The Science News report, Kids own up to ownership, shows that science has come another step closer to proving a key element of Buddha’s Second Noble Truth, “… the illusion of self originates and manifests itself in a cleaving to things“.
The 1st and 2nd of Buddha’s Four Noble Truths are spot on in regards to the nature and the cause of our uniquely human difficulties. I began seeing this many decades ago. It was a no-brainer! On the other hand, his 3rd and 4th Noble Truths’ solution for humanity’s existential ‘problem’ turn out to be far more subtle.
Problems and questions are a good deal easier to identify than solutions and answers — at least truly effective ones. For example, if the river floods our town we can readily identify the nature and the cause of the problem. The short-term solution, clean up and rebuild, is as straightforward as it is temporary. The truly effective solution might be to move the town, but no one wants to let go — yet anyway.
This is not the case for humanity’s grave existential problem; otherwise, the various political and religious solutions offered historically would have succeeded by now — we would have ‘moved the town’. If anything, we are as far from a real solution as ever (1). Any answers and solutions humanity comes up with invariably lead to still deeper questions and problems. However, the deeper we look, the more diffuse everything becomes. Seeking solid solutions, we jump at what feels like straightforward solutions, and end up going round and round without really following the bread crumb trail of questions beget answers beget questions… ad nauseum.
Our problem is internal and while associated with our sense of self, the sense of self doesn’t cause it. The sense of self is innate and natural. I think of it as the survival sense that motivates all life to live out its days. Our ‘special’ problem is mostly due to thoughts of self. As chapter 7 says, Is it not because he is without thought of self that he is able to accomplish his private ends? Thinking enables us to project this sense of self onto ‘my stuff, my beliefs, my future, my past, my life’. The kids in the article show how it begins with ‘my stuff’, and just goes on from there. Truly, the illusion of self originates and manifests itself in a cleaving to things.
Chapter 15 offers ‘makeshift’ advice for one’s thought… Tentative, as if fording a river in winter, Hesitant, as if in fear of his neighbors. You can’t trust your mind any more than a river in winter. Chapter 20 offers another good motto; My mind is that of a fool – how blank! This goes a long way to avoid going ‘round and ’round, and drinking the same Koolaid. 😉
Here’s an excerpt of that article:
WASHINGTON — Young children are possessed by possessions. Preschoolers argue about what belongs to whom with annoying regularity, a habit that might suggest limited appreciation of what it means to own something.
But it’s actually just the opposite, psychologist Ori Friedman of the University of Waterloo in Canada reported on May 28 at the Association for Psychological Science annual meeting. At ages 4 and 5, youngsters value a person’s ownership rights — say, to a crayon — far more strongly than adults do, Friedman and psychology graduate student Karen Neary found.
Rather than being learned from parents, a concept of property rights may automatically grow out of 2- to 3-year-olds’ ideas about bodily rights, such as assuming that another person can’t touch or control one’s body for no reason, Friedman proposed.
(1) Although, the human situation may be improving slightly due to the rising mean age of humanity. The mean age was in the teens during Roman times, and even up through the 19th century. Now, it is 36 plus in the developed world. An aging population is less aggressive and impulsive than a younger one, which alone helps mitigate part of humanity’s existential problem. At least we’ll have more patience to follow that breadcrumb trail of questions and answers.