Human beings are animals. As such, there are certain traits that we have by nature that we must follow. When we look at other animals in nature, we observe that they are ruled by instinct. They must eat, mate, seek safety, and, above all, survive. No matter what the animal is, this seems to be the prime directive. For many animals, battle and conflict is an important part of achieving these objectives. Males often battle with other males of the species to gain the right to mate. This battle also serves the group as a whole because it ensures future generations will derive from only the strongest stock.
As human beings, we too need to eat, mate, seek safety and survive. We also have instincts that drive us to do these things but does that mean that conflict and fear are simply natural instincts needed for the betterment of the group as a whole? If this is the case, is the human race destined to fight war after war without end? Are we doomed to an eternity of fear, hatred and separation with only fleeting glimpses of joy and a limited experience of love? Yes, perhaps, if all we are is the animal but we are so much more.
What we have that is unique in the animal kingdom is the ability to make meaning and to choose what we do based on that meaning. Yes, we are driven to survive but we have the power to choose what survival means. For example, we must eat to survive but , if I decide to fast for a few days, I can choose not to eat. Not eating goes against all of my primary, animal instincts and yet, for whatever reason I choose, I can go against those instincts and take a different path. No other animal on the planet has a power quite like this. Sure, in our humble beginnings we were much closer to our animal selves, just doing what we could to survive. But, as time passed and we started to obtain a greater sense of nature and of ourselves, choice and meaning started to override our simple animal instincts.
It is a common argument that man will always be just the way he is today: warlike, selfish, fearful and self-loathing. That’s why we still have all the problems we experience around the world today like poverty, slavery and war, just to name a few. Some say that it is simply our nature to be exactly how we are today but I don’t believe that’s true. I think all our past suffering has shown us the way to end all suffering. Through choice. Through love.
Each passing moment brings with it an opportunity to make a new choice. We are not bound by our instincts. We are not bound by our past. We are not bound by our future. Each moment, the slate is wiped clean and you are beckoned to fill it with new visions of joy and love. How much can we have? All that we choose to have.
Nice post! Have you ever read “Reason for Hope” by Jane Goodall? Your post reminded me of that book. I like to think that the human race is evolving towards more spiritual enlightenment.
Thanks, Suzanne. I haven’t read the book but I agree that we are only just beginning to mature and learn about ourselves.