• Jake Russell

Ancestral Baggage Claim

Imagine this:

You stand and hold the hand of your mother or father and they hold the hand of their mother or father and they hold the hand of their mother or father and they theirs and they theirs and so on and on and on to form a single line of ancestral time stretching back many miles until eventually you get to a very hairy primate wondering why on earth she’s at the back of such a long queue.

And if this lockdown goes on much longer that’s exactly what it’ll be like outside every hair salon that reopens.

But cheap grooming gags aside, by certain estimates, we’re the product of some 300,000 generations of life spanning millions of years back to the point at which our evolutionary track took a different tack from our great ape brethren and sistren.

If that’s too much monkey nuts for a Monday, let’s keep things civil and homo sapiens, limit it to a mere 200 millennia, and count 12,000 (give or take) generations holding hands.

Look back over your shoulder to your parents, to your grandparents, to your great, great, great grandparents and further still as far as you can see. Those are the faces of the thousands and thousands of your ancestors who survived the trials of their time to procreate and propagate this mighty human race, leading directly to this moment now where you and I and all of us stand, holding in the one hand that leads backward the wisdom and courage of this lineage, and in the other hand that leads onward the precious gift of future for all the born and unborn descendants yet.

And yes, no doubt all of us have had pain passed on too, it’s not all sweet-smelling evolutionary roses by any stretch. If we all had a third hand to spare as we stood in line, we’d almost certainly be gripping in it a piece of baggage, filled at least in part with blame placed on the ones before, wishing they’d come and finally claim it.

But maybe the secret is to bless the pain and welcome it as a part of the magic spell that’s been whispered down the ages to conjure you. Then maybe it can cease to be deadweight baggage and dead-end blame; maybe it can take its place amongst the notes of mystery that sing and coalesce into presence and future history.

Either way, we’re currently charged with historical, primordial power propelling us forward and we’re charged again to assume the mantle of these champion lines of ancestry as we go. Yes, every one of us is a champion whether we’re in pain or healed or in the process. The very fact we’re here is proof.

The power and responsibility with which we’re charged as champions starts further back than our ancient homo sapiens mother, further still than our apey mates, beyond the plants and water creatures from which we eventually somehow stumbled, and the simple, single cellular structures that erupted from the mulchy molten soup, to a time when life was energy made manifest in rock and fire and other elemental compounds blown from the atomic bang of nothingness that had been so silent and still its silence and stillness became unbearable, like the kid in assembly who simply can’t contain her stifled laughter and bursts.

That original big burst, that primordial hoot, some 14 billion years ago, has led directly, with several trillion twists and turns of course, to me and you right now.

It’s enough to make you laugh out loud and start the whole thing over in fractal recurrence.

Well this is all well and good, you might say, this naval-gaze down evolutionary lane, but I’ve got enough mundane problems on my plate, thank you very much, let alone needing to consider my 12,000 sets of parents too.

And yes, admittedly our ancient chimpanzee history can’t fix a broken washing machine or help when a pandemic means they’ve sold out of beans, and sure, the transmuting universal energies won’t pay your rent or cook your tea or teach your children how to read, and the primordial power of time and space won’t save any one of us from pain and death, but it might just offer a momentary pause from all that noise nevertheless, make us take a breath, help settle us into place before we go again.

So, I’d like to thank my mother and father and theirs, and theirs again, and all the ancestors as far as the inner eye can see, and in their honour stand tall and bold, their aggregate force at my back and my heart open to every forward step. And then carry on as I was.

I don’t know why I’ve written this today, but I have and anyway and as ever I wish you love in the time of quarantine.

Jake x

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