185 million grandmothers

I love listening to audio books in the car so even a trip to the grocery store has a quiet moment of learning or storytelling along the way.

This week I’m on a road trip through the south and the hours in the car have been filled with such interesting thinking! I started off listening to the History of the CIA. I’ll listen to the history of pretty much anything, but this one is so dark, I had to take a break and cut over to Richard Dawkins book, The Magic of Reality.

Dawkins is much more of a realist than I am. I love magical thinking; Dawkins is all facts. But he shares wonderful examples of myths and then the science behind what’s really there – like how rainbows are formed. Or why we have earthquakes.

My favorite chapter was on human evolution. Here’s the mind-puzzle he offers.

Picture a photo of yourself. Underneath it, slip a picture of a parent. For this example, let’s say it’s your mother. Now slip a mental picture underneath that of your grandmother, your great grandmother, and your great, great grandmother. You may not know what the older generations looked like but you can imagine their photo.

If you go back 500 years, the clothing and hairstyles of your descendant will be different, but if they dressed like you no one would know they were from another century. The same is true if you go back 5000 years and even 10,000 years. You have to go back 100,000 years before the woman in the photo starts to look a little different – her height, the shape of her head, her features. You’d still recognize her as a human, but you’d also see she was built differently.

If you go back 185 million years, your stack of photos is 3 miles long. And your grandmother is… a fish. She evolved from that to be a newt-like creature. Then a lizard. Then a small mammal. And eventually, she was an ape and then a human.

What I like about this illustration is that if you pull any one photo from the stack, the women to either side of the photo look nearly identical. It’s only over time that we see the change.

The idea that it takes 3 miles of photos to get from a fish to a human reminds me how important it is to start in the right direction! It reminds me to be patient with change. And it reminds me that each baby step matters. Sometimes you don’t see progress, but as long as you’re moving, trust that change is happening.

The fish-to-human story happened through evolution. Personal change happens because you have an idea. You make a decision. You set a new priority. You give something the time it needs. You focus. You bring energy to your work. And you make it happen.

The cool thing about change is that sometimes it doesn’t happen exactly the way you plan. But you still end where you’re supposed to be – fish, or human. And I hope that puts a big smile on your face.

Peace and love from the deep south. Here are a few shots from a tour of the US Capital with my niece who works on the hill.

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