How did humans stop wandering and start farming? It’s a crucial question, because farming allowed our ancestors to move beyond itinerant lifestyles into more permanent cultures. When farming was adopted, and people saw the benefits of having food at the ready, early humans put down roots (pun intended), established long-term structures, and began to defend their territory and protect their possessions. Civilization as we know it was the ultimate result.
There are two competing theories. One is that early farmers migrated from their home area and brought their seeds, tools, and farming concepts with them. The other posits that hunter-gatherers saw the benefits of farming and decided to adopt the farming lifestyle. The latter theory seems a bit far-fetched, because it’s hard to imagine hardy hunter-gatherers appreciating the benefits of farming and radically changing their transient ways.
Now DNA studies have lent support to the former theory and indicate that farming was spread through Europe by migrants. The study found that a Stone Age farmer was genetically distinct from hunter-gatherers of that era, and suggests that farming began in the area now known as Turkey and spread north and west, as farmers looked for tillable acreage where their crops could thrive. The study also suggests that modern Europeans have more genes of the early farmers than they do of the hunter-gatherers.
In short, the farmers won the Darwinian contest. Their lifestyle might have been boring compared to that of the hardy hunter-gatherers, but with their steady diets, domesticated animals, and focus on building for a better harvest next year, they were more likely to survive and pass down their genes.
Yesterday I noticed that there was a Geek Squad truck in the neighborhood. I should have realized that one was nearby, because the very air crackled with geekiness and several people were lying comatose by the roadway after having received needlessly technical explanations from Geek Squad members.
I like the Geek Squad idea, and I bet it works well for Best Buy. After all, everyone — even the biggest frat guy or stud athlete, who would otherwise sneer at the citizens of geekdom — knows that there are times when you really need a geek. Installing a home theater system, as this Geek Squad was doing, is one such instance. And pretty much anything that requires you to talk about a “router” or “portals” also makes meaningful geek participation mandatory.
After I saw the truck, I realized that I have never seen a member of the Geek Squad. They must be elusive, moving from one geek crisis to another with no waste motion, filled with geek excitement at the looming technological challenge.
I found myself wondering what the uniform of the Geek Squad might be. I concluded it probably involved horn-rimmed glasses taped together at the nose bridge, a faded paisley short-sleeve shirt buttoned up to the neck, green pants worn at flood tide length, white socks, and black shoes. Then I realized I had just described my appearance in my seventh-grade class picture.
It was cold, wet, and overcast all day yesterday, and on this morning’s walk we saw that the last few clouds were being swept away, leaving a powder blue sky behind. Low on the southern horizon the delicate wisps of clouds looked intentionally placed, as if The Great Artist had decided that the canvas called for a few deft, gray brushstrokes in the air in order to frame and complete the scene.
As we walked the high-altitude wind continued to work on the cloud shards, pushing them eastward and shredding them at the same time. Five minutes later, the delicate brushstrokes were gone.
Cloud formations teach you to enjoy the moment.