Presumptions of Humanity

To help make light of our time, I have heard some taking to the pun “Love in the Time of Covid.” I come across references to that book, Love in the Time of Cholera, and needed to research that to make sure I spelled cholera right.  Why did that book come to mind as I am writing you?  I see a synopsis of the book:

“This is a novel about people who choose hope over despair, self-knowledge over self-dramatization, in the belief that love can transform age and time….”

You are correct about me: I have a very optimistic perception of humans if left to their natural state.  And having said that, I read just the other day a paper on anthropologists’ revision of early hominid life, that we were not so pleasant people from way back.  And my belief is, such evidence of such nastiness is just a sign of how far back in history and prehistory our traumatizing behavior goes.  The argument I rely on goes like this:

If being injured by others is "normal", then we would not waste energy avenging it.  Suicide and depression goes against every survival instinct that has been a part of our DNA since the first globule emerged in the primordial soup, yet people suffer from those all the time.  Smiling keeps our energy up and peristaltic gut healthy.  If war was normal, we would not feel so bad about it.

But mostly, choice.  Given the informed choice, people tend to choose life, even those facing crippling depression.  Becoming aware of choice, sentient people investigate how to create more options.  Having been in a life where I saw no choice and felt absolutely no hope, even there, I knew this was not natural – there was something wrong. 

With regard to consensual fighting, if that is what people wish to do, and they know they wish it, maybe for them, it is normal.  Boxing matches are consensual, and so I never use the word “violent” to describe that, because there is no violation.  For leaders who go to war, if they are consciously choosing it, knowing there are other options, do they experience injury?  The marauder goes home and has great sex for the day’s successes, while the non-consensually conquered has injuries to pass down through generations of fear and epigenetics.  If violence was normal, there would be no such concept as violation, and we would not experience fear. 

There is a spiritual counselor I know who’s message is “fear is the only addiction on the planet”.  There is a book called The Undefended Self, which talks about the most basic fear of the self, such that we even hide from ourselves, tacitly and explicitly hiding from others over fear.  Greed, pride, envy, etc are all underlined by fear.  (Someday I’ll draw a map of that.)

I remember studying Abraham Maslow in class once a long time ago.  One of the other students in the class exclaimed, “Maslow was pretty arrogant to think that….!” the student was referring to the concept that really, we can be and do anything we aspire to do, as after all survival needs are met, we are free to become what we choose.

The student could be anything he wanted to be, if he just chose to. That to him was arrogant thinking. Fear. Fear to even think that maybe, he could be more than he presently imagined.

Given all this species has been through, it still looks to a healthier light at the end of the tunnel.  We still believe a better life is possible, and in that, my faith in humanity is fed.  We DO remember – maybe not our pre-historical past of a sublime life, but we remember who we really are. 

And that brings me to let you know, I’m going to start a series of Existential Soul-Journs.  I want to be more structured so that participants feel better enabled to participate.  Those brave souls on September 1st really had some faith in me – a stranger – to lead them for 90+ minutes!  I want to make it easier for all participants to take the lead as well.  I’d love your feedback about what structure you would have liked to experience, something that would have made you feel more comfortable to engage.

Time to go find that Cholera book in my audio book account.  😉

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