TEN THOUSAND YEARS

“I insist on sensuality. I guard my smoked pheasants, old guitars, and quiet as jealously as any miser guards gold. They can do far more to protect me from what we humans have become: insensate, insensitive, inhuman. For the millions of years of evolution that made us, the ability to fully sense food and sex was the foundation of our humanity and the core determinant of survival. For ten thousand years, those same pleasures have been reserved for a few of us. Complete indulgence of sensuality is rare, and, as a rule, the purview of the rich. For ten thousand years, Homo sapiens has been unable to take its humanity for granted. Those who would resist dehumanization do so by daily staking a claim to it, by self-consciously adopting an aestheticism our hunter-gatherer forebears practiced by simply living. With the advent of agriculture, those qualities that united us—in fact, quality itself—came to divide us. Civilization did indeed modify the human genome, but only slightly, around the edges. We remain at our genetic core largely what our hunter-gatherer history made us, which is to say, sensual beings. All of humanity at some level still requires the aesthetic. What was invented with civilization was the ability of some to deny sensuality to others.” —Richard Manning, Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization (North Point Press, 2004)

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