This year, I made it a goal to learn the art of whistling. Go ahead and laugh, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t know how. I also can’t blow a bubble with bubble-gum. Does this make me a lesser person? Nor can I touch my nose with my tongue, do a cartwheel, or lift one eyebrow at a time. I can’t even touch my toes. These are the simpler human tricks. I won’t get into the wilder circus act miracles that some people are able to perform because those are simply beyond me.
For examples, just youtube search: amazing human feats.
But what’s the point? Why do we possess some of these skills at all?
I was trying to figure out the value of whistling and the first thing I thought about was a pair of early human ancestors out hunting antelope, signaling to each other from across the grassland, or perhaps making this high-pitched noise to confuse their prey. Maybe it’s a form of early communication. When I try and whistle, I can make one steady note, but the experts can make melodies, and maybe it was through a variety of melodies that we used to hold conversations.
Nowadays, I still think whistlers are show-offs. But it’s the bubble-gum bubble-blowers that really turn me green with jealousy. You can explain it to me a million times, draw me a step-by-step guide, and give a thousand demonstrations, but my mouth refuses to play along. I feel like a Korean trying to correctly pronounce “Little Lillian’s lolly fell.” Whereas I think I can master whistling with a lifetime of patience, the bubble-blowing gene must’ve skipped a generation. Oh well. I can’t think of a good reason for humans to blow bubbles, anyway.
My point is, we’re strange creatures. I can’t think of any other animals on this planet who go around showing off their tricks to each other. I don’t see elephants whistling. I don’t expect a lion to burp the alphabet. These aren’t evolutionarily valuable skills.
Imagine if wild animals gathered together to out-trick each other. Alligators doing the worm. Chimpanzees performing parkour. Giraffes rolling their tongues like ocean waves. Fifteen zebras stacking themselves into a pyramid. Albeit these things would be incredible to observe, but don’t expect your African safari to turn into an episode of The X Factor. Animals stick to what they’re designed to do. They don’t slide swords down their throats or fold themselves into little boxes.
Our tricks might be one of our biggest differences between us and other animals. If you’ve got a strange skill, by no means do I suggest that you give it up. On the contrary, perform it proudly. We’re lucky as humans to have this construct known as society that permits us detachment from our basic needs. Unlike the other animals, we don’t need to hunt and gather and migrate, so we’ve got all this time to express individuality, pursue hobbies, and discover hidden talents. To whistle a melody is to say, “I am human.”
To blow a bubble-gum bubble is to say, “Sorry, Chris. You’ll never be as cool as me.”