Nowadays the thing folks have really gotten into – even more than online gaming or dating – is ancestry tracing and DNA background research. Folks are busily searching out what part of the world their forefathers originated and tracing them back as far as they can, to eastern Europe, western Africa and the far-flung islands of Oceania.
And this is good. As the author James Baldwin said in his seminal work The Fire Next Time, “Know whence you came. If you know whence you came then there is no limit to where you can go.”
And where you can go spans the seas, oceans, deserts, and continents of our fragile planet. The next step for many after they’ve used 23andme to seek out their DNA background is to travel to see those places of origin.
Be it the trails of the Silk Road from China to the Middle East and eastern Europe, the savannahs of the African Rift Valley or the wilds of the Amazon Basin, mankind has ventured from one part of the planet to another.
They can see how their ancestors adapted to different climates, geography, flora and fauna and developed lifestyles and societies. “Go forth and multiply,” said one of the mankind’s great books.
Cataclysmic events destroyed the survival of larger species and man’s own foolhardiness and self-destructive tendencies have risked his own, yet he has not only survived and multiplied but prospered.
That is why a knowledge of one’s origins is important because understanding how one’s forefathers managed to survive and prosper can help him to cope with the conflicts of the future.
This does not give one license to misbehave or abuse the privileges of his existence. Appreciation of his environment and history is essential to awareness. And knowing how to maintain that balance where mankind respects his environment also means avoiding abuse of his peers and of the other beings that occupy this planet.
For, in the final analysis, mankind’s existence depends not upon his appreciation of the other components of the universe, but upon his interaction with them. Just as relativity shows that energy and mass are infinitely bound together, so life in this universe depends upon the interrelationship between things we take for granted every day and those we observe with awe and wonder.