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Dennis Etler

                 
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As far back as I can remember I've been an observer of the primate fauna that has surrounded me since birth. I've been fascinated by the shenanigans of that large-bodied bipedal ape, known to science as Homo sapiens, that's spread throughout the habitable and multiplied like amoeba in a petrie dish. I've also always seemed to have had the recognition that we're part of a continuum that extends back through our ape and monkey ancestry to the primordial beginnings of life on Earth and will perhaps extend in unknowable ways far into the future. As the famous Jesuit theologian and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin stated more than half a century ago :

"My starting point is the fundamental initial fact that each one of us is perforce linked by all the material organic and psychic strands of his being to all that surrounds him."

The task I set out before us is to try to grasp and understand this fundamental truth by studying and reflecting upon "our place in nature." It is only by humbling ourselves before the fount of wisdom that nature provides that we can come to grips with both our insignificance and our transcendence.

Since my college years I've also had a fixation on perhaps the most complex and convoluted culture in the world - that of China. With the longest continuous literature of any nation, that extends back over 3,000 years, China until recently represented a totally autonomous and self-sufficient world unto itself. China could close its door at will and let the rest of the world pass by obliviously. But that's not the whole story by far, for throughout its history China has periodically "opened up" and absorbed influences from throughout the world, all the while maintaining its uniqueness amidst remarkable transformations. This has been for me a metaphor for the course of human evolution in general. Continuity and change are the yin and yang of life on earth as well as human cultural and social development.

www.chineseprehistory.org

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