The Elephant in the Room

 The Elephant in the Room

Civilization’s Achilles Heel that Business, Science, Religion, and Government Cannot See



Humanity is blind to the failures of civilization. Though we suffer emotionally from the shortcomings in our way of life, we work hard to ignore our pain, assuming our suffering is our own fault. If we could observe civilization from the outside, we might see these failings and be able to free ourselves from all the mistaken beliefs that hold modern society together, and relieve the pain.



Emotions Are Expressions of Life

The Modern Psyche will not Accept the Life that Nature Gave Us

When Humans Ceased Behaving like Humans

Emotional Intelligence Serves Life, not Self 

The Three Categories of Unconditional Love

The Elephant in the Room

Recovering from Ownership Addiction

Living In the Moment

Emotional Dishonesty





If this life is one act
Why do we lay all these traps
We put them right in our path
When we just wanna be free

I will not waste my days
Making up all kinds of ways
To worry about all the things
That will not happen to me

So I just let go of what I know I don’t know
And I know I only do this by
Living in the moment
Living my life
Easy and breezy
With peace in my mind
With peace in my heart
Peace in my soul
Wherever I’m going, I’m already home
Living in the moment

                 —The Beginning lyrics to Jason Mraz’s “Living in the Moment”


Why, indeed, do we lay all these traps, when we “just wanna be free?” Why do we waste our days worrying about things that never happen? What would it be like to live with peace in our minds, hearts and souls? What would it be like to know that wherever we’re going, we’re always home?

From the point of view of this modern world, those questions seem unanswerable. What person has any of us ever known, who is worry-free? How, in this constantly changing world, is it physically possible to be entirely at peace in mind, heart, and soul? What does it even mean, to be “at home,” no matter where you are going? These are magical states of being, not real ones to modern humans. So, you have every reason to be shocked, or surprised, when I tell you that, not long ago in evolutionary time, all humans lived in the moment, never worrying about the future. Whether at rest, or in battle, they were at peace, in mind, heart, and soul. Their “home” was not a place, but the network of intimate relationships of trust they had with the people around them—people with whom they were joined by absolute bonds of physical and emotional interdependence, bonds that have nothing to do with our modern concepts of friendship or, often, even love. For upwards of two hundred thousand years, human beings lived in this state, which I call spiritual freedom, a state defined by the fact that they lived in intimate connection with others, yet were free to do what they felt like doing in every moment of their lives.


Emotions Are Expressions of Life

Humans are sentient beings—really, sentient spirits. Each spirit is the repository of the sumtotal of evolutionary wisdom that preceded us. And it communicates that wisdom, moment by moment, to our conscious minds, always in the language of feelings. The significance of this to each human life becomes obvious only if we ask what life would be like without feelings.

If we didn’t feel, we wouldn’t know anything—not when to eat or stop eating, sleep or rise, or even find shelter from the cold. We would have no basis for accepting or rejecting others. Mothers would never love their children, not only for lack of the ability to feel love, but because there would be no children, if not for the desire for sex. Nor would any man ever have a reason to place his life on the line, or to kill, on behalf of others. The beauty of Nature would be as nothing, to us. Without feelings, we would have no will to live, not only because that, too, is a feeling, but because we would be no more aware of our existence than a robot—no matter how intelligent we might be, or how advanced our sensory systems. Everything we know about life comes to us through feelings—including the realization that we exist. Even our desire to learn is inspired by feelings.

In short, feelings make us living things. They are the source of every expression of animate life. Feelings are so central to life that we experience pain every time society’s moral or legal obligations force us to behave in ways that deny how we really feel. Despite the pain, it never occurs to us that to deny how we feel in any given moment is to deny life. We are blind to it, because we accept as a given the society in which we grew up, never wondering where all the myths and competing belief systems invented by human societies down through the ages came from—or why. We have no way of knowing that their only contribution is to numb us to the pain of denying the feelings that are constantly welling up from our souls.

Feelings can’t stop rising within human beings. They are expressions of our essential nature and also of Nature, in other words, of life, itself. Modern as we might be, we have all been imprinted by evolution with a natural core, an innate urge to be true to life. When we hide our feelings to honor religious or societal mores or legal obligations, we’re being true to institutions, not to life. Small wonder that so many modern humans complain of social alienation, lack of intimacy, frustration in relationships. Yet we never blame societal obligations for our pain. We mistakenly see the pain as natural, simply part of life. This is odd, in view of the fact that, since Darwin’s theory of evolution, scientists have recognized how evolution has molded our physical features to optimize the species’ ability to survive. Why, then, did they not take the next step—recognizing that feelings also evolved to inspire each individual to behave in ways that optimize the species’ chances for success?


The Modern Psyche will not Accept the Life that Nature Gave Us

In essence, humanity is in a bind, forced by societal obligations to deny the natural feelings Nature has placed within us to guide us through life. With the exception of humans, no other living being on this planet is subject to moral or legal obligations. All creatures, except humans, remain as they always were—spiritually free—free to honor their instincts in every moment of their lives. Nothing stops these living beings from being true to life, not because they are better than we are, or more pure, but because they have nothing other than their instincts to honor. It’s not easy for a bird on a migration route to stay airborne, for weeks at a time. It chooses to be on the wing because there is nothing it loves more than joining in the migration, a journey essential to its species’ survival. Likewise, a beaver cutting down trees to build a dam isn’t doing it because it’s easy. Like the migrating bird, it loves building that dam above all the other things it could possibly think of doing, an activity that also happens to be essential to its species’ survival.

Through such feelings of love and joy, instincts govern the activities of all spiritually free beings. It was the same for humans, once upon a time, when instincts governed our lives, too. But that was a truly ancient time, during the prolonged period of human spiritual freedom that reigned thousands of years ago, before we subjugated ourselves to institutional obligations. It wasn’t easy for the members of pre-tribal and pre-civilized human families to take care of one another, for the sake of mutual survival. Like the animals, they did it because evolution has finely tuned our instinct for experiencing joy from doing anything that contributes to our species’ success. Only by taking care of one another—an activity essential to our species’ survival—did our distant ancestors experience what they craved most, and what we moderns suffer most without—unconditional love.

That evolutionary wisdom, dating way back into our distant pre-history, survives intact, within each one of us. That is why, to this day, there is nothing that makes us happier than to love and be loved. In other words, our evolutionary wisdom—the instincts that spell out how we must live, for both individual and species wellbeing and survival—have not measurably changed, throughout a huge evolutionary span.

Yet the lives we lead, as modern humans, depart entirely from those requirements. We live in competitive societies in which money is the number one value, not taking care of those around us. Wealth and privilege are the motivators that inspire us to action, not the need to love and be loved which, nonetheless, keeps rising from the soul, reminding us of our waywardness. We love institutions far more than we love people, because it is the institutions on which we depend for the means to ensure wellbeing. The right to own property that is granted by institutions, and the material wealth it makes possible, are now the universal measures of success. Notwithstanding all the love songs and sonnets, the life coaches and relationship counselors, the gaudy over-the-top weddings (which too often end in acrimonious divorces) the verdict is in: Humanity has largely abandoned the pursuit of spiritual wealth that we know as love.

Why have humans created a world in which we spend our lives seeking material wealth, when the only wealth that really matters is spiritual—to love and be loved? As a result of having been granted the right to own things, the modern human psyche no longer accepts the way of life that Nature gave us. It’s too busy concentrating on how to guarantee safety and security in the distant future. Love requires living in the moment, which is totally incompatible with a life that is focused on the future.


When Humans Ceased Behaving like Humans

Ironically, it was evolution, itself, that gave humans the ability to imagine the distant future. Our imagination undid us, by changing our focus, making the future far more important than the present. This wrong turn started with prehistoric males who, in their quest for certainty, began forming coalitions to grant one another the right to own things—first women, and eventually, land and animals.

What no one realized at the time—and still don’t—is the price we paid for trying to control the future. Our quest for certainty took humanity out of the moment, costing us spiritual freedom, the freedom to live in the moment. Intimacy went by the wayside, and so did love, because these words both reflect the same emotion, and because no feeling can exist outside the moment. Like all feelings, love is a response, not a commodity to be stored and doled out, by intent, to a select few.

For humans, the loss of intimacy results in acute emotional pain, a huge setback for humanity, the responsibility for which can be traced to a single event—the establishment of the right to own things. That event changed everything. Previous to that, there had been nothing on earth to prevent people from being spiritually free. Ownership created a world in which we are each personally responsible for our own future, which destroyed the inter-dependence essential to knowing intimacy. Humanity became so focused on doing the things required to realize our own future success, we didn’t notice that we were no longer experiencing intimacy. Suddenly, material wealth was the measure of success, not loving and being loved. What a contrast to the real world humanity had left behind, a world governed by instincts, where life is not about self. Life is about life.

The transition from living in the moment to living for the future was a sea change in human existence. The change did not represent simply a choice of lifestyles among options, but a blind leap off the evolutionary rails that put humanity on a track that ran 180° counter to our essential nature. For thousands of years since the dawn of the age of property, humans have lived in a state of separation from our true selves, our instincts, one another, and life itself. As a result, we are not behaving like humans:

We are greedy. Being personally responsible for our own futures, that’s understandable, but the competitiveness it renders compulsory is a fist in the face of our need for one another. We have so departed from the ways of our indigenous ancestors that we don’t take care of our habitat—not because we don’t want to, but because we are so separated from the land that we don’t know how. Worst of all, as a result of our dependence on money, we now love money the way we once loved our brothers and sisters. The difference between loving money and loving people is that people can do something that money can’t. People can love us back.


Emotional Intelligence Serves Life, not Self

In plain English, the future is foreign to our spirits, which are alive only to the moment. The future is, by nature, uncertain and unpredictable, notwithstanding our constant attempts to make it otherwise. It cannot be controlled, a fact that can be mathematically proven by system control theory. (Only the immediate future—really an extension of the present—being reasonably predictable, can be viably controlled.) As the lessons of history attest: All attempts to control the future by centralizing authority, have resulted in eventual chaos. Consider this question: How certain do any of us feel, right now, after all the governments that have risen and failed in our six- to ten-thousand-year quest for certainty, and after the millions of religious and civil codes of conduct imposed—each justified by our desire to control our destiny? I am guessing that the future seems far more uncertain to us, now, than it did to our distant ancestors, who had the good fortune to live in the time before anyone had ever conceived the idea of a future of certainty.

How did humans make this monumental mistake, which cost us the happiness and intimacy of living in the moment, and why are we blind to it? It’s because our instincts can’t warn us of the danger. They evolved, which means instincts can warn us only of natural dangers, like spiders, tigers, and thousand-foot cliffs. But, the right to own property is not a feature of the natural world. It doesn’t compute! So we are blind to the danger, perceptually, instinctively, emotionally, spiritually—however you want to think of it. In the same way, we are blind to the fact that the spiritual repression, alienation, and social chaos from which we suffer are the inevitable consequences of granting rights of ownership. If rights of ownership aren’t part of the natural world, then these consequences aren’t either!

Our epic mistake has placed humanity on a course that diverges, even today, ever further from feelings—the emotional wellspring of all animate life. The source of all feelings is the “emotional intelligence” of our souls, which represents the accumulated evolutionary wisdom dating from the very first stirrings of life on earth. Emotional intelligence governed all life on earth through the eons that unfolded, before mankind became fixated on the dream of a future of certainty. In those times, every living being contributed to the wellbeing of its species, without realizing it, by simply doing what it felt like doing in every given moment. In this way, emotional intelligence acted as a natural gyroscope to balance all life on earth—until the day humans changed the rules completely, by conjuring up a diametrically opposed alternative, the idea of ownership. In the world that existed before that happened, no one tried to make the world a better place. The concept did not exist. There was only one world, the world as it was, and only one life, a natural life born of Nature, uncontrived. The emotional intelligence of all creatures was born of that world. Happiness, serenity, and wellbeing were intrinsic to life in that world, a world in which emotional honesty—whether it resulted in acceptance, rejection, love, fear, anger, killing, or self sacrifice—was the key to order among all animate lifeforms.

Emotional intelligence has but one function. It inspires us to behave in ways that contribute to the wellbeing of our species. Emotional intelligence knows nothing about the world being round, or the laws of gravity, or how the universe began. Our emotional intelligence connects us to the natural world—inextricably. At our core, we do not exist on the abstract plane of external knowledge, but on the organic plane of intrinsic knowledge born into each us. And that makes all the documented knowledge that now strains the library shelves of the world—and to which modern man increasingly looks for salvation—beside the point. A key tenet of that documented knowledge is the modern belief that scientific knowledge will eventually save us—a conviction that is every bit as religious a proposition as belief in God, or in the hereafter.

Yes, it’s true that abstract knowledge rewards us with many comforts, conveniences, and lifesaving devices. But it contributes nothing to our most elemental needs, which are emotional and tied to Nature. Nature, which overarches all iterations of life, allows no one to guarantee either a present or a future of safety and certainty, regardless of the power of any modern device or abstract thought or ideal. Nature gifts us with a life in which nothing is guaranteed. Life exists as a perpetual state of uncertainty, to which the only solution is acceptance. The only way to live the life that Nature allows is to experience it fully in the microcosm of each moment. The reward for doing that is intimacy, not certainty. When we don’t have intimacy, the present moment seems valueless to us, and we feel impoverished, because it is all we have. But intimacy immerses us in the emotional richness of life’s process. In intimacy, we don’t need a future. Each moment is eternal, in the sense that time is not relevant—only life is. This is why a man will lay down his life for others, and why a mother will lay down her life for her child. It’s also why people who have risked their lives for others virtually always respond to praise by saying, “I am not a hero. I was just doing what anyone else would have done in that situation.” In all those acts, some of which cost them their lives, emotional intelligence is rewarding them for being true to life.


The Three Categories of Unconditional Love

The unnatural lives we moderns live are lived entirely in a synthetic world of our own creation, nearly every facet of which imposes role playing that contradicts our inborn emotional intelligence. When humans conjured up the idea of ownership we unwittingly created a world in which emotional honesty has no place. We’ve replaced emotional honesty with fear of the future. It has become our governing fixation that the uncertainty of the future is our enemy. Life’s purpose for modern humans has become an exercise in futility, as we bend every effort to ensure the impossible—a safe and secure future.

Though blunted by our fixation on controlling the future, our emotional intelligence continues to function. In essence, we respond to our artificial environment in the same way humans respond to any environment, by seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. For a social species, the ultimate pleasure is unconditional love, and the greatest pain is loneliness, or any sense of separation, even in a crowd. Three kinds of unconditional love exist. Motherly love serves life by inspiring a mother to nurture her young. Romantic love serves life by inspiring a couple to procreate. And brotherly or sisterly love serves life by inspiring a band of brothers and sisters to take care of one another for the sake of their mutual survival.

Modern humans experience only two of these three categories of unconditional love—motherly love and romantic love. Even in the institutionalized world, mothers are allowed to nurture their young, and couples are allowed to honor feelings of romance—except in instances where the romance is illicit. On the other hand, brotherly and sisterly love, through which humans form natural family bonds, have not existed for the thousands of years since men began owning women, through the practice of marriage. With the intent of realizing a certain future, men created marriage, which specifies the obligations of a man and a woman to each other, to their offspring, and to the tribe or state. But, these legally imposed edicts fly in the face of emotional intelligence. They make people dependents of institutions, instead of one another. This destroys the inter-dependence essential to experiencing brotherly and sisterly love.


The Elephant in the Room

In essence, our quest for certainty sets up an excruciating conflict within every human being. Each of us is personally blighted by the clash of artificially imposed obligations with our deepest primal need, the irrepressible impulse to serve life. Little wonder that the nuclear family, and the states that authorize it, are failing. Indeed, as leaders, political analysts, lawmakers, scientists, environmentalists, historians, educators, councilors, philosophers, and theologians seek solutions to the world’s problems, the elephant in the room is the dysfunctional nuclear family, an institution in a state of abject failure.

Why has no one noticed the elephant in the room, in our troubled world where over half of American adults now live alone? Why has no one recognized the implications of the high divorce rates, unhappy couples, overcrowded abuse shelters, and ever more children in need of foster care? It’s because civil states depend on the nuclear family to raise children—having outlawed natural human families by requiring women to marry in order to legitimize their children. In other words, for the state to succeed, the nuclear family must succeed. But, people are blinded to the possibility that the state could ever fail, by their unshakable belief that only centrally imposed order can keep humanity safe, into the distant future. To recognize that the nuclear family, on which the state’s existence depends, is failing, would be for modern humans to recognize that civil rule, itself, is failing. Quite understandably, no one seems ready for that. Not yet. The elephant in the room remains invisible, despite the immense pain that most of us have personally suffered as a result of its dysfunction.

Is the species, in fact, in the process of failing? I believe it is. But what I, or anyone else believes, doesn’t make it true. Only the future contains the truth, and, because the future hasn’t happened yet, it’s not telling. Mankind’s presumption that we can know the future—at least well enough to control it—is what cost us our spiritual freedom, the freedom to be true to ourselves.

If our species is, indeed, in a state of failure, the first step on the journey to recovery is for us to get “religious” about one thing: We must forget about the future, as Jesus implored us to do some two thousand years ago! All efforts to try to improve or correct the way our artificial world functions are not only wasted, but counterproductive, in terms of regaining intimacy and species wellbeing, the only things that really matter.


Recovering from Ownership Addiction

Because the future isn’t controllable, we have no choice regarding what happens. As long as we remain personally responsible for our own futures, we will find pleasure in living for the future by trying to control it. The idea of living in the moment by trusting our future to the wisdom of the human spirit will not appeal. And we will continue to suffer the immediate pain and inevitable chaos of our pointless quest, even if we recognize that the quest is pointless.

One reason we will continue on our pointless quest is that, being personally responsible for our own future, we are are left with no choice other than to try to control it. Also, until we understand why ownership rights forces us to live for the future, we will have no clue how to break the chain that continues to deprive us of the intimacy, peace of mind, and wellbeing intrinsic to living in the moment.

To recover from our state of failure we must recognize that granting property rights underlies all our emotional dishonesty. There are messages in pain. Feelings—not reason—inform us about how to be true to life. Reason exists exclusively to figure out how to satisfy feelings. As institutional dependents, we feel totally dependent on the things we own to survive, which is why our rational minds so ardently justify our right to own things, despite the consequences—consequences to which the rational mind is blind.

We think of ourselves as critical thinkers, but a critical thinker could see the elephant in the room—the nuclear family that is failing. Our mind sees the legal arrangement, that we call marriage, as the only possible basis for human families. This explains why our rational minds compulsively overlook the pain that results from giving men the right to own women—the right on which the nuclear family is based.

Because reason is limited to satisfying feelings, in the end, only feelings can inform us of the relationship between ownership and human suffering. The pain of unhappy, abusive, and/or broken family relationships, poverty, homelessness, unstable monetary systems, failed states, insurrections, international conflicts, and habitat destruction—all of which are inherent to granting ownership rights—must become so intense that people finally get the message. Recovering from the “drug” of ownership is much like recovering from any addiction. The pain must become so severe that people feel there is simply no way they can possibly go on. Only then will our rational minds consider abstinence. At that point, we may well realize we will be far better off if we accept the life that Nature gave us. To do that, we must forget about the future, and also abstain from the false presumption that by owning things we could ever control it.


Living In the Moment

Can people survive without owning anything? Well, we can’t do it alone. It requires a spiritual home, a place where, by virtue of emotional intelligence, the wellbeing of those around us is more important to us than our own. Establishing a spiritual home is beyond the scope of the present discussion, but is covered at length in my latest book, Take Us Home, Girls!

Why the focus on women? It’s because of my belief that humans are matriarchal, by nature. The core of a family governed by emotional intelligence is a female social bond—that is, a sisterhood. The significance of female bonds was alluded to in the movie, “A Field of Their Own.” When attending a reunion at the Baseball Hall of Fame, near the movie’s end, the son of one of the original team members told the lead character, played by Geena Davis, that his mother had passed on. He went on to say, “When I heard about the reunion I felt that I owed it to her to be here. She always said that the years she spent with the women was the best time she ever had in her life.” I see women as central to forming spiritual homes because I believe that to raise their children, women need to trust their lives to other women, instead of to the future promised by institutions or by men. By relying on emotional intelligence to form family bonds, they would be free to live in the moment. They would have “the best time they have ever had,”—even a better one than the women depicted in the movie. They would be playing life’s real game, rather than a contrived one. And the game would last for life.

Why is life a game? Because its outcome is uncertain. If life’s outcome were certain, then life would have no meaning, just as any game would be meaningless, if its outcome were certain.

And what about men? Ronald Reagan once said, “If there were no women in the world, men would have no clue what to do. We would be standing around in the forest staring at trees.”

In short, men would have no sense of who we are or why we are here. Regans words describe the essence of the spiritual difference between men and women. Without sisterly bonds to serve, men have no natural sense of purpose or identity. Thus, when they took ownership of women, men destroyed the sisterly bonds, depriving themselves of their natural identity. This is why men created the institutions with which they now identify, and why they hold them so sacrosanct (I am a patriot… I am a bishop… I own this land… I am a senator…).

In reality, it was always the women who held the spiritual authority and around whom the men gathered, as their emotional dependents and protectors. Modern women—so bereft of their natural spirits in modern life—yet retain the capacity to reconnect with their spiritual authority by again merging into sisterhoods, to form the core of new spiritual homes. If they can renounce institutional definitions of family, and again trust their inborn emotional intelligence to form family relationships, they will create new spiritual homes. Men’s spirits, too, will reawaken in response, as they realize that the only place where life is happening is where the women are. Thus, men and women will renew, together, the key elements of humanities Nature-given way of life—living in the moment. As supporters and protectors of the women and their children, men will rediscover, fully, their natural sense of purpose from which they once derived total fulfillment, while asking nothing for themselves, other than be accepted as a member of the family.

Modern men who join the new spiritual homes and natural families that I describe will no longer see women largely as trophies or sex objects, but as the beautiful and remarkable multidimensional spirits they really are. The atmosphere of human relationships in these new spiritual homes will take on an existence wholly different from the role playing and obligations that we now accept as family life. This is the atmosphere of unconditional love, which is best described as a relationship of mutual giving, without the expectation of anything in return. If just a few modern humans can experience the freedom and sense of wellbeing of such an atmosphere of spiritual trust, spiritual homes can spread rapidly, even in the midst of our institutionalized world.

Could spiritual homes spread rapidly enough to save our species? Saving the species is not an individual concern. Thanks to the gift of emotional intelligence, all spiritually free people contribute to their species’ success, simply by being true to their feelings. But no individual—or institution, for that matter—has the power to save our species on its own. Though we can’t save our species, our emotional intelligence amply rewards us for being true to life, through feelings of unconditional love. Should we regain the freedom to be emotionally honest, by forming spiritual homes, we will be fully rewarded in each moment. The future, the problems that so beset the world, the survival of our species—none of these will any longer be our concern. Nor should they be. None of these are concerns over which we ever had control.


Emotional Dishonesty

The pain of emotional dishonesty imposed by living for the future can be deadly. I recently attended a funeral service for a woman and her two children. The mother had been so distraught, as a result of her recent separation from her husband, that she had killed her two teenage children and herself. Hundreds of people were at the service, and the testimonials went on for an hour. My son was a longtime business partner of the husband, and had been trying to help them through their difficulties. After the services I told him how surprised I was that there were so many people there. In view of what she had done, I figured the mother must have felt isolated and alone. My son replied that, in the end, she was alone, because their problems had been kept hidden from the larger community. Here was this intelligent and remarkable women, so burdened with guilt and shame for having failed institutional obligations, that she chose death to sharing her feelings with her friends. How is it possible that we hold institutions so sacrosanct that we hide from, or lie about, how we really feel, to our closest friends?

First of all, religions teach us that it is more important to honor our institutions than to be true to ourselves. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”—Romans 3:23. To fail the institution of marriage, which we are taught is ordained by God, is to be a sinner. Given that, why wouldn’t a woman feel shame because her marriage was failing? But the issue goes deeper than religious beliefs. We all want our lives to count. In an institutionalized world, girls grow up believing that their purpose is to get married, have children, and raise a family. So, the mother wasn’t just facing the shame of seeing herself as having failed in the eyes of God. She was also facing the end of her life’s dream. The future to which she had devoted her life, was gone.


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