One of my first memories was her revelation of the shocking truth that she was once a child herself. At the time, I thought old people had always been old. Even more mesmerizing was the revelation that there was no electricity when she was a child in Russia. How did people watch TV? By candlelight?
Knowledge fascinated me, but it also scared me. If Granny was once a child, I would also become a granny one day. At some point, I might even die. This revelation is not so different from Adam and Eve’s upon eating the forbidden apple.
Evolution, progress, development, 21st-century skills …
My childhood revelations that things change over time were not that different from Lamarck’s (zoologist, 1744–1829) statement to the child-world that animals change over generations. He said animals adapt to their environments during their lifetime and pass the adaptations to their offspring.
He was nearly right. He mistakenly saw “a desire for perfection” as inherent in all living things; therefore, imperfect organisms had to be ignored. This was a huge and dangerous mistake. Does desire for perfection mean that societies should cast out those who don’t aspire to be perfect? How can we judge who is perfect anyway? Because of dangerous theme of the liking, wars such as WWII were waged and wide-reaching racist propaganda programs have caused untold misery and injustice.
Evolution describes how each species has evolved. It shows why a giraffe has a long neck. According to Lamarck they grew that neck on purpose, during their lifetime, to reach edible leaves on tall trees. But then came Darwin (1809–1882) …
According to Darwin, giraffes have long necks because Mary-the-Giraffe grew a slightly longer neck than her friends. She didn't do it on purpose, she was simply born with that tendency. She looked rather scrawny and odd with that long neck of hers, but giraffes wouldn’t laugh at her especially as she was fatter and healthier than the bunch.
Food was scarce on the plains, but she had more than enough to eat since she was able to reach the highest leaves that no other giraffe could reach. Yummy! True, bending to the ground to drink proved a little more onerous, but that was a minor issue when her greater strength enabled her to run away from predators more quickly than the others. And what a great mating partner she was! She had many offspring who had the advantage of being tall like her. And so it went for generations.
Isn't it a lovely theory? Those who are different, seemingly imperfect, may prove to be the successful ones over time. No one can judge in advance who will be more adapted to the changing environment. Therefore, no apparently different or odd organism should become an outcast. Embrace them all.
This fitting theory was made by a man who attended divinity school at Cambridge. Darwin also learned biology and geology and was tutored by the Reverend John Henslow. Being an observant student of nature he was humble enough to tailor the evolution theory long before genetics was established to prove his theories.
In a way, Darwin lived his own theories. His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), was a physician and a naturalist who suggested the possibility of organism change over time. Darwin followed in his footsteps, but he could not become a doctor, because he was too sensitive. Did he feel failed by this seemingly imperfection? Yet did this very same imperfection not lead him to develop one of the most humanistic theories of change that included the value of imperfection?
You don't have to believe in evolution to see its beauty. Hans Christian Andersen, who was somewhat of an outsider in his society, wrote a lovely tale about this: “The Ugly Duckling.” When the environment changes, the outcast duckling becomes a beautiful swan.
We are all imperfect, different than the bunch. Some differences are more prominent than others. Yet we try to hide them to fit in. Can we be brave enough to let those imperfections shine? Wouldn’t this make us grow? And even feel better because we are true to ourselves?
I always chased after perfections, thinking that overcoming personal challenges is by becoming perfect. It was a race that I was predetermined to lose. It wasn’t until I initiated Toys’NTayls that I understood that my imperfections are my driving force.
At Toys’NTayls, we aim to help parents and children acknowledge their imperfections; not to eliminate them, but to accept them, embrace them and help them work for us instead of inhibiting us. We are putting our 21st-century skills into motion.
My granny started this process simply by talking to me. We are here to talk with you!
1. Darwin Charles. The Origin of Species.