I decided that God is testing men, to show them that they are no better than animals. After all, the same fate awaits men and animals alike. One dies just like the other. They are the same kind of creature. A man is no better off than an animal, because life has no meaning for either. They are both going to the same place – the dust. They both came from it; they will both go back to it. How can anyone be sure that a man’s spirit goes upward, while an animal’s spirit goes down into the ground? – Ecclesiastes 3:18-21*
In the evolutionary ladder, humans are said to be the “peak” of creation. This idea has taken a very deep root in the minds of – guess who – humans, of course. Humans take so much pride in being called God’s magnum opus. On the other hand, the animal and plant species couldn’t care less if we think of them as lower life forms.
Who occupies the top of the evolutionary ladder is decided on the basis of an organism’s ‘intelligence’. But who is clever enough to measure and rank each species intelligence? And using whose standard of measurement?
It is the Homo sapiens with his advanced tool – the yardstick.
Both the godly (religious) and the reasonable (scientific) have often been inclined to support the notion that humans are the fairest of them all. We are the top creatures – God’s masterpiece. After all, it was stated in the holy book that God created Man in His own image.
To so-called thinking humans, it does appear very rational that we must logically be the pinnacle of evolution. We have intricate scripts and languages which set us apart from other species. We could create and use complicated tools to build cities and civilizations. The advancement of our technology was not due to the genius of the apes. Humans have stepped on the moon; plans to colonize other planets are on the way. The argument, or evidence, supporting the theory that humans are the apex of evolution, could go on and on.
There is no doubt about humans’ brilliance and unending ingenuity. But what if the measure of evolution is happiness rather than intelligence?
Who could say for sure that a man is happier than a cat, dog, or fish?
The cat, in all its self-contained feline glory, lounges luxuriously all day – an enviable state of existence, I must say. A dog has no bills to pay and yet every day is a vacation. The fish does not stress worrying about the future, even if in the next moment it is caught and thrown into a sizzling frying pan. For letting itself get caught and preyed upon, who could say that the fish is dumb or less evolved?
In this ephemeral existence we all share, the beasts seem to only care about enjoying their moments. Measured against the human yardstick, their simplicity, their being-in-the-moment-attitude, and their lack of prudence attest to their lower-ranking status. But what if these simple beastly attributes are what they are here for to show the intelligent (sapiens) human (homo)? To take life easy, to enjoy the moment, to act only when urged (or inspired), and to let God/Universe take care of us?
In the end, after all is said and done – humans, animals, plants – we all die. In our short lives, perhaps caring about feeling good (like the animals do) is the most intelligent choice to make after all.
*Ecclesiastes is a very thin chapter in the Bible, which I tried to imbibe after being confronted by Death – the compelling event which had set in motion my very intense search for the meaning of life.