By Robert Simmons
Elephants are big suckers and take up a lot of space, but if you let them hang around long enough, you start getting used to them being there, and simply maneuver around them. Sometimes you almost forget they are there. Almost. In reality, the path or course We take everyday is altered because of these big-ass Elephants. And also, they take really big dumps and We cannot help but step in it every once in a while. And yet We still feed these Elephants, tip-toe around them, and step in their shit. Go figure.
For Our purposes, think of Elephants as representing Nature: Our Nature. Those nagging notions inside Our heads that often lead Us away from the best version of Ourselves. Truthfully, the fact that We actually think about reaching for some higher path is encouraging for Us as a species, even if We fall short of it every single day. We wish to posit that all of Us are born with a will to head toward some ideal version of Ourselves, and that only when We are forced “off road” do We veer from this natural path. If We take this as Our working hypothesis, We then might assume that when people succumb to their baser instincts, it is because they are either Ignorant of a better path or choice, or have been forced “off road”, onto some divergent path, possibly by some traumatic event(s), past or present, where relying on baser instincts is now perceived as a necessity. This mandates that We
- attempt to educate everyone about some better long-term “path”.
- make sure We back up this so-called “better” course of action by consistently rewarding those who attempt it (versus punishing those who don’t, which simply feeds into people retreating into “survival mode”)
- take away, as much as possible, the uncertainty or inequality that triggers Our “survival mode” instincts.
So what are some of the facets of our Nature that We tip-toe around every day, but rarely meet head-on?
An excess of brains is perhaps overrated. In truth, humans basically need to survive just long enough to procreate, and avoiding danger is definitely helpful in this regard. Unfortunately, Our brains are now hard-wired to be vigilant. True, some people inexplicably try taking a selfie with a wild bear on occasion, but this only goes to show that a little Fear is actually a good thing. So let’s try to mix a dash of Fear with two cups of Brains (meaning knowledge / experience) and proceed with cautious optimism. Fear mixed with Ignorance and / or Belongingness is equivalent to mixing gasoline with a lighted match. OBSERVATION: Fearful actions invariably speak louder than the seemingly tough words that accompany them.
OUR VIOLENT NATURE
Some say that violence is “inhumane”. We contend that it is in fact uniquely human, and until We stop resorting to it, We might as well own that fact. Violence, without a doubt, is one of Our defining traits. This current batch of humans were baked with only the most violent ingredients. When forced, there is not one of us who wouldn’t entertain killing something or someone in order to survive. And that, allegedly, is the justification. So why do We commit violence when it does not appear We have a justification?
WHAT WE CALL “EVIL”
Nope. Evil is a term We use, like many terms We use, in order NOT to think about something. Granted, We probably feel helpless in the face of this ever-present and pervasive issue We call violence, and perhaps do not even mean to dismiss it. But the fact is, when We call violence Evil, We remove any possibility of eventually getting to the bottom of it.
OUR HIDDEN SHAME
Now We are getting warmer. Shame, if you have ever had the displeasure of experiencing it, feels like an assault on your soul. It may not be a physical attack, but the effect is amazingly potent, and most assuredly triggers the “survival instinct”.
NOTE: Public Shaming might shut someone up, but the shunning of people does not extinguish their behavior, it simply pushes it underground where We can no longer monitor or treat it, and likely adds a more vicious edge to a now “hidden” agenda.
OUR SILENT SUFFERING
Think We might be getting red hot.
The “Tip of The Iceberg” analogy may be overused, but it does paint the picture pretty well: for anything that occasionally pops up and is visible at the surface, there is a whole lot of shit going on that we don’t see. The abuse that precedes the abuse, the hate that precedes the hate, the violence that precedes the violence; the way negative or traumatic experiences color our perception of the world, so that one person sees blue skies and another sees something much less inviting.
So, what the hell has someone done to you? And what the hell are you now doing to someone else? We need to know both sides of the story, and with scientific objectivity observe and hypothesize, experiment and analyze, but never allow Ourselves to taint the data with an emotional interpretation or reaction, which will continue to muddy the search for an eventual solution.
BOTTOM LINE: Our working hypothesis is that 1) We are all violent, 2) We use violence only as a survival mechanism (to eat or defend Ourselves), 3) All things being equal, and barring obvious mental illness or narcissistic greed, humans, we will assume, do not in fact commit seemingly “random” acts of violence, but react violently due to conditioning (systemic abuse) mixed with survival instinct triggers like uncertainty (poverty / inequality), shaming (shunning / disrespect), bullying, isolation, et al. – Research would include collecting data from violent offenders, and solutions would involve removing triggers while identifying risk factors early in childhood development (through Our new lifetime mental health counseling mandate).
IGNORANCE AS AN EXCUSE FOR NOT THINKING
Living in the dark and getting fed a lot of bullshit, that’s the life of a mushroom. We can do better. No matter how hard We try, however, the fact is We will always be ignorant of many things. Ignorance in itself does not become dangerous until you are forced to make a decision. None of us can know everything. Sometimes we have to trust what someone else is telling us. We will tend to trust people with whom We most identify (that belongingness thing), but in Our new all-inclusive, fates-tied-together model, Everyone gets to be their own person, who does not need to know anything except their own mind. Who We are is ultimately defined by Our choices and actions, and since these are the only things We truly have any control over, We must fight to protect the ability to choose for Ourselves at every moment. To do this effectively, it will be crucial that each person thinks ahead of time about the kind of person they want to be, so that when other people are struggling with their weaknesses, you can stick to your personal vision of who you want to be, and choose the appropriate course of action for you. If you are really strong, you might even be able to speak for others around you who cannot or will not speak for themselves. If someone does try to recruit you for something that is not in your comfort zone, saying “not today” works when you are feeling unthreatened, and “I’ll think about it” is a good line when the pressure feels a little more intense. These kinds of moments are super tough, which is why a trusted counselor or other mentor needs to be a phone call away. We are going to make that happen.
This is allegedly a collection of our ancestor’s greatest hits. Some of them have a nice sound to them still, I guess. Some of them, like Disco, are supposed to be dead, but occasionally We start humming these old tunes again, and they come out of the closet for awhile until We remember why We put them there in the first place.
Tradition is basically taking a dead person’s word for something without spending any time thinking about it yourself. You might as well jump off that cliff with Johnny, who according to my parents was seriously considering jumping off a cliff. I actually have no corroborating evidence that Johnny ever did jump, but purveyors of Tradition are asking all of Us to take this leap of faith: that somehow people from the past were so smart that somewhere between bloodletting and inbreeding, eugenics and slave-trading they figured out something so perfect that none of Us should bother to question it or attempt to improve upon it.
BOTTOM LINE: let’s Meet in the Middle and all agree to educate Ourselves (learn from the triumphs [and mistakes] of Our past) and forge ahead with eyes wide open instead of completely shut. All of Us have a need for certainty in Our lives, and doing things because “that’s the way it’s always been done” provides certainty – order, consistency, predictability, stability – We get that. Change involves uncertainty, that leads to anxiety. Things like changing jobs or relationships or locations, not to mention the death of family members, is really awful. Thankfully, We are very resilient at Our core, and whatever happens, We find a way through it. When We Meet in the Middle, We can form some new traditions, something that is a Win / Win for everyone, and gives everyone a feeling of certainty, and fairness, and inclusivity.
OUR THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
This seems to be a big nod to one of our basest instincts: Our unquenchable thirst to consume. The assumption that Happiness is somewhere “out there”, and must be pursued, rather than the possibility it could be contained within Us, is frankly a big downer. One thing is for sure: unless We moderate Our desire to consume, like a virus We will eventually be killed by Our host (the planet Earth) or We will kill Our host, and thus [as most viruses do] end up dead either way. People with enough money are already entertaining the only other option a virus has: leaving the host and floating around in “space”, hoping to infest a new host. Whatever spaceship they devise will need to travel a helluva long way to reach that option. Until then, perhaps We should entertain the concept of Moderation and Cooperation with Our host, instead of the parasitic relationship We currently endorse.
Old school basketball star Charles Barkley once commented that he never did drugs because he was afraid he might like them. I feel you, Charles. It is in Our nature to consume. We are most likely hard-wired to accumulate [or even hoard] the things that We find necessary to Our survival. Probably for the same reason people [and all species] have more offspring when the environment is sketchy and survival is less secure, We probably consume too much because feelings of anxiety are driving Our decision-making process, most likely the Fear of deprivation. Capitalism provides the perfect combination of anxiety and exploitation, designed to rattle us then sell us all sorts of self-defense products, or comfort us using food laced with lab-tested additives sure to get Us hooked. Drinks that provide a “kick”, tobacco spiked with nicotine; just create a little uncertainty and throw in some opioids. Profits first. People second.
Greed is perhaps when addiction meets narcissistic personality disorder. Although all addictions are an attempt to fill some bottomless hole, greed seems centered around a desire to subdue or control one’s external surroundings, versus simply filling a void within oneself. This would require a lack of empathy for anyone who might be “in the way”, which puts greed in the company of narcissists, psychopaths, sociopaths, schizophrenics et al. Someday We will find out that all of Us are simply projecting onto the world that which was projected onto Us at an early age, and because Actions Always Speak Louder Than Words, we may discover that some abuse has befallen these individuals such that a defensive shell has formed, one that blocks the ability for empathy to enter. From a survival mode, it seems only natural that this “shell” would exist, in order to aid in battle for one’s own existence; to shut off emotion when something horrible and violent needs to be done. Once this hind-brained defense mechanism is isolated and understood, hopefully We can learn how to not activate it (through better parenting methods), or even to deactivate it if necessary, in order that empathy can be introduced. NOTE: Empathy will now be treated as a “language”, introduced early to all children. If any child struggles with absorbing this language early on, it may serve as a warning sign for school counselors and others in the health care system to get involved in discovering why.
OUR NEED TO FEEL “SPECIAL”
Ok, I cannot speak to this, as I have personally never been special, but as an expert in not being special, I can tell you that life is a lot easier for people like me. I never have to worry about eventually accumulating enormous wealth, then finding out I am still not happy. That would suck. I don’t have to worry about cheating in any way to appear smarter or wealthier or better looking, as I have no hope of winning any of those contests. Not being in social competition with other people is such a relief. I don’t have to compare myself to others. I am free to connect with everyone, root for everyone, forgive everyone, and get along with everyone, except for people who perceive me as a threat, but pretty soon I get along with them, too, when they find out I am in fact not a threat. I have learned how to be content, which is much more sustainable than happiness [that seems to fluctuate like the stock market, and like the stock market, is probably based on over-inflated expectations]. I cannot be manipulated into buying anything that might make me appear more special, which is great because most of that stuff is really expensive. And if anyone begins a conversation by telling me I am special, I immediately know they are full of shit, and are trying to sell me something I don’t need. I never gamble, because I do not expect to win. I don’t feel lucky, so I am forced to work hard in order to improve my odds for success. Scoring low on physical attractiveness has really helped me form a personality, and cultivate more likable qualities like humility, gratitude and an ability to not take myself too seriously. In conclusion, I highly recommend NOT being special whenever possible.
In the beginning, Man made god in His own image…
Wait. I turned that around. Let me start over.
Anyone who has recently spoken with God or received an email or something, please come forth. Anyone else claiming to speak for God, no offense, but I always imagined God to be smarter-sounding than you. I would prefer to wait until God gets back, when I’m sure We can straighten out any confusion. When God gets back.
Since We are on the subject, however, I would like to take this moment to give a shout-out to the Maker of All Things. God is by far my favorite artist, mathematician, engineer, biologist, geneticist, architect, designer – basically God kicks ass at everything. I especially like some of the infrastructure: clean hydrogen solar power, a cloud-based sprinkler system, and super clean windows with a rotating, 360 degree view of the Cosmos. Mind-blowing stuff. And even though government or the private sector usually tries to take credit for any job creation, God pretty much invented all of those jobs, and the rest of Us have been reverse engineering his shit for years and still can’t figure out how God did most of it. Anyway, I am happy and grateful for the chance to witness even a small sample of it. Thanks, God. You’re the best.
People, on the other hand, are a rash on the face of an otherwise attractive-looking planet. We’re embarrassing Ourselves. It’s possible God wants nothing to do with Us. I hope that’s not true. Can We at least try to do a little better? Your help on this will be greatly appreciated.
Everyone on this planet is alive because your momma had sex. I personally do not want to picture that, and perhaps this is why We don’t wish to talk about it all that much, but when We do NOT talk about things, the door is open for Ignorance or Tradition or Fear or Religion or Violence to stroll in and pervert the conversation.
This is what happens when We start agreeing with SHAME, and feels like it might create a potential for Suicide. Let’s get all over this as soon as possible. Shaming has to be a learned behavior, in order to belong in a seemingly tenuous environment. Let’s quietly and subtly shun / ignore the “Shamers”; there is no place for it, as it always seeks out the weakest victim. Go punch the school bully in the face before you ever pick on someone weaker than you. Actually, don’t punch the school bully, his parents probably knock him around already. God, We have a lot of work to do.
This is so big, it needs a lot of unpacking, but refers to being deprived of independence and responsibility for so long, it leaves a person unable to fend for themselves, and leads to an even greater deterioration of one’s mental and physical health. Creating dependent people is the opposite of where We want to go. This is why We need to get people out of prisons and on a path toward autonomy. We have to be careful with Our homeless and Our elderly as well. But the hardest fix will be the institutionalization caused by the Welfare System. One of the byproducts of Capitalism is Welfare, although the so-called “Right” is careful not to claim it. It allows them to make the Middle Class pay for it. Meanwhile, the so-called “Left”, unable to denounce Capitalism for fear of losing votes, continues to clean up the Capitalist’s messes by catching everyone who falls through the inevitable cracks in this unsustainable system.
THE BETTER ELEPHANTS OF OUR NATURE
This comes from the fact that We have never been the most physically imposing figure in the jungle. We’ve had to survive by Our wits, and Our wits no doubt told Us to form alliances pretty quick in order to survive. There are so many great side benefits to being around other People. This is the Elephant We need to keep around, and feed and nurture. But We only need one of them, to represent all of Us, together. We’ll rename it Inclusivity.
People can overcome amazing adversity, as long as We have others beside Us who can “feel Our pain”. Fairness is simply “relative equality”, but if there is any adjacent group that is living large while others are suffering, animosity or resentment can grow. Again, We need to bring Fairness up to the front when making decisions, so it can influence Us on every decision We make.
To allow our frontal lobes to take over, and give our hind brains a rest, We need more Certainty. Uncertainty turns on all of Our survival instincts, which are only good in short term situations, and are not in Our best interest long term. Let’s give Uncertainty a long, much needed rest.
…Between all of Our defense or coping mechanisms, there are sure to be many other Elephants hovering around. We will leave it to others to name them all.