The wizards are often testing my limits. They have me do things that seem unreasonable given the still somewhat fragile state of my arm. I am often coerced into doing things like lifting heavy objects, applying weights to appendages for various lengths of time, and sometime even squeezing things as hard as I can.
My right, uninjured arm, can squeeze things pretty well. I average about ~130 lbs of pressure, which is in the “excellent” category when compared to national averages. My left, broken-ass arm, averages ~100 lbs of pressure, which falls into the “average” category. I was shocked when the wizards told me that most of their patients score in the 50 lb range, even with their dominant hand.
I am not herculean by any means. I’m barely 145 lbs, and have trouble reaching on top of things taller than 6 feet. I am fast and agile, but I have never really considered myself strong, especially in comparison to the projected societal image of strong. My injury has only exacerbated this idea, to the point where I was actively feeling lame, not being able to lift items I could before the break, and feeling uselessly dejected about being a noodle-armed weakling.
It was quite a shock for me to hear that I was quite the opposite, even in my damaged state. It took some time to digest, until I started to embrace the idea that maybe all those hours of working out did yield something tangible. I also began to realize that if I could be of above average strength and fitness at one of my lowest physical moments, the average American must be a pathetic sack of loosely contained goo.
I have discussed the idea (with very reputable, awesome people) that the entire nation, nay modern world, is a mere shell of what humanity once was. Gorillas, pound for pound one of the strongest animal on the planet, are 6x stronger than the strongest human. Their DNA matches 95-99% of ours, and yet they dwarf us in practical strength. I find it hard to believe that a species one genus away would retain its natural impressive power while we remained spongy and sinewy.
The argument is that as we developed more sophisticated brains, the necessity for raw physical power declined. Tools did the work of hands but faster, with less effort and injury while weapons and traps relieved the need to chase down and manually kill prey. This is all logically sound, if you ignore the fact that it took tens of millenia to reach the aforementioned levels of civilization.
In the early times of man, humans still had to survive in a harsh, untamed world. Even with steady technological and mental progress they were exposed to the elements, had to compete for food and resources with other, often bigger animals, and work hard to stave off extinction. Daily life didn’t evolve from old raw meat in a cave to an E-Class in Suburbia in a few thousand years.
So why then, are we so pathetically scrawny now? Why can a dude who spends most of his life in a drab three-walled pseudo-cage score dramatically above average on a simple strength test? Surely, countless years of development would yield superior specimens of both mental and physical prowess throughout the world, no?
No. But not because of anything natural. I blame the very thing that others do, but for very different reasons. It was technology and progress that weakened us as a race, but not because we didn’t need to be strong anymore. We were affected by the poisons of industry, the lethargy of convenience, and the decadence of materialism.
I once wrote a piece (full of ideas, but unfinished, like my writing career) about simplicity in early America. Complex tax forms didn’t exist, managing a credit score would sound like a motif from a weird fiction novel, and having to maintain your home, car, relationships, jobs, creeping psychosis, and finances were either nonexistent or generally a non-issue. The things that mattered were integral to survival; eating, establishing proper shelter, keeping the wilds at bay with a pointed stick that made thunder.
When life is about surviving, you are forced to be strong. Your mental fortitude directly relates how well you live, and how well you support your family, while your physical strength dictates if you’ll live or if wolves will eat your family. It was clear cut and gave people very few options – “be strong or die” said the Earth, and humans obliged.
But we, as Americans, have redefined survival. No longer are we concerned with badgers sneaking into the larders, or that the nearest city state might burst into violent revolt and march angrily into our cozy huts, instead we worry about qualifying for loans, impressing people who have not shown any reason to be worth impressing, and displaying our worth outwardly with things instead of ideas. We fret about gas prices, billable hours, and myriad stressful constructs of modern society.
Our stress is almost completely manufactured. Shelter and food are a given in the First World, but humans need to feel they are challenged, so they make challenges for themselves. The complexity of modern life has layered on new, abstract aspects of survival that are extremely detached from basic instincts. You know to eat when you’re hungry or run when in danger, but managing finances and building a career are alien concepts.
Ultimately, the majority of our energy is expended dealing with the everyday balancing act, leaving our bodies and minds worse from the experience. Industry has turned our food into unhealthy gruel, adding chemicals, preservatives, and other unnatural aspects to things in the name of speed and cost. Physical activity, no longer necessary to survive, has become a fad; reserved for those who “care about their image” rather than regarded as a necessity for healthy life.
Unfortunately, as more and more technology comes along to remove any physical labor or mental engagement, the problem will get worse. There is little people can do to fight it, as even the vocal minority can’t convince the silent majority that a green, naturalistic movement could solve a lot of the worlds problems. I fear the humans had their moment of glory thousands of years before I wrote these words.
I used to honestly believe the pyramids were built by extraterrestrials. While I still believe there has to be other life out there in the great cosmic expanse, a change in philosophy has made me more open to the idea that humans did in fact build these amazing structures. I don’t agree that today’s humans could build them; we are frail, excuse driven, and lazy. But perhaps humans closer to our original genetic make up could have. Perhaps one ancient Egyptian laborer was as strong as a gorilla and as quick minded as Hugh Laurie. Perhaps the average person 5000 years ago was as good as our elite few today. Perhaps they were in many ways more advanced than we are, but from a completely different perspective than how it is normally viewed. Perhaps it isn’t technology that makes us more advanced and superior, but in fact the exact opposite.
We’re told that technology and understanding of the world has made it a better place, but I think there is room to argue that point. Somewhere in the evolution of man, we’ve lost some intrinsic strength and intelligence, that we will probably never see again. We have many things that make life much, much easier, yes; but maybe life isn’t supposed to be easy.
Or maybe I’m rambling.
He has kitteh.