While pulling myself into an odd yoga shape this morning, I thought, this is nuts! No normal animal on the planet would do this. In fact, no other animal does most of the things our species does. Working, resting, and engaging in the basic biological functions is all that we have in common with other species. Yet, we even go out of our way embellishing those aspects! Just consider those high-end fancy bathrooms out there.
The common view is to see all this as being what makes us special, superior, and advanced… “Higher” beings we think. Looking at this from a symptoms point of view (p.141) helps avoid such pat ourselves on the back biases.
For example, my yoga work is simply a convenient, efficient way for me to compensate for the lack of nature’s pushback. Nature is always pushing back on living creatures in the wild, preventing them from willfully innovating (#16) to the point of imbalance. When doing yoga in India, I noticed how it was only the wealthy Indians, by and large, who had the time, inclination, and need to do yoga. The lower classes had their hands full with basic survival.
All cultural taboos and ethical proscriptions are symptomatic of our effort to find balance. Namely, we avidly conform to taboos and proscriptions as a means to counterbalance the instability and disconnection wrought by civilization… especially its overwhelming use of tools and language. The resulting disconnection from the natural forces other animals experience creates varying degrees of physiological, sociological and psychological imbalance. Unfortunately, our efforts never truly restore balance and so an “improved” set of taboos and proscriptions eventually comes along. Oddly, all this goes on without us ever having any sense of why or even of the problem.
A natural predisposition to take the easy way influences all our life’s activities. In the wild, this seldom leads to difficulties. As chapter 5 puts it, Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs. Nature’s ruthlessness is always pushing back on the natural urge to avoid difficulty. Civilized life strips away as many nature-induced difficulties as possible. However, the original instinct to take the easy way remains part of our DNA. As a result, we swing dreadfully out of balance.
To compensate, we often pursue challenging activities in an attempt to appease a natural inclination to feel life meaningful and balanced. Like a pendulum willfully riding the waves of fear and need, we swing one way and the other, constantly seeking the happier way. There is nothing actually superior or advanced about us. All we are doing is struggling to maintain enough balance on the one hand, to compensate for our extreme success at avoiding Mother Nature’s wild side.
To be sure, this is not a flattering view of our species. We prefer the positive stories we’ve created for ourselves, such as God created us in His image and the like. Does our self-aggrandizing view serve us? In other words, does living a lie serve us better than self-honesty? Well, I opt for the latter! As chapter 16 observes, Impartiality to kingliness, Kingliness to heaven, Heaven to the way, The way to perpetuity. I find that taking the effort to consider life from a symptoms point of view (p.141), drawing on self-honesty as it does, takes a huge step in that direction.