How many of us truly appreciate the role that instinct plays in our lives? Long ago, our ancestors dreamed up myths of self-importance that distanced our species from other living things. We are told, “Don’t be an animal” and that Mankind was created in God’s image. One way or another, every culture has its spiritual elitist story.
The irony is that by associating humanity with a spiritual high ground, these stories disconnect us from the natural whole. How can we feel truly connected if we see ourselves endowed with the power to transcend our humbler animal reality? From a symptoms point of view I’d say such stories are instead signs of what chapter 71 identifies as our not knowing this knowing disease.
I was either going to name this post “Instinct Liberates” or “Instinct Cures”, but “Born Again Taoist” had a better ring to it. Even so, some may feel my instinct rules point of view too demeaning to humankind. Yet, what could be more spiritually uplifting than feeling at one with Mother Earth’s whole biosphere? Instinct moves all animals to do what they do. This plays out cognitively in us as well in the neurological processes that create our brain’s mind. We just think we are different, which disconnects us cognitively — hence our disease. While often helpful, no amount of “God loves you” can bridge that divide and cure the disease, as I see it anyway.
Much of life’s stresses arise from how we think we should be, or how others should be. Such stories are insidious poisons that eat at the heart and soul of our lives. These stories are fabricated from the ideals of what we should or could be if only we (__fill in the blank__). We carry this mental baggage around throughout life (1). Ideals easily leave us feeling unbalanced and disconnected — diseased. Realizing how every aspect of human nature is the direct result of primal instinct can help reconnect us to all life on Earth. This liberates us from unrealistic ideals and allows us to be as natural as the day we were born — to be a born again Taoist. 😉
In Free Willers Anonymous (p.420) I said, “Wouldn’t admitting we are instinctive free willers (p.416) —powerless over core emotions — be a realistic first step in returning to our innate nature. Now, this may sound like freely choosing to do or change something for the better. However, the only thing that actually shifts is our perspective. It is a matter of seeing a cup half-full instead of half-empty. This helps bring our ideal self and real self into closer alignment. With that, we naturally contend less with the way things are and live life more gracefully.
(1) Our idealistic baggage arises from instinct as well, so we need not beat ourselves up for hauling it around … even if it messes up our lives. In any case, our dependence on ideals has its roots in primal survival instinct. This genetic predisposition is similar to our innate attraction to calorie rich food. It served us well in the wild, but it easily becomes a liability in civilized circumstance. Then, ‘less is more’ becomes the way to live in balance.
I don’t know if any particular ideal we harbor arises from a specific instinct, group of neurons, an emergent property (p.121) of deeper drives, or just the blending of simpler distinct drives. But, who cares? The point is, it all arises from our innate nature. Nature is efficient and employs basic elements in myriad emergent ways to fulfill its dynamic role in creation. Exactly what and how are questions science struggles to answer. Yet in the end, the answer is still the same… it is Nature’s way.
Of ancients adept in the way, none ever use it to enlighten people,
They will use it in order to fool them.
People are difficult to govern because they are too intelligent.
Therefore, using intelligence to govern the country injures the country.
Not using intelligence to govern the country blesses the country.
Know these both and investigate their patterns.
Always investigate the patterns.
That is called profound moral character.
Moral character, profound indeed, distant indeed!
To the outside world, contrary indeed.
Then, and only then, reaching great conformity.
A final irony is how cleaving to ideals of self props up the “illusion of self”, especially as it relates to Anatta). In Buddhism, the term anattā refers to the doctrine of “non-self”, that there is no unchanging, permanent self, soul or essence in phenomena. We are our own worst enemies.