Homo Ingenious

Yesterday on the Braes Bayou hike and bike trail, I was passed by a fellow on what looked like a cross between a skateboard and a Nordic Track.  He was striding on it and making excellent headway – uphill.  Whatever it is, it’s ingenious. That reminded me of something I heard about at ArmadilloCon last weekend:  air jellies, which are lighter-than-air balloons with jellyfishlike appendages that hover around in interesting ways under radio control:  a video is on YouTube.

And that reminded me of something I read this summer in somebody else’s copy of White Trash Cooking.  (It is an actual cookbook with authentic recipes of which I recognize some from the church socials of my youth.)  There was a pudding recipe that called for a double boiler “or else rig something up.”  Heh.  There’s been a lot of rigging in Southern kitchens over the years. Then this morning I composed an e-mail and shortly after I mentioned “attached” in the body of the e- mail but before I actually attached it, Thunderbird ingeniously asked me if I had forgotten something!  This could save a lot of us from the embarrassment of shooting attachment blanks.

Homo Sapiens – Wise Man – is certainly a misnomer for our species.   Maybe Homo Ingenious.  I see courtesy of Google that the phrase has occurred to others, including radio essayist Richard handler in a 2007 piece about how the ingenious human mind wants to fix everything, including its own suffering;  but  meditative acceptance of suffering, as in Buddhism, can be a better way.

Our ingenuity can be stymied by politics, policies, the seven deadly sins, the Buddhist Three Cardinal Faults and on and on.  And in finding invention highly attractive we may give it more weight than it deserves in the annals of history.  I’m reading a book with that thesis:  The shock of the old : technology and global history since 1900 by David Edgerton. Perhaps we are truly (this is a widely occurring variant) Homo Fabricans – Man the Maker –  with the proviso that the making includes mischief and delusions, war and love, and all kinds of desires and devices, not just technological ones.  We would just like to be all Homo Ingenious all the time.

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