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Of Tunnels, Darwin & The Office

(c) Thinking Aloud

......a person having lived a large part of his life in the jungle looking 20 years younger.........Doesn’t this tell us something? ........

Oh Boy! There is no crowd! Where are the purchasers? Have the market been misread? Has the advertising campaign failed to attract sufficient interest? Would the sales launch be aborted? What would become of the company? What would become of me …!

What would become of me? Well, I would become a casualty if I made a wrong step what with water gushing at my face. Corporate survival was the least of my worries as a bunch of us scramble up a tiny hole in the bowels of the hills around Ipoh. Now this was “real” survival where negotiating a swamp or squirming through a tight opening in one piece was considered a success. Mistakes, while not necessarily fatal carries with it physical pain be it from the underwater thorns of the lily plant or a rocky protrusion in the cave.

Ironically, struggling in the swamps, waters and grottos of Six Mile Tunnel in the outskirts of Ipoh felt preferable to battling it out in the office environment where actual physical threats to your bodily existence are absent. Therein lay the enigma. How could it be that an environment which threatens one’s physical existence seems more palatable than one that does not? What has become of Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest” where all living beings strive to survive and multiply in order to propagate the species? Accordingly, living beings should then choose environments that offer the highest probability of survival and propagation. Have I taken a step backward in evolution? Am I or for that matter all of those at Six Mile Tunnel some sort of freaks of nature?

Perhaps… and perhaps not... Darwin is an extremely competent and meticulous biologist as most great scientists are. Darwin’s seminal book, The Origin of Species was the result of a lifetime of patient and careful observation and research and its conclusions are soundly supported by physical evidence. On top of that, The Origin of Species was published at a period of hostile religious dogmatism and it was only through the intrinsic soundness of its reasoning and methodology employed that it prevailed over its critics.

If Darwin’s theory holds, and I indeed prefer being at Six Mile Tunnel to the relatively “safer” office, this leaves but one conclusion - the modern office environment is actually more “dangerous” than Six Mile Tunnel!

The next question in this dialectic is of course the nature of the “dangers” in the office environment. The office environment can be considered to be the apex of modern civilization. In the office, developers could build houses without touching a single brick, engineers could manufacture products without stepping on the production floor, generals could win wars without personally firing a single shot and politicians could affect the lives of millions of people without ever meeting those affected. Therefore, what are the dangers in the office environment in particular and modern civilization in general that propels a bunch of relatively sane adults to forego a peaceful Sunday morning at home for the dangers of Six Mile Tunnel?

*** Backtrack ***

What sparked all this babbling was a trip to cave known as Six Mile Tunnel in the vicinity of Ipoh. Access to the tunnel was via a freshwater swamp which claimed a few slippers when some members were stuck in the soft mud and had to be extricated sans their footwear. Being neither solid ground nor open water, the reed-filled swamp was hard to navigate in. The swamp eventually cleared into a fair size lily pond. The cool waters were a welcome relief from the muddy swamp until one becomes snared by the stalks of the lily plant. The submerged stalks of the lily plant are covered with thorns. Thankfully, the deeper parts of the pond were free from the lily plants and it became a pleasant swim surrounded by lovely hills on both sides.

We soon reached Six Mile Tunnel which is a former mining tunnel that is rather straight and partially submerged. About an hour of tunneling brought us to a wang or opening to the sky. The sun and greenery were a welcome respite form the dark and wet tunnel. After some food and rest, the adrenaline pumping part of the trip began. The stream that flows through Six Mile Tunnel originates from a small crevice on a rock face. We were informed that there are three waterfalls inside the hole that the water flows from. The opening was very narrow allowing only single file entry. The waterfalls were approximate 3-4 metres in height and ascending them required some careful climbing on slippery rocks with water gushing at your face. Along the way, we were rewarded with the sight of smooth and beautiful granite carved and polished by the running water. Eventually, only a handful went all the way and reached the third waterfall.

*** Fast-forward ***

All present stared in disbelief as the speaker informed that he was 72 years old. With hardly a wrinkle on his face, we had guessed that he was at most in his mid-50’s. How amazing! This person had lived most of his life in the jungle. Perhaps herein lay a clue to the answer to my earlier musing as to the “dangers” of the office environment and modern civilization. Here was a person having lived a large part of his life in the jungle looking 20 years younger than his actual age while I am growing more strands of white hair this very minute working in the office. Doesn’t this tell us something?

Thinking Aloud
12/11/1999


Webmaster's note:
Thinking Aloud shares his story about a trip to a cave in Ipoh, Malaysia in 1999. Whatever outdoor activities you do, nature is trying hard to educate us. Have you learn anything from her?

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