On the Most Beautiful Species

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Sunrise, sunsets, rock formations, the star-filled sky, a brilliant moon, a blooming meadow is a valley surrounded by mountains, and much more … Natural beauty is all around us.

Beauty within the living world is easy to find – rainforests, coral reefs, grasslands, deserts, marshes, under the water’s surface, in a cave, around the house, in the soil, many more places – let alone in the microscopic world.

Because beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, some find their ultimate beauty in flowers ranging from exotic orchids to a wide variety of houseplants. Others find the ultimate biological beauty in the wild animals of Africa, in the colorful fishes in the warm ocean waters, or in our domestic pets. Bloggers as Bulldog, Cathy, Cindy, Nia, Robin, Suzanne, and many more wonderfully capture this beauty.

Yet, at least to me, the most beautiful species is hidden among us – masked in selfishness, horror, ego, and deceit – thus I present three reasons supporting my surprise nomination of the most beautiful biological species – Homo sapiens – humans.

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Do you think the markings on every peregrine falcon are exactly the same?

Variation within a species is an important aspect of evolutionary success. Look at the spectrum of variations with some external human traits as skin color, hair color, – let alone ranges of straight to curly plus the hairstyle of individual choice – Add eye color, height, body shape, lips, then toss in personalities and abilities – there’s something for everybody, thus humans display beauty in so many ways!

Most, if not all, organisms have variations. the beautiful cheetahs don’t have many variations, thus one of the reasons they are in biological trouble. One may think all the leaves on a certain type of tree are the some, but they aren’t. One may think all the spots on the underbelly of a specific bird are the same and in the exact same pattern, position, and number – but they probably aren’t. Variation within a species is important, and the range within humans is extraordinary.

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The second aspect of the most beautiful species is the human brain, which allows a great range of communication, individuality, creativity, problem solving, culture, learning, and more. While we can easily criticize the choice many make from the result of having the most complex neural masses in the biological community, humans demonstrates the greatest range of creativity – and much of it relates to human ability to problem solve.

Think about the questions and decisions one encounters every day. Consider all the material items we contact every minute of every day in every year – and all these manufactured products have a story centered around problem solving.

Think about all the ways we communicate – facial expressions, mathematical, written, visual, musical, and oral – let alone in so many languages. Look at all the styles in the visual arts – after all, the visual arts are communicating, thus touching us in different ways.

The arts with all its styles and media are a story in itself. The painting world alone is huge. Toss in music, literature, pottery, sculptures, jewelry, photography, and many others – no wonder I proclaim the arts as the ultimate expression of human creativity.

In order to accomplish what we can, humans must be capable of learning – and the capacity for the human brain to learn is overwhelming – then alone the ability to apply the learning to a problem solving and/or creative situation. Human learning is a story in itself, yet as a species, I wonder if there are limits to learning besides the self-imposed and the impaired.

Although some human behavior is instinctive, human learn behaviors (good and bad), and have the ability to learn new ones (good and bad) – and each of us are a collection of behaviors that gives us our own individuality. Thus, one of the challenges of being human is the ability to deal with so many personalities.

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There is no question that today’s world has it share of human-created issues that are based in culture – but culture is the last reason for humans being the most beautiful biological species. Culture is a set of shared, learned behaviors, and beliefs that are passed on from one generation to the next. (Thanks BSCS) (A culture post from the aFa archives)  There are many aspects to culture: dress, dance, food, language, art, religion, behaviors, holidays – well, only to name a few.

While leading a training session in Boston years ago, I encountered a participant who embraced her heritage with her clothes. The colors, the patterns, and the design were so stunning, each day I looked forward in anticipation to seeing her attire. What beauty! Whether from someone sharing photos from their travels or daily surroundings, I see similar beauty through images on blogs as with the lady in Boston.

Given the variations within the humans species, the human brain, and human culture, there is no doubt that humans are the most beautiful species on this planet. Yes, it depends how one defines beauty – let alone their perspective. Yes, variation within a species is common throughout the biological world. Yes, other organisms communicate, problem solve, and have societies – but no other organism does it to the level of humans … and yes, we have a tendency to deny our own good because of the negatives in today’s world.

Flashbacks: On Perspectives

To close this series, below are a few perspectives that you may enjoy. Visit as many as you want, and I hope you comment on the post you visited.

On a Tough Wait

This evening we got the news that our friend (who is has been in the hospital most of November) has taken a drastic turn for the worse. I wonder if she will still be with us when I awaken in the morning.

I want to take a day away from my planned post for her and her family. I know she would suggest I press on, by hey, this is still a post.

No matter if one has faith or not, no matter the religion, and regardless of geography, human nature is to feel a sense of sadness during times like this.

So on this night and through the day tomorrow, I hope and pray for peace and strength for her and her wonderful family.


Update 11:oo am EST Dec 1, 2011

We received word that our friend peacefully passed away at 8:15 am EST. I know no more pain and uncertainly, and in the spirit of the baptism that I believe, she is in a better place. I can’t imagine what her family is feeling after having their life turned upside down in a matter of 3 weeks. Please keep “the family of Frank’s friends” in your prayers. Thanks everyone for caring.

On Human Culture

Culture: the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations

Culture: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group

Culture: the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time

Culture: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization

Culture: the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic (All the above are from Merriam-Webster)

I don’t know why, but I enjoy being around different cultures of human society, although growing up in a bilingual household may be part of it.

Across the US, geography creates different American cultures as rural-city, east-west, urban-suburban, Catholic-Protestant, Christian-Jew-Muslim-Hindu-Budahist, and many more. Pockets of ethnic neighborhoods remain today in many cities today where a foreign culture strives on American soil. Yep – count me as one who loves the Italian neighborhoods as in San Francisco (North Beach) and Boston (North End).

Today, I think of two important aspects of culture. First, American culture has a rich history of effects from immigration. After all, our melting pot heritage is loaded with remnants from days gone by. Secondly, given the ease of travel and communications and a worldwide economy, cultures are in contact with one another more and more with each passing day.

Our ballroom dance studio is an interesting place as I’ve gotten to know people from India, China, Guatemala, Russia, and Ukraine. On my recent work project, I’ve encountered a team from India. These very kind people noticed my interest in their culture, thus told me about their life in India and shared food with me that they prepared.

To me, the bottom line is simple and they have reinforced a something I believe – goodness is a human quality that transcends all cultures. Although we tend to dwell on the negative, we need to remind ourselves that good people are throughout the world. Through different languages, different religions, different ways of life, different dress, different ideologies, different traditions, different values, and different foods, goodness exists – thus kindness, smiles, and understanding go a long way.

On the Closing of a Story

The trials and tribulations of Anthony Weiner seemingly closed last week with his resignation. He screwed up big time and Washington continues to fiddle as the country faces important problems.  In other words, the whole event continues to bother me on several fronts.

Legality & Ethics: As far as we know at this point, he didn’t break the law. Yet, in that light, others in the hallowed chambers have broken laws and survived. Am I missing something here? As I’ve said before, congressional ethics is an oxymoron.

Politics: I continue to believe that since this was not a legal issue, it was one for the constituents to decide. Yet, Republicans called for his resignation and key Democrats followed, thus willing to throw him under the bus. So how with the leaders of each party react the next time? Are we entering a period of intolerance for those caught?

Coverage: With all the important issues on our plate, media coverage of the event seemed a bit over the top. Was it the event, or the combination of the event and his name? Of course, it is the same media that followed around Sarah Palin’s bus tour waiting for something to happen. Did she really deserve that much coverage? Is the media delivering the sensationalism that the public wants?

Culture: The frenzy around Weiner story reminded by of the prevalent reality-show mentality. I continue to wonder the following: Do reality shows mimic society or does society mimic reality shows? Is the media seeking its reality show niche?

On the other hand, the situation provided its share of laughs. From the late-night comedians to the political cartoons, humor has a way of making us laugh while making a point. With that in mind, I end this post with a catchy tune fitting to the situation.