Monday, August 11, 2008

Its Still the Same Old Story

I am back to thinking about variation. There are so many instances to think about variation in the field I am in. People are always comparing a human to a chimp, or a fossil to a living animal, or groups of living humans across the cultures. And it always seems like the conclusions are around about similar. There is a lot of variation and making sweeping generalities about groups of animals or humans should be made with extreme caution. There is always difference if you look hard enough, right down to the individual.

Also, there is a matter of relativity to consider: You are soooo different from your ugly sister I know, she likes to party and you are happy sitting at home reading Anna Karenina- but how different are both of you in comparison to a chimpanzee, not very I am sorry to say.

But today I got to thinking about similarity, not difference. And there are certainly instances where similariy is the case in anthropology too. For a rough example, we share the exact same gene with all primates because it is to beneficial to our survival, or all languages share certain fundamental properties. Also, there are cases called convergent evolution where a similar trait emerges in separete populations; for instance humans capacity to digest lactose emerged in Africa and in Europe separately but both in response to milk drinking. So, amazing things happen that either preserve or lead to similarity and sometimes unexpectedly.

But what about all those cliches like {people never change} and {history repeats itself} or {its always the same old story}. What about all those times in life, like in the lifetime of an individual, where sameness is really the key? What about the absolutes. There is something comforting about them certainly. Like these lyrics to {As Time Goes By}, from Casablanca, what would the anthropologists say about this I wonder, because I would hate to think that this is a sweeping generality. And I guess what I am asking is, what can we expect to always be true?

{Well, it's still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by
Oh yes, the world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by.}

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