I was musing about Jane Austen and her spider’s web cure while I was walking the dog this morning. Walking the dog is the best time for musing, by far. The question “How did anyone ever think to use cobwebs to stop bleeding?!” popped into my head. And that led me on to the idea of the inner wisdom of humans. I’m talking about a sort of natural, primeval wisdom, not an intellectual one.
The same people who could perform a miraculous heart transplant or build a spaceship that could take people to the moon or Mars would probably very soon die from starvation or hypothermia if left to fend for themselves in a bountiful natural wilderness. Surely we all have, or did have, “human animal wisdom”? Animals don’t need to go on courses to learn which berries or fungi are safe to eat, or how to survive without any outside help. In that sense they are wiser than us, as were our ancestors. I couldn’t fashion a flint knife. I wouldn’t have a clue how to extract metal from rock so that I could make use of it – nor even what sort of rock to look for or where to look for it in the first place.
We have advanced intellectually, scientifically – become cleverer – but surely less wise. Take the economy. We are actually its prisoners. Like Frankenstein’s monster “it” can destroy individuals or whole nations and there’s little we can do stop it. We can only tinker at the edges of a machine that’s grown too big for us to take on completely.
We vaguely remember the spiders’ web cure – but how much have we lost?