Chapter 4 of a soon to be published book, The Brain Virus—What Our Brains Don’t Want Us to Know
Having said what I have about marriage and father-child relationships, be assured that if you are emotionally close to your spouse—or, as a father, to your children—nothing that anyone says will change that. On the other hand, if you are emotionally estranged from people you are supposed to love, then, because of the views shared herein, you might begin seeing the circumstances of your relationships as the problem, instead of blaming one another.
Why are we so quick to blame people, instead of institutions for our problems? It is because our future sense of wellbeing is far more dependent on our belief in institutions, than our belief in people. If we suffer financial stress, we blame financial and business leaders, not the huge, ungainly institutions they are trying to manage. If the state isn’t doing well, we blame our president, or our congressional leaders, instead of the constitution that dictates placing people in such unrealistic positions of power. And, if we feel estranged from family members, we blame one another, instead of the institution that defines our relationships.
Our dependence on institutions is so absolute that we would have no idea how to survive, or form families, without them. In such a state of abject dependency, the “eyes” of those 100 billion neurons that reside between our ears are incapable of seeing the prevailing institutions as anything but above reproach. So, we continue blaming people, to explain why we feel emotionally disoriented, pained, and distressed.
Indeed, blaming people is the inspiration for our belief in original sin: “If only people were not evil,” we tell ourselves, “things would be wonderful.” The question is: Why don’t we implicate institutions, instead of people, by saying: If only institutions worked, things would be wonderful? Life has flourished on Earth for millions of years, yet we proclaim it evil, in order to sanctify civil institutions, despite their repeated cyclical failures throughout the short period of their existence. That we do this implies that we must indeed be infected with a brain virus. What else could explain it?
But how would we know how to live, without instituted laws to organize and inform us? In an important way, instituted laws are beside the point. They inform us about how to live in mass cultures, not about how to be happy. If we want to be happy, we must allow life to organize and inform us.
Though we do not come into the world with the knowledge required to live a happy life, we are born with the ability to experience pain and pleasure. Through those feelings, life naturally teaches us everything we need to know, to be happy. Through the pain of hunger, and the pleasure of eating, life teaches us that we need nourishment. Through the pain of chill, and the pleasure of warmth, life teaches us to tuck ourselves in on cold winter nights. Through the pain of loneliness, and the pleasure of familiar associations, life teaches us that, as members of a social species, we need one another to survive. Through the pain of spiritual estrangement, and the pleasure of intimacy inherent to interdependent relationships, life teaches us that we must depend on one another to be happy.
If happiness is so natural, why are we moderns perpetually pursuing it, rather than experiencing it? We are reduced to pursuing happiness, because we live in mass cultures. For a mass culture to exist, every individual must be directly accountable to the laws of the state. In other words, our right to exist is not granted by the people we are depending on to survive—the natural way. It is established by our rights of citizenship—the freedom to act according to the law, and have the right to claim the law’s protection. The reason we are not experiencing happiness is that, with our right to life granted by the state, we never experience life’s most important lesson about how to be happy. If we still depended on one another to survive, as our distant ancestors did, we would be privileged to experience the unconditional love inherent to interdependent relationships, each day of our lives. This is the “pleasure part” of life’s most essential lesson about happiness. The “pain part” of this life lesson is the spiritual alienation that results from being dependent on the state, instead of on one another, to survive. But, with the pain of spiritual estrangement as commonplace as the air we breathe, we are virtually unaware of the pain, much less that it embodies an essential lesson about happiness. The lesson of life we are missing out on is: To be happy, we must depend on one another, to survive.
That dependents of states are almost universally bereft of interdependent relationships largely explains our general state of unhappiness. Soldiers in isolated units on the battlefield are an exception. In these special situations, fighting for each other’s lives, against a common danger, human beings—ironically, but unfailingly—experience life’s greatest pleasure, the unconditional love intrinsic to interdependent relationships. When experiencing love, life makes perfect sense, regardless of our circumstances. Without love, life is a painful and bottomless mystery, making our life’s journey largely one of figuring out how to quell the pain and justify our existence. I suspect the main reason so many of our soldiers returning from Afghanistan find re-adjustment to civilian life so difficult, is that modern cultures provide no access to the love they had experienced on the battlefield. How does a person adjust to an existence he now recognizes as pointless, after having experienced one that makes sense?
By this example, I am not suggesting that being involved in armed conflict is required to experience unconditional love. The key to knowing unconditional love is that our wellbeing is as one with the wellbeing of those around us, regardless of our circumstances. Given that state of interdependence, people will experience unconditional love anywhere, even in the middle of New York City. That we aren’t experiencing it isn’t because we are unable to. It is because our legal and monetary identities make us each responsible for our own wellbeing, thus destroying the interdependence required for unconditional love. To know real happiness, therefore, requires that we figure out how to get rid of our legal and monetary identities. How do we do that? There is no specific answer to that question. I trust, however, that if a few of our brains managed to cleanse themselves of the legal-truth virus, together, we would figure it out.
But, don’t we learn about how to be happy from formal educations? Real happiness requires love, which is an expression of the human soul. Being an expression of life, love can only be experienced. It can’t be taught. Formal educations are useful only if we intend to spend our lives pursuing wealth and privilege. They teach us how to materially survive a world that money owns. As for our spiritual survival, we are left largely stranded and alone. Granted, through modern technology, formal knowledge does give us immense power. But, because formal knowledge is not an expression of the human soul, it offers no life direction. Power, without direction, is dangerous—the greater the power, the greater the danger.
Though formal educations can’t teach love, the most essential ingredient for happiness, our infected brains worship them anyhow. This worshipfulness is a reflection of societies’ collective veneration of the ever-increasing accumulation of formal knowledge that now strains the library shelves of the world. In essence, humanity views our massive store of formal knowledge as our ace-in-the-hole, as we face a future that seems increasingly uncertain. The problem is, we seldom manage the political will to play our hand. When we do, our cards come up looking more like deuces than aces, compared to the ones that Nature keeps placing on the table. So, we continue to worship formal education, though it offers no solution to basic issues such as spiritual alienation, broken homes, inequitable distribution of resources, hungry children, ideological loathing, failed governments, unstable monetary systems, looming environmental disaster, etc.
We live in a state of mindlessness that formal knowledge is hapless to address. A striking example is the fact that 80 people (just .0000001% of the world’s population) now own half the world’s wealth. We tolerate this because, as subjects of mass cultures, we have no clue what to do about it, regardless of all the formal knowledge we possess. This is not to blame the wealthy. They can’t solve the problems that result from institutional subjugation, any more than formal educations can. They are just doing what we would be doing, if in their situation. Indeed, many of them are great philanthropists.
Is there hope that, one day, we will pay attention to life’s lessons, regarding the relationship between interdependence and happiness? Without understanding how we became distracted, there is clearly no hope. My intent, here, is to draw as clear a picture of our situation as I can. If people start realizing why love and interdependence are inexorably linked, they might start forming spiritual homes again. Through such relationships, they will begin experiencing the pleasure part of life’s most important lesson, about happiness, for the first time in their lives. That experience, combined with the pain of spiritual alienation humanity increasingly suffers, might result in spiritual homes spreading quickly—far more quickly than we can now imagine. But, I am not predicting the future. What the future holds, for us, depends on how the billions of neurons that make up each of our brains react to our circumstances, as our situation continues to develop. No one can predict that.
I feel certain of one thing: Each time we blame people, rather than institutions, for our troubles, we are missing out on another of life’s lessons about how to be happy. To institutionalize life is, in effect, to imprison the human spirit. Though it looks good on paper, when put into practice, it just doesn’t work. Recognizing that institutions, not people, are the problem, would kill the brain virus, which is why it is the last thing the brain virus wants us to know. That we should not blame people isn’t to say people are perfect, because we’re not. But, whatever we are, we are all that life has. There is nothing more destructive to life than to blame people for our tribulations, and thereby completely overlook the role that institutions play in them.
The “evil” of greed is a prime example of blaming people for something caused entirely by our dependence on money. In a natural culture, success is the measure of one’s service to others. Greed would get an individual instantly ostracized. But, when money owns the world, success—and security—are largely the measure of one’s wealth, making greed simply a matter of each individual looking out for himself. We thus justify our legal subjugation, believing that, because humans are inherently evil, we need to be controlled. It has never occurred to us that the “evil” of greed is the direct and sole consequence of humans being controlled by money.
Living in mass cultures requires that we control humans, externally. But, life evolved to be controlled from within. As a consequence, sooner or later, life refuses to comply with external controls—a noncompliance that we judge to be evil. To manage the consequences of “evil,” we institute more external controls, resulting in even more noncompliance, and the need for evermore controls. This is why the number of laws required to govern any mass culture increase exponentially, with the passage of time. Eventually, most of the people can no longer tolerate the spiritual insult and dysfunction of it all, at which time the whole “house of cards” collapses. The point is: How can a being that evolved to serve life, when controlled from within, do so when forced to submit to external controls? Applying external controls to an organism as complex as a human being, is to treat it as though it is inherently untrustworthy. When we do that we can count on one thing: Our worst fears will be realized. Spiritual distrust breeds spiritual distrust. This is why, once humans accept their subjugation to sovereign states, there is virtually no way out—at least there never has been.
By redefining success, institutional subjugation traps the masses. Humans, who evolved to succeed by taking care of the people with whom they are emotionally acquainted, are locked into a forced competition against one another, all vying for the only guarantors of success in the modern world—money and property. This redefinition of success radically changes how we treat one another. By the standards of a natural culture, competing against each other, instead of helping each other to survive, is so grossly antisocial that our instincts judge us as unworthy, on that basis alone. This is probably why so many among us regularly pray to God, seeking absolution for our sins, even though we have broken no civil laws. Despite our heartfelt desire to do the right thing, and that our hands are clean in the eyes of the state, through the feeling that we are not yet good enough, our souls are telling us that we are not serving life. Add to this the opportunities for corruption and tyranny that mass cultures uniquely provide, and civilized people have virtually limitless reasons to distrust one another. Consequently, we are trapped in an abject state of spiritual distrust.
Once trapped, we not only remain trapped, but we worship our institutional cage. This is not just because we are dependent on its monetary system to survive, but also because we depend on its police to protect our property and ourselves, from one another—often from family members.
Our institutional cage is like a lobster trap, easy to get in, but hard to get out. A lobster could escape its trap, if it knew how the trap worked. Likewise, we too can escape, but only if we understand the nature of our trap. First, our trap constrains us emotionally, not physically, which is why we don’t realize we are trapped. Secondly, the trap’s bate is an illusion—which is the idea that the right to own property and accumulate wealth results in happiness. In actuality, happiness is about our relationships in the moment. It is not the result of wealth or legally-imposed promises to be fulfilled at a later date. Our frustration in pursuing future happiness is evident in the old adage: “Be careful what you wish for, lest you get it.” When we pursue happiness by owning things, spiritually speaking, we become owned by what we possess. With everyone taking care of their possessions, there is no one available to take care of life.
But, to escape our trap, we must understand, above all else, that humans are not inherently evil. We just see ourselves in that light when denied the freedom to relate to one another according to the sensibilities of our souls. Each time we blame people for how they behave when spiritually trapped—as when we lay blame for greed, or for honoring an illicit romance—we are adding more bricks to the walls that emotionally constrain us. (In a spiritually-free culture, an illicit romance cannot exist: Without people making personal lifetime claims on one another, there is no definition for it.) Those brick walls are made manifest by institutionalized laws, but they are authorized by virus-infected minds. Though those walls reside exclusively in our minds, they have stood supreme and irreproachable for thousands of years. We will start tearing them down the moment we stop blaming people for antisocial behaviors—like greed, like tyranny, like corruption—that require legal subjugation to even exist.
Does not laying blame mean we should avoid anger also? No. Anger is an expression of the soul. When we express anger we are saying, “I don’t like that.” By thus being true to our feelings of the moment, we are being true to life. When we lay blame, on the other hand, we are being true to the “universal truth” that governs our mass culture. By blaming, we are saying, in effect, that God—the government—doesn’t like that. When we lay blame, we are not being true to ourselves, or to life. We instead are playing God, by being true to the institutions that subjugate us.
To grasp why blame is mindlessness, consider this: Each of us, at this moment, are the product of two things, neither of which we control—first, the unique set of innate sensibilities, features, and capabilities we were born with, and second, the way those features have reacted to our unique set of life experiences. And new life experiences that we could never imagine may substantially change our beliefs over time. Consider Governor George Wallace apologizing, in his later years, to African Americans. He was never evil. As a governor, he was simply a human organism reacting to life experiences in a quite normal way. In other words, he was a victim of legal subjugation, as are all of us when we behave in ways that are destructive to life. So, if we aren’t going to blame others, let’s also not blame ourselves.
When we blame, not only do we presume to possess the wisdom of God, we also demonstrate our lack of awareness that each individual is a product of Nature and nurture, neither of which he controls. Consequently, by laying blame, we become innocent-but-mindless gods. This is also true of our detractors—such as terrorists, for example—who blame us for their tribulations. In their acts of terror, though clearly destructive to life, they too are innocent-but-mindless gods.
The point is, if mass cultures didn’t exist, none of this would be happening. Without mass cultures to sanctify, there would be no “universal truths.” Unless one is privy to “God’s word,” there is no possible justification for behaving like gods—mindless, or otherwise. Instead of people proclaiming what should be, there would simply be what is, as experienced through feelings such as love, anger, acceptance, and rejection. It is through these, and all our other orchestrations of innate feelings, that life sustains itself by rewarding and punishing us, from within, on the basis of our successes and failures at being true to life.
When we are true to our anger, or any other feeling of the moment, we feel closer to life. When we blame, we are placing concerns about our future above our desire to participate in life, which, given our circumstances, is quite natural. But, every time we do so, we feel more separated from life, and evermore vindicated by the institutions that emotionally enslave us. In other words, by laying blame, we are playing into our “master’s” hands.
In all of Western history, only three men gained prominence by recognizing that people are not to blame, regardless of the things we do. Those three are Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. If the brain virus allowed us to think about it, we would soon recognize the simplicity of what they understood—that our attitudes and behaviors are far more determined by our need to survive the monetary and legal impositions of mass cultures, than by the wisdom that Nature confided to each of our souls.
These three men were all killed by states or zealots—in each instance, justified by religious or legal truth. Be forewarned, when living in a culture governed by a system of truth, instead of by the sensibilities of the human soul: Recognizing that blame is mindless behavior is dangerous to one’s health.
Because these men did not participate in the mindlessness of laying blame, they remained in touch with the wisdom of their souls. As a consequence, remarkable transformations resulted from each of their lives. But, just a few men—regardless of what they understand—can never produce the transformation necessary to bring about a general state of happiness. What we need is a whole world of people who recognize blame as mindless behavior, and refuse to participate in it. Then we will have a whole world of people who are in touch with the wisdom of their souls.
Will that world ever exist? I don’t know. There’s a big hill to climb, so, whatever happens, let’s not blame ourselves. That world—if it were, someday, to exist—would not be a perfect one. A perfect world, incidentally, would be a meaningless world. There would still be, illness, death, and conflict. But, regarding the sense that we belong, and that we are each needed and cared for, things would be very different—unimaginably so. As Jesus said, Heaven is at hand. All we need is to do as he implored us to do: Forget about the future so we can attend to one another’s needs in the moment through relationships of spiritual trust. If we will do that, he told us, then, the future will take care of itself.
To believe in Jesus is not to believe in the institutions on which mass cultures depend. To believe in Jesus is to believe in life. Do we believe in people, or do we believe in institutions? We can’t believe in both. Our answer to that question is all-important. Our happiness, and the ability of our kind to continue inhabiting this planet, depend on it.
Given our present state of institutional dependency, the possibility that humans could exist without institutions seems so remote that infected brains tend to impulsively discount the idea. They don’t want to hear about it, much less consider it. But, no matter the extent to which the legal-truth virus has disconnected us from reality, our brains actually do want to comprehend the real nature of our circumstances. Why else would we be spending billions on particle accelerators trying to figure out how the universe functions? The problem is that we will never learn about love and happiness by investigating what is going on out there. To learn about love and happiness, we must understand how life functions, so we can respect what’s going on inside us. In that reverence, our reverence for life, lies the hope for mankind.
Given the rapid advances now occurring in brain science, I believe the view expressed herein, regarding why the happiness of interdependent relationships, and our species survival, are inexorably linked, will soon be arriving from so many sources that, eventually, it will be difficult to ignore. And, despite having to endure the initial shock of recognizing, not only that humans can live without institutions, but that sooner or later we have to, we will never regret knowing.
Love doesn’t answer the question, “Why do I exist?”
Love erases the question.