I undertook reading John Reader’s Africa: A Biography of the Continent. I’m a sucker for these sorts of comprehensive histories. I’ve read and reread Norman Davies’s 1363 page Europe:A History. Africa begins where it should, with mankind’s first furtive steps out of a valley in East Central Africa some 3 million years ago. What that moment must have been. I imagine those eyes taking in for the first time the unending horizon of a world yet to be explored. I wonder whether their fist thoughts were trepidatious, curious or mechanical?
I too was curious over those ancient kin. I wanted to look into their eyes and surmise that first moment in which there was the ultimate realization of something beyond that valley. That single characteristic may prove the greatest connection we still maintain to those ancestral curiosities. The pull of just what lies beyond that next hill around the far corner are the echoes of our awakening exploration.
Then something interesting happened. It was a moment of recognition that took me aback; natural phenomena called Pareidolia. Think of the so-called face on Mars, or the man in the moon, or a face in the clouds. The late Carl Sagan felt that the mandate to recognize faces is a survival instinct. There is scientific evidence supporting this. Like love, attraction between lovers more and more of those ethereal things once the domain of poets, romantics and religionists now are explained via biology.
But our penchant for the abstract and for believing that there resides a world that cannot be quantified through equations remains despite the persistence of science. We fall in love fully aware of bio chemical attractions, consequences of our unconscious past and instinctual imperatives. It becomes critical to our existence, if only in blissful illusion, to believe that ours is the fortune or curse of fate.
Perhaps that is why I could not help feeling that I had stumbled upon an amazing coincidence. Is it coincidence or something more that Africa, the continent from which mankind arose is shaped like the skull of those early ancestors? Is it at least odd that Lake Victoria is precisely placed where the eye would be? Wouldn’t it be amazing if it were true, even a little bit, as if something about us was foretold, or forewarned? Maybe we were pre-ordained or perhaps doomed from that start? Then again, what’s in a face, huh?