacities, the teachers that taught them and the legion of tax-payers that funded those teachers and schools, not to mention the parents and grandparents that stood behind those teachers as they became facilitators of information and knowledge. The idea that any of us stand outside the herd is ludicrous and delusional.
Uniqueness? While there is no doubt that each of us is a unique compilation of genetics, environment, and personal history — think of the differences between siblings who grow up in the same household — our differences are much fewer than our shared biology and psychology. We hammer away at our diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and nationality but all that diversity fills a thimble compared to what we share as members of the human herd. It would be fascinating to see what would happen if we explored the deep well of our commonness with the same passion that we emphasize our uniquenesses.
I am not promoting disregard for our differences nor a neglect of the beautiful variety of human colors and cultures. Rather, a nudge toward greater recognition and appreciation of the herd as a herd, and ourselves as herd animals. It might just promote a wisdom and clarity currently obliterated by our political and culture wars.
Edwin Beck says
Great piece, Cam. Coincidentally, this morning’s video review of the state dinner (last night) at the White House reminded me our being “herd” creatures. What a sight, crammed together braying at one another, sorting friends from foe, groomed in their best – and lobster for hundreds of our fellow cousins. And given the special guest of France’s head honcho, not only was it just a “grazing” event, it was clearly a reminder that as a species: “We’re all in this together.”(Except Putin, of course.)
Cam Miller says
There are always members of the herd that endanger it!