One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Conversations With An Afghan Teacher: Part 14

I liked this interpretation of the history” I said.
“See once, Romans conquered all the olive producing Mediterranean basin and the wheat producing Egypt, the olive trade declined and so the philosophy and democracy with the trade….”

A tractor trolley loaded with foundation-stones roared, as it passed us. It was playing “adda-kona songs” (old bus station; there were music stores that sold audio-cassettes and played loud songs in the noisy traffic) to the loudest, as if the tractor's engine and its speakers were competing for the loudness. In the contest of the noises, I couldn’t hear what the teacher was saying. I kept nodding and smiling, pretending that I am hearing him well. He paused.

“Have you heard of the Darwin finches?” I asked the teacher, once the tractor’s noises faded in the distance.
“I know a bit about them.”
“Don’t you think the diversification, and co-variations of the economic systems and socio-political systems have very much in common to the developments of beak polymorphism in the Darwin finches?”

The teacher didn’t reply. He fixed his glasses and stared down the valley.

“As you know, thirteen (fifteen) finch species were recorded on Galapagos islands…”
“...And they are the well studied. Grants1 studied them for thirty years. They could observe and record the changes in finches as drought changed their food supplies…” I clarified further my question.

“Hmm” was all the teacher said.

I took that response as a sign of silent disagreement.

“Food supply played a key role in human evolution from other apes. One hypothesis is that ancestors of humans started using their hands for collecting food instead of walking like other apes. The freeing of hands made it possible to make tools and increasingly greater supply of food and also migrations to new lands…”

Apparently, my arguments weren’t convincing enough, as they failed to catch the interest the teacher. I felt that down in the valley, there was something more interesting than my arguments. I looked down to find out, what he stared at. Few lights were turned on. I expected the maghrib adhan very soon.

“The seven wonders of the ancient world were either the kings’ burial sites, castles and places of worship. Public buildings such as parliament, churches, mosques and temples were the most prominent buildings till very recent time. But we are witnessing that towers and skyscrapers, with their futuristic designs are becoming more prominent. These towers are the centers of financial activities and is not limited to particular region but are global phenomenon. Food collection and production shaped the ancient humans societies and economies are shaping our world…”

I paused to see, if the teacher had some comments. He was still staring down the valley.

“Are you thinking about something?” I asked.
“Yes.” the teacher replied. “As you mentioned the finches, I remembered an old question that I am still struggling with…”
“What’s the question?” I asked hurriedly.
“Have you heard about the brain’s reward systems?”
“Sort of.”
“Do you still remember our first conversation that I asked you, whether Eids and Wedding celebrations and likes make you happy or not?”
“Balay Ustad!”
“I have long struggled with this questions about behaviors that we enjoy and indulge ourselves into, often obsessively. Take the examples of the craze in football (soccer), cricket, boxing, wrestling, action, thrill and love-story movies, animal racing and fighting, gambling, politics and show-offs just to name few…”
“Balay Ustad.”
“Each of those obsessions have something to do with brain’s reward system…”
“Could have!”
“No, I mean it!
“Our brain have connected pathways of neurotransmitters that reward us in the form of feeling good for behaviors that increase our survival and reproduction. But Humans have also learned to trick the brain in producing the pleasure chemicals….”
“I am not surprised!” I laughed.
“My point is, since cultures vary in their appreciations for different behaviors, and these variations existed for over hundreds and sometimes thousands of years, they have caused variations in the brain’s reward system. To make things simple, organisms exposed in different settings for long period of times evolve variations, like the evolution of the beak varieties in the Darwin’s finches …..”



Although, I was introduced to the theory of evolution in 1995-96 through biology class,  but I learnt about Grants’ works (who spent six months of each year on the hot and waterless island of Daphne Major for thirty (more than forty years) consecutive years to study finches) around the year 2000, in the third year of the college.

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