DenaJanuary 6, 2012

evolutionyou.net | flexibility

Darwin’s ‘Survival of the Fittest’ theory is one of the most popular scientific theories out there. Most everyone who has watched the Discovery channel and/or has an education is familiar with it. However, there is also a common misconception about this theory. Most people equate it with strength. People think that the phrase ‘Survival of the Fittest’ and the phrase ‘Only the Strong Survive’ are inherently connected. They are not. These two concepts are different.

Survival of the fittest does not have to do with strength. The fittest creature is not necessarily the strongest creature. Rather, it is the creature most fit (or suited to) a particular environment.

For example, if you placed a Grizzly Bear and a Great White Shark in the warm waters of the Pacific, there is a good chance that the shark would have a better chance of survival, right? However, if you took the bear and the shark and placed them on a frozen tundra in Alaska, there is a good chance that the bear would have a better chance of survival, right? Right!

This is an extreme example, but it illustrates how a creature’s suitability or “fitness” for a given environment will highly influence the animal’s fitness for survival.

Animals can not control their ability to adapt to a given environment. If they have gills, they can survive in water. If not—they drown. If they have thick fur—they can survive in the cold, if not—they freeze. It’s that simple. They are what they are. To change things, it takes thousands of years of evolution.

WE—HUMAN BEINGS—ON THE OTHER HAND, are highly adaptable creatures. We have a gift among gifts. We can—if we so choose—be FLEXIBLE. For thousands of years we have been able to survive and dominate in climates that are unnatural to us. We learned to harness the power of fire. We learned to hunt animals and use their skins as clothing. We can survive in the coldest of climates with relative ease. Later, technology gave us masks and oxygen tanks so that we could travel hundreds of miles below the earth’s surface and into the sea. We built aeroplanes and spaceships that allow us to fly through the heavens without so much as a single feather.

With flexibility we have become the ultimate fittest.
We are the most fit for every environment. We are the ultimate animal. Yet…

Somehow we manage to lose track of our strength, our wisdom, our greatness. We allow other people or challenges to overcome us. Instead of harnessing the exquisite uniqueness of human adaptability, we cower in fear. We allow fear to rule us. We crush the weak to make our own weak souls feel powerful. We stifle the flames of our personal power and goodness. We live in darkness.

But there is another way. There is the way of flexibility, the way of harnessing the supreme power of our ultimate fitness. It is more than surviving—it is the way of flexibility.

Recently my own life path has been taking sharp twists and turns in unexpected directions. Unforeseen circumstances have been throwing themselves at my feet. Like anybody, I’ve been uncertain at times. Still, throughout, I knew in my heart that I had two choices. I could live in fear or I could bend, like a beautiful contortionist, like a palm tree in hurricane winds.

And so, I chose flexibility. I am bending with the tides even as they pull me in so many directions. This is the way of light, the choice of power. Life is a series of changes. Everything changes, we get comfortable, and then everything changes again.

When I was younger I thought that the more things change the more they stay the same. But as I get older, I believe more that the only constant in life is change.

We each have to make a decision. We can cling to what we know, rigidly and in fear. Or, we can practice flexibility. We can adapt to the waves of life as they wash over us—becoming the fittest, becoming the one that survives.

Comments (5)

  • Drew Jacob

    January 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Great post Dena. The other thing people forget is that survival is about diversity. When a species includes a wide variety of outlying traits, at least some members of the species will survive almost any environmental change (or disease, etc.). Evolutionary biologists believe that certain minority traits–for example, homosexuality–exist for exactly that reason. The more diverse our species is the more flexible we are. 

    1. Dena Botbyl

      January 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm

      Thank you for stopping by, Drew! Your diversity point is such a good one. I’m reviewing a book right now about why we (humans) crave change–and it all stems from that evolutionary drive toward diversity. Fascinating stuff–exactly why I enjoyed anthropology so much as an undergrad.

  • Anonymous

    January 8, 2012 at 8:05 am

    You are right that the only constant in life is change, embrace it, roll with it and you’ll be stronger on the other side if it. We all have and will continue to face changes that scare us or confuse us; just take a breath, figure it out and choose the new path. We do have choices and change offers us  chances to be better, expand our personal scope and meet new people, places and opportunities.

  • Kristinkielar

    January 9, 2012 at 8:21 am

    This has been a recurring theme in my life, too, Dena. Thank you for sharing (and so eloquently 🙂 )

  • Kati

    January 14, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Dear Dena,
    this really rang in bell inside of me.
    I’ve been diagnosed with Multiple Scleroses in 2008 and my last fit last October turned me half blind on my right eye. It has gotten better, but it is far from gone.
    At the moment I am struggling a lot with accepting my situation – and your blog post reminded me of the fact that even though things might have changed for the worst, other things have improved – and I was really flexible up till now, though I struggled and cried.

    Thanks for always reminding me that we are all the same, going through the same problems. It makes me feel less alone!

    Love, Kathy

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