Long post alert!!
Over there on my profile, you’ll see that “I’m currently exploring life from the human perspective.” You’ll notice that I didn’t say Buddhist, Father, Caucasian, Home Brewer, Brother, Worker Bee or any other label that could be applied to me. That was on purpose. I feel that viewing life through the Human filter is tough enough before adding all of those additional filters, and I want to now examine some things as part of the Human Condition series. I also want to look at the implications and consequences of being born as a human.
Why is it important to view life as a human first? Well, that’s the one thing we all have in common. We are all one particular species on this planet. Through evolution we have come to be a dominant surface-dwelling mammal. We are tool-users. We have fragile bodies. We use written and oral language as well as body language to communicate with one another. I could go on and on here, but the one thing to really keep in mind is our status as social mammals.
We’ve always been social creatures. Even in our rough hunter-gatherer days we roamed in communal social structures. We hunted as a pack, ate as a pack, moved as a pack. We looked out for each other, for there was strength in numbers. No one man could take down a Mammoth by himself. He needed the help of others. Women shared in the responsibility of raising the youth. All of this mutual responsibility benefited the entire community and not just the individual, though the impact on the individual is quite obvious. When everyone did their part, things ran smoothly. People ate, were able to defend themselves, and were able to look after others (as well as be looked after themselves).
This worked well for awhile. But then we got tired of the nomadic life and decided to start farming instead. Why chase the food when you can just grow it? Now a few people could work at planting and maintaining the crops. A few could hunt for meat and fish. A few could look after the children. And then there were the specialists. With the ability to live where you worked/ate/hunted, a few specialists in every community were able to start advancing society. Fletchers, metal smiths, carvers, pottery makers and all other sorts of tools and inventions started springing up. And not just your basic arrow or spear. Now we could actually take the time and make it right, and not have them break all the damn time. This made for extremely efficient hunting, which lessened the burden of this task considerably. Farming tools were also springing up, making that process faster and more efficient. And all these tools were used to benefit the community. I’ll make you those arrows, because I know you’ll use them to bring us all back some boar meat. See how that works?
Everyone felt an underlying responsibility to everyone else. This was true communism in action. Ahh!!! He said the “C” word!!! Yes, I did. But I’m talking about communism here, not a Marxist-Lenin state, nor a totalitarian regime. Communism is as simple as I explained above. It’s when people all come together and do their part for the greater good. It’s part of that social mammal wiring we have. It’s natural to care about your fellow man, and be willing to do what it takes to help him out.
So what the fuck happened? Where did that sense of responsibility to your fellow man wander off to? I have to think that maybe it all started back when we began using an arbitrary currency in place of real goods. For some reason we started to value our personal possessions above the well being of our fellow man. We’d rather have more gold than make sure our neighbors all had a decent dinner that night. This is when the whole “I, me and mine” mentality started taking over. People started fearing the consequences of not having enough currency or possessions, so they felt that they must hold on to them at whatever the cost, and endeavor to gain as much as possible no matter the consequences. This is when “Personal Liberty” started to take a turn for the worse.
Let’s flash forward to today. We no longer view life through the human filter. We view it through the American, Atheist, White, Male, Pro-Gun, Libertarian filter. Or the Canadian, Asian, Bi-lingual, Buddhist, Conservative, Pro-Life filter. That’s a lot of filters. How does one sort through all of those and still stay connected to the fact that above all they are human? Answer: they don’t. The human experience is no longer of value. It is the libertarian approach of “I, me and mine” that has separated us from that interconnectedness that we used to feed off of. We used to feel a responsibility to take care of our fellow man. Now it is only about personal wealth and individual liberties. There are still plenty of Americans that would not pay a little more in taxes to ensure their fellow human beings were able to be cared for. I find this to be appalling.
I know that the Buddha said that suffering comes from our attachments to that which is impermanent. I totally agree. But I think there is something else transpiring as well. Our society is out of line with what it should be. Our society used to be a communal one. Our society is now full of people only looking out for themselves, creating huge amounts of disparity. The poor are getting poorer. Our education system is no longer doing an adequate job of educating our youth. We have a health care system that puts health care behind making a profit. It used to be that all of the specialists worked together for the common good. Arrows were made better so that all would be able to eat. Now people make guns and arrows to make a profit. Food is raised for a profit. The monetary system has replaced the human system.
I believe it is vital that we re-establish our connection to our human nature. The gap between rich and poor will only continue to increase while our current system is in place. The suffering increased throughout the world will only increase as long as we stay disconnected from each other in a society of consumers. We protest outside of abortion clinics about how precious human life is, but those same protesters do nothing for their neighbors, or those that are living in the world and suffering from the disconnect. Are the homeless not worth their efforts? What of the BILLION+ people in the world without access to clean water? Are their lives not precious?
I believe that the words of the Buddha are able to help everyone, and are vital to not only our happiness, but also to our survival as a species. But I believe that with the current state of our monetary based “I, me, mine” approach to life, it will take more than that to bring harmony into the world. I believe that we need to stop filtering our view of the world through such petty lenses. I believe that a major key to our happiness is to start by coming from the standpoint of a human, and work from there. Cheers.