The difference between humans and their ancestors is a tricky subject to deal with. Yes, we share ancestors with monkeys; we share ancestors with every living thing. But, also, to be clear: We did evolve from monkeys. There have been different claims as to who our ancestors were. Though I have mentioned about the differences, I want to compare ancestor’s life and our life today, irrespective of who our ancestors were.
Most important difference is the concept of families and ownership. Even in humans this concept started only ten thousand years back, when humans learnt farming! Farming ensured that they changed their nomadic ways and started building more permanent dwellings which later became homes. This started a concept of ownership, then they started “owning” their women so the society started “knowing” who was the father of any child. This was a major evolution in human thought process compared to thinking of their ancestor. Still some of the basic things hardly changed, the life expectancy did not increase much. The increase in average life span is the story of 20th century; first half of 20th century this increase was in the developed nations and second half of the century, in the developing nations. Now in India the average life expectancy has reached a level of 65/70 years.
What is the effect of these changes? In olden times people almost never “saw” their grandchildren as most of the people died before the grandchildren were born. In the case of our ancestors, they did not even “know” who their children were, so the question about grandchildren never came in to picture. With ownership & family, concept of selfless love also started coming into picture. Humans with evolved brain and thought process started thinking differently than the ancestors. Ownership brought the thoughts of savings for future, owning a home, second home then… humans thought in terms of buying assets, storing things for a rainy day.
With ownership of farm land, selfless love was displayed while cultivating farm produce, fruit bearing trees and flower beds. People looked after them tenderly. Some of the large trees have lives longer than human lives, so these trees were passed on from generation to generation. Such trees went on to create local folklore. This thinking was never there with our ancestors because of low life expectancy. I am not an expert in this field but I draw this conclusion from the fact that our ancestors never settled and almost never saw their grandchildren.
There is a major difference between human progeny on one side, and the trees and flower beds planted by humans. In the first case, their birth just happens but in the second case these are specifically planted by humans. But look at the irony. Both are tended equally tenderly, looked after till they become self-sustaining. But the farm produce and fruits are cut and used for eating, tree branches are used for making furniture and for building homes. Whereas the progeny is supported till they are strong enough to be on their own and they are trained to take their own decisions about their lives. Especially after marriage, their own family and children, next generation becomes more and more independent. Humans are happy to see them go ahead in life. Humans keep on loving them life long!
The utility and work of trees, flowers and produce is over when we utilize them but in case of progeny they become more precious to us as they grow and succeed in this world. In both cases, we remember their babyhood, their childhood, their adolescence, their youth! The longevity helps us to see the growth path of the progeny. In both cases the selfless love creates many beautiful memories in our mind!
Trees, farm produce, and flowers teach us one thing. They are useful to us but we learn to stay away from falling in love with them as we know that when their work is over, they will part with us. For humans, this is a new thought process about their progeny. For these reasons they were hardly trained, mentally, for Old Age or Vanprasthashrama! There was never much need for geriatric medicine, this specialty simply did not exist. From what I have heard about olden days, old people simply hung around in a corner of the house and withered one day.
Is longevity bane or boon? This is being discussed in the society. In olden days, average humans simply died before reaching the stage of having grandchildren, they did not live long so there was never any requirement to save money for post-retirement life. Longevity with shortage of funds is a definite no, no! Is it a curse to human race and to the families? Longevity with money in the bank is ok. But there is a need for training programs to teach old people to look at the progeny, the way humans look at trees and flowers; limit yourself from their lives and go on with your own lives. Enter Vanprasthashrama, in the real sense as far as next generation is concerned. In Vanprasthashrama, our shastras say that we can travel! We should travel to our own destinations in life!
In the beginning of 20th century, concept of migration started, in a bigger way. Before that people moved to different countries to conquer and loot. British, French, Portuguese colonies are typical examples of migration backed by officialdom. 20th century migration is individual migration and is happening all over the world. With children staying in different cities, states and countries, their extremely busy life style, their own families growing, humans need to train themselves to interact with the progeny when progeny has time. They need to train themselves to meet their progeny, at their convenience. Humans have to learn that they are not in the immediate circle of the progeny!
Humans have learned to deal with the issue of selfless love in case of trees and flowers; and they also know at what stage to withdraw and let go. Humans have to learn the same about progeny. We may not be aware but the someone may already have developed a computer program to handle this, we only need to download it in our mind and start using it asap. We don’t need Artificial Intelligence (AI) for this, we are intelligent enough to know the right time to do it!