High Thoughts

High Reads: Sapiens

human evolution from apes

Reading high sounds like a good challenge now that you’ve got couch lock, right? If you’re like most people, you probably forget what you’ve read immediately after turning the page. Whether you can read high or not, we highly recommend Yuval Harari’s book Sapiens to our fellow stoners. When you set the book down and blaze you’ll think about what it really means to be human in a totally different light. One of the best books to read high, Sapiens packs two and a half million years of human evolution in 443 pages. Here’s a peek at some of the best  quotes and insights from the Sapiens book for your next high read. 

Reading in bed
Reading in bed (Source: Fabiola Peñalba)

Best quotes from Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

beach drone photo
Man on beach watching waves (Source: Leio McLaren)

Be present

“You live in the present moment instead of fantasising about what might have been. The resulting serenity is so profound that those who spend their lives in the frenzied pursuit of pleasant feelings can hardly imagine it. It is like a man standing for decades on the seashore, embracing certain ‘good’ waves and trying to prevent them from disintegrating, while simultaneously pushing back ‘bad’ waves to prevent them from getting near him. Day in, day out, the man stands on the beach, driving himself crazy with this fruitless exercise. Eventually, he sits down on the sand and just allows the waves to come and go as they please. How peaceful!”

Do what you like, be who you are and everything will fall into place. It doesn’t have to be an upward battle. Maybe smoke a little ganja to set your mind at ease and you’ll likely come to the realization that you don’t have to try so hard. 

Don’t slave your life away

American dream old cartoon
The American dream is expensive (Source: Market Watch)

“How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away.”

Society puts a lot of pressure on us. Earn a degree, get a job, get married, buy a house, have a baby, retire, travel. It’s a lot and it’s never been so difficult financially to do. We might even feel like we have to keep that job to make other people proud when we’d prefer a simpler, more meaningful life. You probably have a lot of friends who smoke marijuana as an escape from the pressure but it can also be an equally enlightening experience. Bob Marley once said“when you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself.” Cannabis can help get you better understand yourself so you choose who you want to be instead of letting the judgements of others dictate who you become. 

Think about what you really want

Rat race cartoon happiness
Rat race (Source: Medium)

“One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations.”

Bob Marley once said, “What a disgrace to see the human race in a Rat Race.” We live in the day and age of Instagram and TikTok where desires spring from highly targeted advertisements that make you buy something that would have never first originated in your mind, or worse, something you would have chosen for yourself. Whether it’s a new car, apartment with views of the city, an expensive dress, ask yourself about the last time you bought something like this. Do you even remember what it was? If you don’t then hopefully this is a reminder of how manufactured our cravings can be. That way, you can think about what’s really important to you. Is it confidence or really happiness? Knowledge, good company, love? 

Empires were built on myths 

blame him cartoon democrats republicans
Democrats vs Republicans cartoon (Source: The Press Enterprise)

Sociological research has shown that the maximum ‘natural’ size of a group bonded by gossip is about 150 individuals. Most people can neither intimately know, nor gossip effectively about, more than 150 human beings…How did Homo sapiens manage to cross this critical threshold, eventually founding cities comprising tens of thousands of inhabitants and empires ruling hundreds of millions? The secret was probably the appearance of fiction. Large numbers of strangers can cooperate successfully by believing in common myths…Any large-scale human cooperation – whether a modern state, a medieval church, an ancient city or an archaic tribe – is rooted in common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination.”

Humans have perpetuated myths since the dawn of man and myths come in many forms both good and bad. From Christianity to Buddhism, American to Mexican, republicans to democrats, many believe in an us and them dichotomy. This is especially relevant now with the upcoming U.S. elections. If you’re lucky, you’ve met people from other countries or cultures that make you feel like family. If you’re able to deconstruct the myth, you have friends from other religions, political beliefs or affiliations who you consider family, regardless.

“Biology enables, Culture forbids.”

space image of earth
Earth from space (Source: Business Insider)

Biology is magic. If you read our last High Thoughts article about Bill Bryon’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, you’ll come to realize just how wild our own biology is. We’ve got 20 million kilometers of coiled DNA in the human body. If the equatorial circumference of the Earth is 40,075 km (24,901 miles), that means we have 500x the circumference of Earth of DNA inside of us. That gives you a sense that the world is made up of smaller worlds that we just can’t see with the naked eye. A world that enables so many crazy things like you to exist! And yet, the eye of culture forbids many things across cultures around the globe. Things like being gay, sex before marriage, abortion, adultery, vegetarianism, smoking weed and belching. The culture we are presented with, often doesn’t know much about biology. 

Wheat domesticated us

man working wheat fields
Man in wheat fields (Source: Sapiens Org)

“Think for a moment about the Agricultural Revolution from the viewpoint of wheat. Ten thousand years ago wheat was just a wild grass, one of many, confined to a small range in the Middle East. Suddenly, within just a few short millennia, it was growing all over the world. According to the basic evolutionary criteria of survival and reproduction, wheat has become one of the most successful plants in the history of the earth…We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us…This is the essence of the Agricultural Revolution: the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions.”

The Google Gods

genie aladdin disney
Genie photo (Source: Fandom)

“Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have thus been living in a dual reality. On the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations. As time went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google.”

Think about it, Google answers some of our deepest, darkest questions. That’s pretty Godlike I’d say, or at the very least very Genie. 

Don’t compare yourself to others

alek wek model photo
Sudanese model Alek Wek (Source: National Geographic

“In the previous eras, the standard of beauty was set by the handful of people who lived next door to you. Today the media and the fashion industry expose us to a totally unrealistic standard of beauty. They search out the most gorgeous people on the planet and then parade them constantly before our eyes. No wonder we are far less happy with the way we look.”

You are beautiful. You are lucky to be alive, every one of your ancestors had to survive for you to be here. That means your father and mother and everyone before them had to be attractive enough to find a mate. This means you come from a long line of attractive people. Now let’s blaze to that, mighty fine Caroline (turn up Roses)! 

Best books to read high: Sapiens

Sapiens tops as one of our best books to read high, that is if you don’t get distracted! We hope you enjoyed and more High Thoughts articles to come!


About Ben

Ben Ludding is a senior editor for Stoners Rotation. His stories have also been featured in ESPN, Leafly and the Los Angeles Times. He writes for our Marijuana News and High Thoughts sections. Reach him at [email protected].