Please don’t feed the dinosaurs

In the film The Legend of 1900, a new-born baby boy is abandoned on a luxury liner at sea at the turn of the 20th century. A piano prodigy, he grows up on the ship and never leaves it. The one time he almost makes it to land, he tries to explain to his good friend and fellow musician, Max, why he just couldn’t do it.

“All that city… You just couldn’t see an end to it. The end! Please, could you show me where it ends? […] It wasn’t what I saw that stopped me, Max. It was what I didn’t see. Can you understand that? What I didn’t see. In all that sprawling city, there was everything except an end. There was everything. But there wasn’t an end. What I couldn’t see was where all that came to an end. […] Christ, did you see the streets? There were thousands of them! How do you choose just one? One woman, one house, one piece of land to call your own, one landscape to look at, one way to die. All that world weighing down on you without you knowing where it ends. Aren’t you scared of just breaking apart just thinking about it, the enormity of living in it?” (emphasis mine)

Enormity.

There is an old adage used to caution Wall Street investors against assuming that the stock market will go up forever: Trees don’t grow to the sky.

Just imagine what would happen if trees suddenly did begin to grow to the sky. Their massive, formidable trunks and branches would spread until they crowded out everything else on the planet. Their voracious roots would eventually suck up even the oceans. Their dense, impenetrable foliage would completely block the sun’s light and heat from reaching the ground. Life on earth as we know it would end.

When the universe was created, this was obviously taken into account. Billions of trillions of decisions like this were taken into account – which is why our unbelievably complex world is so beautifully balanced and synchronized.

The world was ultimately created for humans; therefore everything in the world had to be human-scale – including trees, which are just tall enough to provide shade, protection, and logs to build buildings we can live and work in.

But I think the dinosaurs were a mistake, and that’s why they had to go. They were enormous. They weren’t human scale. Enormous creatures were relegated to the oceans.

Humans aren’t designed to deal with enormity. And yet, that pretty much describes what the scale of life has become. Everything we admire and aspire to involves growth – or so we think. We want bigger and better. We want the latest and greatest. We want progress! We want more! We want MORE! MORE OF EVERYTHING!

If you listen to the media or the politicians or the capitalists, you would think the very purpose of life on earth is economic growth.

And so, the dinosaurs are back. They have swallowed up our small towns, our close-knit neighborhoods, our corner stores, our family-run-businesses, our jobs with those businesses, our local diners. These giant creatures are terrifying because they look at us, not on a human scale, but more like we’re on a meat scale. We are not meant to co-exist with these creatures. We are meant to be their lunch.

If that piano player had left the ship in his own lifetime, it would have been bad enough. But today? He would have found himself swarmed by hungry agents and managers and publicists and record producers and concert promoters and handlers and piano salesmen at every turn. He would have been at the mercy of heartless landlords and greedy oil companies and callous corporations and dispassionate chains stores. He would have had the whole, great big world to deal with and – for him, even then! – it was too much. So he kept his life on a human scale by keeping it between the bow and stern of that ship.

I have no idea if that was supposed to be the message of the film – but it’s what I took away from it. Keep your world as small as you can. Human scale is the only scale that’s personal. Any bigger, and you become a commodity, a consumer, a cog in the wheel. To be happy, you have to be appreciated and treated well. You have to communicate and trade and deal on a human scale. Keep your affairs on a personal level whenever you can. Despite what some people say, corporations are not people too.

So please – don’t feed the dinosaurs. They deserve to be extinct.

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