I spend a lot of time studying, thinking and writing about what we are. It sounds somewhat clinical and it is. I think most people would rather focus on who we are, our uniqueness, our dramas. And those are definitely worthwhile topics. However, the population of our Earth, us, are in real need of some consensus, equity, and stability. Wars; financial, racial, ethnic, religious, or whatever, are not-so-slowly eroding the humanity of humanity. Did you know that under prolonged stress certain parts of our brain shut down? Given enough time and stress, or enough of a severe trauma, we retreat back into the primitive, “reptilian”, fight or flight, structures of our brain. We literally lose important aspects of what makes us human. It is the more recently evolved areas of our brain that shut down first. Under prolonged duress our brain shuts down, generally, from the front/outside inward.
What are some of the stressors that can and do affect us in this way, that cause our brain, our consciousness, to begin retreating into it’s more primitive areas? We can sum them up as conditions/events that cause us to be in a state of significantly heightened stress and/or fear. These include; war, poverty, starvation, abuse, rape, assault, severe or prolonged trauma.
Do the shut down areas of our brain ever re-activate? To a greater or lesser extent healing/recovery is possible, under the right conditions. And it takes time. We need to take note: if we want to behave like violent, primitive beings we start becoming exactly that, in the most real way possible. To me, returning to a past that evolution has already selected against is not a desirable future.
So, what do we do? How can we change things? What do we change and what do we change it into? Those questions are what lead me to be so passionately interested in knowing more about what we are. What are our commonalities? It is in recognizing our commonalities that we can find the common ground upon which we can build foundations of understanding, empathy, and mutuality. Foundations upon which we can fashion basic working cultural systems that can embrace all of humanity.
We need cultural systems we can not just survive within but thrive within. This does not translate into meaning that we need financially wealthy cultures. Financial well-being is essential but it is just one part of the whole of human needs. We need cultural systems which allow us to develop our human capabilities in as full and wholesome a manner as possible. Our human capabilities, which when healthy and whole, allow us to experience more well-being, joy and vitality than many of us may be able to currently imagine. And that wholeness cannot be obtained with money alone.
Often the analogy of a snowflake is used to show how we are all unique, like snowflakes. And if all we look at is the appearance of the snowflake there is truth in the analogy. However, if we look deeper, at what the snowflake is composed of, at what a snowflake needs to exist, they are the same materials and conditions for all snowflakes. All snowflakes are composed of water and need a certain range of temperature to form and a certain range of temperature to remain a snowflake. So, at their most basic level, all snowflakes are alike. Uniformity and uniqueness all rolled into one! The same is true for people. While we all are different in various ways from one another, ways that can make getting to know one another exciting and worthwhile, at our most basic levels we are all the same. We all are essentially the same organic beings that need a certain range of temperature to live, shelter from inclement weather, clothing, air, food, water and a reasonable degree of safety. When we achieve those things we can begin to expand more of our awareness into the aspects of our lives that draw us out, higher functioning areas of our bodies and spirits that we love and want to develop.
Our differences, the aspects of ourselves that make us unique human beings can be wonderful. We would undoubtedly become bored silly with ourselves if we were all the same in every way. It can make us feel very good when someone recognizes and appreciates the more individualized aspects of ourselves which we have been working to develop. And when we are recognized for the aspects of ourselves which we have in common with everyone else it can make us feel safe, secure, and “at home”. We need to be recognized for both of these aspects of our being.
A culture based in competition tends to focus on our uniqueness, what can we do better than everybody else? It is a mindset that breeds either vanity or bitterness. In our commonality we can find belonging. Competitiveness is not required to either develop or appreciate our unique, personal attributes and abilities.
In order to put an end to the violent competitions, wars. that have plagued humanity throughout history and still diminish us; we need, as a species, to more highly value cooperation along with recognition and appreciation of others.