The onion is a good 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). Undoubtedly, this natural process plays out for all of us over our lifetime, albeit 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 imagined solutions to our desires and worries. This helps induce us into thinking that our projected sense of reality is all the more real… and that we can control it! 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 tool use took on explosive proportions around 10,000 years ago with the Agricultural Revolution. The subsequent increases in free time and novel problems facilitated innovation resulting in an exponential increase in tool use making life increasingly more comfortable and secure. This last 10,000 years has resulted in an explosive evolution… not of biology, but of culture and tools. We are still hunter-gatherers!
Let’s not forget, this is only a blip on the several million-year evolution of Hominidae — the family to which modern human beings 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 sight. (See Tao as an Emergent Property) 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 entrap us.
Evolution of I.Q. — Devolution of E.Q.?
The rapid changes through innovation that the agricultural revolution permitted destabilized 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 first chart below illustrates. The I.Q., is a standardized measure linked to culture and civilization. It is largely a function of circumstances and education, and changes as those factors change. E.Q. (emotional ‘intelligence’) is a function of our biology and not subject to ‘education’, per se. However, sever childhood distress or trauma experienced during adult life can significantly cripple E.Q. Both of these 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, naturally, through the experience of aging. As we age, our I.Q. and E.Q. come closer together, as the next chart illustrates.
The major factor that raises E.Q. is experiencing the pain and failure side of life, which results in due course from our desire for the opposite pleasure and success side. As Buddha said, “pleasure is the bait, the result is pain”; that type of pain deepens E.Q.
One object 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 engenders. 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 from living life from birth to death with the extended small ‘family’ that is 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 conveys the express purpose of extinguishing 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” simply reflects a need to recapture an extinct ‘hunter-gatherer’ tribal degree of trust. History shows how ineffective this is. We are virtually strangers to each other, with cultural rules of etiquette and morality masking the inherent disconnection we suffer. 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 reflects 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. That would not have 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 will 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 actual evolutionary time. Try to imagine a human population where the median age is pushing 100, or even 200. Obviously, E.Q. then will have a vastly better chance of offseting our high I.Q. As chapter 18 says, When intelligence increases, there is great falseness, and conversely I’d add, when E.Q. increases, there is greater self-honesty! Now, take a few moments to 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 to maturity.
(1) For example, at a low point in my twenties, I saw humanity as a cancer upon the Earth. All we do is use the Earth, give nothing back… unless it serves our needs. Like most youth, I easily took things at face value. As it happens, correlations ruthlessly opened my eyes, albeit somewhat grudgingly. Yet, even without that wrenching process, I’m certain I’d be more impartial now. Aging just grinds away naiveté.