Friday, June 4, 2010

Survival of the Kindest

I often and repeatedly have debates over the essence of human nature with one or two close friends who (in my less-than-humble view) always err on the side of pessimism.  To be fair, I probably always err on the idealistic and overly optimistic side. 

Their view:  Humanity suffers the inherent flaw of selfishness.  Therefor, world peace will NEVER EVER IN A HUNDRED MILLION GAZILLION QUADRILLION YEARS be a reality.  My view?  Humanity can overcome it's selfish nature by realizing collectively the fundamental and spiritual truth that we aren't truly separate entities but are rather all little pieces of the same intelligence known to speakers of English as God. 

"Hi, I'm God."
"Hi, so am I."
"Yay!  Let's party!"

Want to find supporting material for my friends' world view?  Look...anywhere.  Pull up any news site.  Any.  Read headlines about corporations, entities designed to take from "them" to enhance the lives of "us".  Wars, where we kill "them" to secure security for "us".  At least in theory, although it could be argued that wars are undertaken so corporations could make money.  See corporations above. 

Basically, it all boils down to this:  If we could All just recognize this One Single Truth, that All IS One, then we would realize (REAL-IZE) that there is NO separation.  You cannot harm another without harming Self because there is NO "other".  There is only "I Am That I Am."  You cannot take from someone else because there is no one else to take from.  Conversely, it is impossible to help another without helping Self.  Jesus said, "Whatsoever you do unto the lest of these..." and "Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself." 

All this is just an incredibly unnecessarily long set up to the reason I started this blog entry in the first place.  There's a new book by author Dacher Keltner entitled "Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life".  It explains how my friends' view that, according to a review on, "we are wired to pursue self-interest, to compete, and to be vigilant to the bad. Those tendencies make evolutionary sense, they are built into our genes and nervous systems. They are part of human nature, " while perceptibly true, is only half the story. 

The other half?  "Survival of the kindest". 

The proof?  "...Everything from our Cro-Magnum ancestors--who prove deeply dedicated to caretaking and collaboration--to contemporary physiology--so many health problems are associated with being isolated, indicating that close bonds are a foundation of basic human survival. Frans de Waal observed that our closest animal cousins--chimpanzees--become deeply distressed when they see other apes suffering. In Keltner's research of status hierarchies, which emerge shockingly fast even among children as young as two-year-old, it is those with emotional intelligence and empathy that inevitably become head honchos: 'Power goes to those who are socially engaged.'"

So there you have it.  Not only is it clear that Living as One is possible and beneficial to the whole, it's beneficial to the individual.  Also, it's just as much a part of our make up as a species as selfishness and competition.  One is based in fear of the other, the other is based in love of self. 

Humanity does sometimes choose the latter.  We do sometimes choose to act on our better nature.  And so, idealistic and optimistic as it is, it IS possible.

Ergo, so is world peace.

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