I recently went on a beach vacation, but unlike most normal people who turn off their brains, drink a tall one, and stare at the ocean, I only did the last two.
And this got me thinking, how did the palm trees first get to this remote and isolated island? Well, the coconuts must float, and here they were bobbing with the rolling waves.
The evolution must have tried a lot of things, for millions of years, before it got to a hollow seed that floats and a seed tucked away inside a fruit that a seafaring bird would eat and carry to a remote place. Oh and there are also seeds carried for vast distances by the wind, but I digress.
Even with these adaptations, the scale and the number of attempts it took to get here is beyond human comprehension: truly staggering numbers both in terms of evolutionary eons of trial and error before that first palm tree took root. I know palm trees were likely carried by people, but whatever, pick any other plant.
And then I thought about the people.
I once read somewhere, I suspect that it was in Guns, Germs and Steel, that the Polynesians possessed an uncanny ability to track the ocean currents so they could navigate the biggest span of water on Earth in their canoes! They eventually traveled thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean before they landed in Hawaii. It was a gradual process taking hundreds of years, getting from one Polynesian archipelago to the next, and then the distances just kept getting progressively worse — the last hop to Hawaii being over a 1000 miles.
Again, the odds of traveling across a vast ocean to find a spec of land that is so infinitesimal in comparison — a myriad wrong turns and only a handful of right ones at your disposal at every step of the journey. You can see the parallels with the evolution already, can’t you?
It’s tempting to ask the question: how did they do it? But it’s not the how, at least in the sense of tools and skills, that really fascinated me about them.
What separates the seeds carried by the wind from people navigating the sea is the purpose and will. It’s not the fact that people evolved the tools they needed for navigation, it’s that they, unlike bobbing coconuts, were trying to get to some other place. They wanted to.
Will is the how, not the tools. It wasn’t a fluke, it wasn’t an accident, it was a deliberate, headstrong attempt to get somewhere else.
Will changes everything.