The onion could be a metaphor for one’s lifetime. Each of us peel away layer after layer as daily experiences gradually turn into a lifetime. This maturing process helps to counterbalance any extreme characteristics we were born with. With each decade that passes, we see deeper and become more humble compared to our formative years. My life has certainly followed this trajectory over the decades (1). This natural process plays out for all of us over our lifetime, although so gradual as to make it hardly noticeable. Perhaps this post can shed more light on this balancing process.
First a Review
Human suffering and confusion result from the cognitive projection of desires (need + thought) and worries (fear + thought)… no surprise there.
The exponential rise in tool use, beginning perhaps 100,000 years ago, began to exasperate this situation. Tool use allows us to actualize solutions to our imagined desires and worries. This induces us into thinking that our projected sense of reality is true and that we are in control. Reality becomes what we think it is, which increases our disconnection with the reality chapter 6 hints at, The valley’s spirit never dies; this is called the profound female. Of the profound female entrance; this is called the origin of the universe. Continuous, like it exists; in usefulness, not diligent.
The evolution of tools ramped up beginning around 10,000 years ago with the Agricultural Revolution. The subsequent increases in free time and newer problems encouraged innovation. This led to an exponential increase in diligent tool use making life increasingly more comfortable and secure. This last 10,000 years has resulted in a rampant evolution, not of biology, but of culture and tools. However, there has been no corresponding evolution in our emotional ability to balance these cultural changes. We are still hunter-gatherers, yet devoid of the balancing influences that our ancestral lifestyle provided.
Let’s not forget, this is only a blip on the several million-year evolution of Hominidae—the family to which modern humans are only a recent iteration beginning around 300,000 years ago. Likewise, it is very helpful to keep the emergent-property nature of evolution in mind. (See Tao as an Emergent Property, p.121) All phenomena are connected, even though we are only aware of bits and pieces of the connection. Even then, how do we know those slivers of awareness are not merely projections of our needs and fears? Naturally, our awareness is tenuous. As chapter 21 has it, Of the way serving the outside world, only suddenly, only indistinct. Nevertheless, seeing this outside world as layer upon layer, symptom upon symptom, helps avoid having our biases mislead us.
Evolution of I.Q. — Devolution of E.Q.?
The rapid changes through innovation that the agricultural revolution permitted helped destabilize every facet of human life: language, family, work, leisure, etc. Such civilizing adaptations were the way to have all that we desired and even better, to avoid many of wilderness’s ruthless aspects. Civilization promised to allow us to have our cake and eat it too!
This brought our I.Q. (intelligence quotient) out of sync with our E.Q. (emotional quotient), as the chart (right) illustrates. The I.Q. gauges how well someone can use information and logic to answer questions and solve problems. This ability became increasingly important to civilization and its need to organize and innovate. Simply put, civilized humanity began over utilizing I.Q. for the sake of progress in a quest to control nature. Conversely, E.Q. (emotional intelligence) has been negatively impacted by civilization’s destabilizing push for progress. Most notable is how distress, disconnection, or trauma experienced in childhood can significantly cripple E.Q. throughout life. Such stressors would have been nearly unheard of during hunter-gatherer times. Life was tough, but not traumatic.
Circumstances and time bring us to maturity
Improvements in E.Q. only occur gradually through the experience of aging. As we age, our I.Q. and E.Q. come closer together, as this chart (right) illustrates.
The major factor that raises E.Q. is experiencing the pain, loss, and failure side of life, which results in due course from our desire for the opposite side—pleasure, gain, and success. As Buddha said, “pleasure is the bait, the result is pain”. This type of pain deepens E.Q.
One aim of civilization has been to dampen down aspects of our instinctive nature by promoting a pseudo higher E.Q. to counterbalance the I.Q. versus E.Q, mismatch… a mismatch that civilization produced. A major reason our instincts started getting in the way of natural harmony was due to large numbers of people crammed together, first in villages, then in cities. Absent was the intuitive trust that comes with living a life from birth to death with the extended intimate family, i.e., tribal life. Human existence became a more ‘me’ than ‘we’ experience.
Religion as a Symptom
Religion is no accident. After all, necessity is the mother of invention, and religion is a human invention. Much in religion plainly seeks to control, if not eradicate, our animal nature. To rise above ourselves, morally speaking, and live a virtuous life has been the goal. To “love your neighbor as your self” reflects a desire to recapture an extinct hunter-gatherer tribal degree of trust. History proves how ineffective this is. We are virtually strangers to each other, with cultural rules of etiquette and morality masking the inherent disconnection we endure. Common music, food, clothes, religion, sports, politics, all serve to reinforce this facade of connection.
Granted, civilization on the surface seems to be more humane in some ways now than in the past. However, this is not because we are spiritually evolving as a species. The positive changes we see are in part a result of changing economic necessity (need). Frankly, if we needed to kill whales to survive, we’d lift the bans on whale killing and we’d drive them into extinction. Changing economic circumstances merely shift necessity. As Chapter 16 hints, Not knowing the constant, rash actions lead to ominous results. Perceived necessity (need) drives rash actions. Among other things, that currently includes nuclear weapons, global warming, specie extinction, resistant bacteria… and mental illness as chapter 71 notes: Realizing I don’t’ know is better; not knowing this knowing is disease. Yet, there is light at the end of this tunnel.
It is a round trip; we’re heading back to ‘Eden’
Genuine benevolence may actually be increasing as well. Let me put it this way, if humanity is becoming truly more humane, it is because the median age of the population has been steadily increasing, especially in the developed world. The median age of populations in developed areas is around 35 years old. At the time of Jesus, the median age was in the teens, and civilization overall reflected that. The genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994 is partly due to the median age of the population being a mere 19 years old. It is virtually impossible that would have ever occurred if the median age of Rwanda had been around 90 years old instead.
The Electric Age is the most significant innovation since harnessing fire. Ironically, it may turn out that this innovation returns our species to a modicum of balance, where I.Q. and E.Q. are more in alignment. Electricity has made modern science what it is today. The advances in science leading to our ever-increasing life span should eventually double or even triple the median age of the human population from where it is now. Even if this takes a thousand years, that would be ‘tomorrow’ in a cultural-evolution timeframe. Just imagine a human population where the median age is 100 more or less. Obviously, E.Q. would have a vastly better chance of offsetting our high I.Q. As chapter 18 warns, When intelligence increases, there is great falseness. I’d add, when E.Q. increases, there is greater self-honesty! Now, compare and ponder the three preceding I.Q. /E.Q. charts.
E.Q. Balances I.Q.
Finally, I’m not saying that there won’t be some 100-year-old nut jobs. The point is how many 100-year-old mostly well-adjusted people will be gullible enough to follow whatever crazy dogma the nut jobs promulgate? At 70, I am more emotionally stable and less gullible than I was at 20, 30, 40… maturity unquestionably deepens with each decade that passes. In short, E.Q. deepens as circumstances and time bring us closer to maturity.
(1) For example, at a low point in my twenties, I saw humanity as a cancer upon the Earth. I thought, all we do is use the Earth and give nothing back… unless it serves our needs. Like most youth, I easily took life at face value. As it happens, Correlations (p.565) ruthlessly opened my eyes, even though very grudgingly at times. Yet, even without that wrenching process, I’m certain I’d be far more impartial now. Aging just grinds away naiveté.