I was a monkey. And a plain one at that. This is the only plausible explanation for my spending Friday evening reading Darwin’s Origin of Species instead of attempting to propagate my genetic line. Darwin, you see, had observed that monkeys with brightly-colored hinder ends got all the action and hence were better equipped to win the survival race. Given the lack of color, and more importantly, lack of Jlo in my behind, it must be a miracle that I have made it so far.

Lest you think that reading scientific tomes is my routine pastime, let me explain that the reason for my literary expedition is the burning desire to resolve once and for all the seemingly timeless question of “Who made man—God or monkey?” This is particularly important because the Rev. Pat Robertson has just banished an entire Pennsylvania town from receiving any Godly assistance because of their interest in evolution.

More about me: Besides being plain, I am very risk-averse and am particularly keen on avoiding God’s wrath. You see, I desperately need divine assistance if the plain-monkey species were to have any hope of survival at all.

In my mind, evolution and religion are two orthogonal theories that deal with disparate subjects and reside in entirely opposite sides of my brain—namely the right and left. Imagine my amazement when confronted with the possibility that they are not only “not unrelated,” but are also mutually exclusive. Do I really have to choose between science and God? Did God really have to make the universe in one big bang? Isn’t it entirely possible that he spent the next 4.5 billion years on several mini bangs and let us make some noise as well?

“God made man,” “God made monkey. Monkey made man.” Same difference!

After all, who amongst us doesn’t believe that Neanderthals roamed the earth? And still do? Combine this with my ex’s striking hairy resemblance to King Kong and there is no denying Darwin.

I cannot help but subscribe to the theory that only the brightest, brawniest, and bling-blingest will survive. Especially now that I am going to a “holier than thou” business school (Columbia Business School) in a “smarter than thou” city (New York). Business school has been more of a social experiment than an educational one for me. It has forced me to take a really close look at others’ lives.

What makes Stuart, my childhood friend want to make VP while I just hope to make it through the day with my nerves intact? What makes Dara want to explore the world while I feel like Magellan simply driving a new route home from work? What makes the Type A, “Dare you to look away,” “Use sleep time to think” personalities better equipped for survival?

Like any MBA candidate worth her bank debt will tell you, “It depends!” It depends on what you mean by survival. If you mean being able to survive an alien attack, I don’t think they are. But given that the human species is not in any foreseeable danger of extinction, I think survival success for the evolved, thinking, teeming human species should be defined by something more than if you have been able to outlive your grandmother.

That something could be the scarlet word—ambition. In my observations of the go-getter species, two things seem characteristic of their personalities—the ability to live without a safety net, and an exaggerated level of self-interest. Their daring “so what if” attitude allows them to percolate to the skin of life. Their “what’s in it for me” attitude keeps them there.

For the rest of us, masses, who must be content in simply forming the volume, while constantly struggling to break to the surface in this Darwinian struggle of life, Milton Berle has this to say:

I’d rather be a “could-be,” if I cannot be an “are”
because a “could-be” is a “maybe” who is reaching for a star.
I’d rather be a “has-been” than a “might-have-been” by far
for a “might-have-been” has never “been,” but a “has” was once an “are.”

As for the whole man-monkey question, I bravely ask, “So what if? So what if not?”

Sree lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes in her spare time.

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