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The Meaning of Human Existence [ at Redondo Beach ] - essay



Edward O. Wilson, screenshot of him on "Charlie Rose"

On Charlie Rose, the interview description is: - E.O. Wilson, professor emeritus at Harvard University and one of the world's most distinguished biologists and naturalists discusses his latest book: "The Meaning of Human Existence."

View full interview: E.O. Wilson discussion with Charlie Rose, Air Date: 10/26/2014, 25 minutes

_____ [ Transcription of last 1:45 minutes, Rose wrapping up the discussion ] _____

Rose:

So, somebody picks up this book and says, "The Meaning of Human Existence". OK, Dr. Wilson, tell me what the answer is. What is the meaning of human existence?

Wilson:

I'll have to just, because I know our time is limited, just answer with a couple of general statements, which I think carry the meaning of - the meaning.

First is that, history makes no sense without prehistory. Prehistory makes no sense without biology.

Human existence is a result of long series of evolutionary and cultural events - the cultural starting primarily when agriculture was discovered, that led up to what we are today.

And the meaning then is the actual history. The epic - that goes all the way back to the origin of our biological imperatives.

And then, I would say, let us consider that human beings are above all a biological species, in a biological world.

That we live in a razor thin layer of the atmosphere within which life can exist - and to which, we, as a species, are exquisitely well adapted.

So, its when we get this understanding of where we are and what we are, and where we came from, that we'll be better prepared to decide where we're going.

_____ [ /Transcription ] _____

The idea to write an essay about the meaning of human existence [ at Redondo Beach ] occurred to me the other day as I viewed a discussion on "Charlie Rose" with E.O. Wilson about his new book "The Meaning of Human Existence". At the very end of the discussion, Charlie Rose asked Dr. Wilson the question - "OK Dr. Wilson, tell me what the answer is. What is the meaning of human existence?" Dr. Wilson's brief answer, which I transcribed above, resonated with me. Could what Dr. Wilson said, I wondered, be applied to describe the meaning of human existence at a specific place, the ocean waterfront site I've been studying. I've been researching the natural history and archaeology of this four miles of beach "Redondo Beach" for about seven years. My working thesis is this place is a remarkable microcosm of the larger world.

So, what a better way to summarize my work to date and continue exploring than to parse the general statements Dr. Wilson made about the meaning of human existence with applicable general statements and actual historical resources about nature and humans at Redondo Beach. Since, as Dr. Wilson says, "the meaning then is the actual history".


1)  "First is that, history makes no sense without prehistory. Prehistory makes no sense without biology."

This first statement by Dr. Wilson implies that the meaning of human existence is not one thing. I think he is saying meaning is exploration. The meaning of life is learning something new everyday about nature ultimately.

His use of the phase "makes no sense" is interesting. The definition of making sense is to be coherent or intelligible and to be practical or advisable.

The prehistoric and historic record of Redondo Beach shows people making sense (each culture in their own way) of the abundant original natural resources at this ocean waterfront site. Indeed, without those original nature resources, it would not make sense for any human to have ever existed at Redondo Beach or there be a name "Redondo Beach", of course. There would be nothing to explore. The place would be meaningless, make no sense.

[ Actual History ] The original natural resources of "Redondo Beach" have been thoroughly and permanently ravaged by the current culture of humans occupying the site.

Not making sense of exactly what happened to the original ecology of Redondo Beach would be a negation of the meaning of human existence.

Here is a very brief selected list of resources by people actually exploring the history, prehistory and biology of Redondo Beach:



2)  "Human existence is a result of long series of evolutionary and cultural events - the cultural starting primarily when agriculture was discovered, that led up to what we are today."

Text here



3)  "And the meaning then is the actual history. The epic - that goes all the way back to the origin of our biological imperatives."

Text here



4)  "And then, I would say, let us consider that human beings are above all a biological species, in a biological world."

Text here



5)  "That we live in a razor thin layer of the atmosphere within which life can exist - and to which, we, as a species, are exquisitely well adapted."

Text here



6)  "So, its when we get this understanding of where we are and what we are, and where we came from, that we'll be better prepared to decide where we're going."

Text here