Happiness and Species’ Survival are Inexorably Linked
In the natural world, each individual enjoys life by satisfying its feelings, feelings that reveal the survival wisdom of its species. In this way, by enjoying life, it simultaneously contributes to its species’ success. No individual chooses not to satisfy its feelings. In Nature, circumstances do, sometimes, prevent an individual from satisfying its feelings—for example, when it can’t find water to quench its thirst. But, no individual ever knowingly deprives itself of happiness by ignoring how it feels. In other words, it never intentionally breaks the rules of life’s game that are essential to its species’ success. There is no righteousness, holiness, or purity about this: It is because, in Nature, there is no reason for an individual to ever do anything other than to try to satisfy its strongest feeling.
Only we humans, who live in institutionalized societies, knowingly deny our feelings of the moment. We regularly deny how we really feel, for example, in order to honor the spirit of the legal arrangements that define our relationships. Indeed, the lack of intimacy and happiness rampant among humans is largely the result of trusting our relationships to legal arrangements, instead of to feelings. It is a practice humans have engaged in since the advent of our very first social contracts. Having said that, it’s important to understand that we aren’t to blame for this transgression against life. Denying our feelings of the moment is simply a normal biological response to an abnormal sociological environment. It is imposed by the circumstances of our present-day existence, which none of us ever asked for. Our souls (by which I mean our instincts, our emotions, our spirits) are punishing us enough for our transgressions. Let’s not add to our suffering by blaming ourselves. But the transgression, intended or not, has derailed our species from its normal trajectory of survival, despite the fact that there are now over eight billion of us. Overpopulation, like habitat destruction, is but a reflection of humanity’s inner turmoil.
The game of life is never intentional. It is the result of individuals doing what their emotions tell them they need and want to do, every moment of their lives. Given this central importance of feelings to life’s very existence, it’s curious that humans have never stopped to ask why feelings exist, even as we continue adding to our collective knowledge by making an astonishing number of discoveries that are of are lesser importance, by comparison. Many philosophers and self-help authors have written about feelings, but only within the context of managing them to reduce pain, with techniques such as meditation, positive thinking, being grateful for what we have, or finding comfort in beliefs, myths, and mantras. But they have not addressed the crucial question of why feelings exist in the first place.
Like us, early humans did not know that feelings exist to inspire the natural order required for species to thrive. So, once their linguistic skills evolved to the point that they could imagine and share concerns about the indefinite future, they began to fear that their future would be chaotic. To prevent chaos, humans created centralized systems of rule, never realizing they were replacing the natural governance of feelings with artificial systems of governance. These “systems,” regardless of what form they took—kingships, dictatorships, democracies, capitalism, socialism, or communism—were all based on the illusion that there are rational solutions for the problems that face mankind. Not knowing that only feelings can create life-sustaining order—an order that is infinitely complex, compared to the order that any system of rules could prescribe—they had no choice, other than to seek order in illusions. The consequences of this mistake were soon compounded, as we began organizing en masse—first tribes, then, with the advent of the written word, nation states.
Living Without Want
As subjects of states many things became possible for humans that could not even have been imagined when we were subjects of Nature. For the first time in human existence, large numbers of people could be applied to achieving specific goals. Thus began humanity’s unending quest for the know-how to attain ever-more-complex goals, a quest which has resulted in our remarkable body of accumulated knowledge, and the technological progress it made possible.
But, how does all this square with the game of life? The question was never asked. For thousands of years, now, humanity has increasingly been absorbed in our quest for knowledge, as if the very reason for our existence is to satisfy our curiosity regarding all things unknown.
This conviction, so persistent among modern humans, was addressed in a poignant quote from the film, “Particle Fever,” a documentary on how the Large Hadron Collider is being used to investigate the origin of all matter. Particle physicist Savas Dimopoulos was celebrating human curiosity, when he spoke. But, ironically, from my perspective, he has proven my point about the error in humanity’s increasing estrangement from our natural origins.
Why do humans do science?
Why do they do Art?
The things that are least important to our survival,
Are the very things that make us human.
We think that all the abstract knowledge we have amassed, all the technology that upholsters our lives with comfort and takes us to the moon, are what make us human. But in my view, this is an errant perspective that will surely seal our fate, if it continues.
I am not disparaging Dimopoulos, nor other scientists, for the joy they experience with each advancement of knowledge that occurs in their fields. Advances in awareness excite me too, which is why I am involved in the study of human behavior. Dimopoulos’s statement profoundly demonstrates, however, that when we are cut off from the full orchestration of our natural feelings, we can’t participate in achieving life’s objective. Simply, and utterly, life’s objective is species survival. Without realizing that objective, no species can exist, and that objective has nothing to do with understanding the origins of the universe.
Since we were first taken by the sense of purpose we derive from advancing human knowledge, we have never looked back, never considered even the possibility that we had made a wrong turn. But, in terms of winning life’s game, our quest for knowledge was a wrong turn. You see, neither the knowledge we have gained, nor the technological progress that resulted play any role in the game of life. Knowing that galaxies exist, that the earth is round, that the sun will burn out in around six billion years, that the force of gravity is inversely proportional to the distance squared between objects, or how to go to the moon—none of this has anything to do with the game of life. Consequently, the progress that we so value contributes nothing to the spiritual/emotional wellbeing without which both individual happiness and our species’ eventual survival are impossible. This is why, as Martin Luther King Jr. so aptly noted in his Noble Peace Prize Lecture, “The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become spiritually.”
We think we are soaring, but we’re not even in life’s game. Not free to satisfy our feelings of the moment—a freedom that only the game of life allows—we quite naturally are in pain. This explains “the poverty of the spirit” of which King spoke, and from which humanity suffers, today.
Excerpt from: Take Us Home, Girls! Download a free copy at SpiritualFreedomPress.com