The Problem with being Human is that we are unaware that we create our own reality. Even if we perhaps become marginally aware every now and then, for most of us, we still do not how we do it - create our reality that is - nor what to do about it.
As a result, for most of us life seems more full of downs than ups, of disappointments more than satisfaction to the extent that we often feel victims,, that life is happening to us or at us, that people make us angry or upset, and that a lot of what happens is the fault of others.
I wrote The Problem with being Human because I knew from experience that many others experienced similar ups and downs, similar bouts of joy and suffering, similar rights and wrongs as I did, and still do at times. Some of those others will have asked themselves similar questions as I had asked myself, questions like ‘Why is this happening to me?’, ‘Where does this come from? Why am I like this? Is this really me? Who am I really and what am I doing here? I had learned to try and be aware of my own behaviour and often saw myself watching me. I learned that asking why this is happening is a useless question. Rather I should be saying – what can I do about it because it, whatever it is, is here and has to be dealt with, not complained about.
For increasing numbers of people the world is going to hell in a handcart. It doesn’t take much to see that the world and its peoples are really in a difficult place right now. For example some tell us we have global warming and many places will be flooded, and others deny it. Some say we have unsustainable growth in population and others deny it. Some say that food resources will dry up for many and others deny it. Some say our topsoil – equivalent to our life-blood – is dying and others deny it. Some say we have politicians we can trust, others don’t. News on one side of the world cause worry and distress on the other side in seconds. We are told that there is more depression and stress than at any other time in our recorded history but one thing does seem unassailable and that is that we can’t put things right using old thinking. It is old thinking that caused the problems in the first place.
People need something in which they can trust and I am suggesting that the first thing they should be able to trust is themselves. When the world is going to hell in a handcart, trust yourself and know that you are OK because you are being true to yourself, are comfortable with yourself wherever you may be. Given that we become what we think, it all starts with what you think.
The book is in three parts:
Part 1 describes how we largely create our reality from various levels of unawareness, self-adopted conditioning, knee-jerk reactions or automatic responses without taking the time to think about the repercussions of what we say or do, or of how we behave. As life seems to get faster we find it harder to keep up, so it is often easier to do as we have always done and therefore we get what we always got, in conversations, relationships and other forms of give and take.
When we say ‘you upset me’ we are actually blaming another person for the way we feel. In reality I did not upset you – such a thing would be impossible to achieve - it was in fact you who chose to be upset by whatever it was that I did or said. But I cannot upset you - only you can do that to yourself. It’s a subtle distinction to absorb because it may well turn the way we thought we behaved upside down. At the least the reaction we got was possibly the opposite of that which we intended.
Everything exists only in the perception and how we interpret experience. No one thing is exactly the same for everyone. We talk of reality as if there were only one; in fact we are fast approaching 8 billion realities – all of them unique in some way. Reality is relative.
Part 2 is about changing the way we look at things because then those things themselves change. If we change the way we look at things then we naturally change the way we think by letting go of much of what the past has taught us. We take a fresh look at the validity of ancient, universal truths such as you reap what you sow, or do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Did we ever think that such sayings apply to thoughts as well as actions? And we take a look at beliefs that are commonly rejected today because they are unconventional. I ask readers to ask their own questions and seek out their own answers, their own truths from within and not merely repeat the mantras of others.
Part 3 is about cultivating higher thinking, awareness or consciousness, because that is the way to dispose of the roller-coaster life of ups and downs, to leave behind the dramas and teachings of others and experience your own heart-felt truth. Part 3 is all about raising your consciousness with a focus on ways and means, and techniques and examples.
We all draw different perceptions and, therefore, conclusions from the experiences we have no matter how similar. For some it may lead to difference and separation while for others it will lead to diversity and togetherness. Much depends on how much we want to change the way we look at things which is, after all, largely a synthesis of what others have told us, or what convention has made of us. I am suggesting, to misquote Hamlet, that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in the philosophies of many of us.
I introduce the reader to ways and means that she can raise her consciousness with the benefits that that can bring and at the end I come to suggested answers – with still more questions – that the reader can weigh up for herself.
This book is about opening doors wide and asking questions which we all feel to be important but which we are probably inhibited about addressing in public for fear of being ridiculed. But by asking such questions and questioning from our deep-felt thought and feelings and casting the answers of others aside, we shall get to our own thinking, which resonates inside, and that’s a great basis for creating our own reality.
Year 2701. Aliens approaching earth find an atmosphere that can support them. Spread out below them, they perceive vast swathes of dense green on a largely blue sphere. They discover an environment teeming with life so vibrant that they think they have found paradise in the universe. They marvel at the spectrum of vivid colours all around them. Deep beneath the vegetation fertilising ever more growth, they are surprised to discover debris of concrete, plastic and metal concealing and yet revealing the remains of a bygone civilisation.
Explorers of the universe, they attempt to understand a picture of the past - how an environment of unnatural, fabricated yet irregular strata form a foundation for natural, vibrant growth. Going deeper into an outcrop of concrete and metal they find hidden records, constructed in a primitive script, but nothing too outlandish for universal travellers of the 28th century. They begin to decipher how this contradiction of concrete and vegetation came together.
At this point, let us say that we, reading now, are the ones gifted with leaving our story for the future, that we are the ones chosen to attempt a description of man in the twilight of his reign on Earth for the benefit of, or as a warning to, those who pass this way in the future.
So, what would we say?
Would we describe ourselves as giving, loving and sharing or would we opt for separatist, materialistic and greedy? Is ours a world whose engines are run on kindness, care, consideration and compassion? Or is it a world fuelled by selfishness, control and the right of might?
We don’t have to dig too deep for our answer.
Let’s look back to see how we got to where we are now. Let’s look at a brief history of human evolution and at today’s legacy for future generations.-
Some three to four millions of years ago, man is assumed to have evolved from the ape as an upright biped. Man began to evolve even though there still remain learned differences on what, if anything, He inherited from the Neanderthals. New theories come to light year on year. Some 12,000 to 9,000 years ago, however, man and woman still lived together in harmony. Wars and violence, as we know them today, were largely unknown. Of course, disagreements and clashes took place but they were relatively small-scale. Of the two genders, woman was the more revered as it was she who brought new life into being and was blessed with natural love, insight and intuition.
Some 8,000 to 6,000 years ago, a significant change in the region we now call the Middle East occurred - perhaps a serious drought or widespread famine. As a result, faith in Nature was questioned because She was no longer able to provide for mankind. Humanity was required to seek new routes for survival.
Man, always the hunter, was now the aggressor and perpetrator of violence, taking sustenance and the wealth from others in order to survive. Woman and her faith in Nature were now inferior to man the warmonger – the seeker of power and control.
Some 6,000 years later in 19th Century AD, with the birth and growth of urbanisation, city-states and increasingly violent wars, and where weapons too had proliferated and evolved, man now discovers life-changing and Earth-changing technology. The Industrial Revolution is nothing less than the precursor to the technological revolution the like of which we have never seen before, not in all of our history as records have come down to us. The centuries wherein each generation succeeded the preceding one with deliberation and a measure of predictability, with the adoption of beliefs and life patterns of former ages, were coming to an end. The nature and pace of materialistic and technological change continue to accelerate to, and beyond, the present day, when an international scientific panel believes that the Earth has entered a new geological age. The team, which has been tasked with defining the so-called Anthropocene, says humanity's impact on Earth will be visible in sediments and rocks millions of years into the future.
Anthropocene is not the only term to describe the age of man’s impact on the planet. The Sixth Great Extinction is another, the sixth because there have already been five global cataclysms in the last 450 million years each resulting in the extinction of life on Earth. Many reputable and scientific names are claiming that the sixth extinction is comparable to the others except in one aspect - that this one is being caused by us human beings.
Apart from man’s lasting impact on the planet, would it be provocative to suggest that there has been no noticeable human evolution in the last 5,000+ years (or is that 30,000 – 40,000 years?) except to say that man has developed and refined his means of exploiting the Earth’s environment for material wealth, for improving his methods of power and control, for making war and for satisfying his greed? Let us also be clear as we leave our records for future passers-by that it should be man with a small ‘m’. Better perhaps that it should be ‘men’ as man tends to represent mankind which includes women and it has not generally been women who have sought power and control, or make war, except, of course, for the odd exception who proved, or even still proves, the rule.
Such hallmarks of developing civilisation have caused many to question our progress, indeed to question the very tenets of our civilisation like never before. And never before is strikingly significant given that it took us 4 million years to arrive at a world-wide population of 1 billion people around the year 1800. In 1954 there were 3.5 billion and now, in 2016, we are fast approaching 8 billion and not only running out of irreplaceable resources but also running out of Earth, air and water for everyone. And of course, some have more than others, and some have precious little.
Back to our earlier question – which option to describe man/men do we go for – the caring or the selfish, the far-sighted or the myopic, the generous or the miserly, the conscious or the unconscious? It would be incorrect to go for one in exclusivity of the other as we would probably not disagree that many of us are a mixture of both – but the mix depends on the ratios. Would it be incorrect to suggest that we are largely dominated, led, even controlled by thinking and actions that are selfish, separatist, materialistic and greedy, largely demonstrated and activated by the male of the species?
Would it be too much to say that the silent majority are a mix of caring, sharing and loving? Or are the silent majority lazy, complacent and unthinking? We know that we are neither and both exclusively. We cannot merely write ourselves off as good or bad because we are simply both and neither, behaving rightly and wrongly in a world of relativity where values do not remain unchanging and consideration for detail identifies a very narrow path between that which we should have done and that which we should not.
And the old chestnut of being damned with original sin no longer holds water, except in the staunchest sects of the church.
Is it unfortunately contentious to propose that man as a governing and responsible being, does not know what he is doing? And if he does, is he both short-sighted and obstinately deaf to the agencies and experts he establishes to guide him? Politics has proved singularly futile and incapable of providing a human(e) solution. Economics feeds the haves and reduces the have-nots to slavery status. Corruption, deceit, selfishness and greed are recognised worldwide as the features that govern us, and are largely accepted by us, with a weary complacency that nods at the primacy of profit over the welfare of people. Oh, and to hell with the future generations.
So, if good vs. bad and right vs. wrong are insufficient descriptors, and uncaring vs. caring, selfish vs. selfless are not applicable because we can be one today and the other tomorrow, can we instead use thoughtless vs. thoughtful, unthinking vs. thinking? Can we use unconscious vs. conscious? If the last 200 years have witnessed remarkable advances in technology, indeed in brain power, man has shown no signs of evolution in the power of the heart, in caring for our fellow man and woman, in thinking-ness for others, in the consciousness needed for a greater measure of selflessness than we frequently exhibit. The silent majority remain inactive enough to let might be right, to let losers really lose, and to leave the flag-bearers of the status quo to determine and maintain the differences which divide us.
Descartes may well have said ‘I think therefore I am’, but he didn’t say that ‘I’ had to be any good at thinking, or caring, or being considerate. That ‘thinking’ – for many who have been blessed and cursed with the responsibility for others – more often reveals nothing more evolved than the instincts of the basic and the primitive. Needless to say, those future aliens in 2701 who find records of a sorry mess beneath a once-again teeming and vibrant surface, did not need to ponder long on what befell the culture of selfishness and greed. Those creatures called men were at war with themselves, at war with a benign environment, at war with nature and common sense, and at war within themselves – a species intent on self-destruction.
But this is only speculative.
Or is it?
In many respects the time for caring and sharing is long overdue over-rationalised as it is by the economic argument of the haves. It is time at last for the individual and collective consciousness to grow and play a role in how we behave towards each other and to the Earth. For those who say that future generations will solve the problems of the future, that may be the case, but that will not happen on this Earth, not on this Earth as we have known it. Nothing in our history can give us any guidance on clearing up the mess we have created. And we know that those in positions to act responsibly have not done so… not yet… that is just one of the problems of being human. But then again all this is only speculative… isn’t it, or are we really in The Age of Stupid?
Before the explorers set off in search of life-forms and civilisations past or present in this microscopic dot of the cosmos called The Milky Way, they had charged one of their number to remain behind to research and compile a summary history of the Earth in order to learn if and how they had evolved and what had caused their demise. He was to include the achievements and disasters, the inventiveness and the destructiveness, the power and the glory as well as the grief and the suffering of this civilisation on Earth.
They would return for him and his findings in ten-time years. His name was Satya, a truth-seeker by nature and historian by profession. He will share some of his findings and conclusions with us on our journey of discovering who we are.
An Aside to the Reader
A few years ago, I made a very modest contribution to a book that really didn’t deserve my name on the cover. The book, entitled The Ten Commandments of Management, was cleverly constructed by my good friend, Malcolm Peel. It was a humorous satire on the posturing, posing and pomposity of managers and management and it succeeded in gaining a microscopic notoriety to the extent that a local journalist interviewed me about it. His major thrust was to ask me who the hell I thought I was to be poking fun at managers (although I was one at the time, so I did have an inkling or two), but I have to admit that I did not manage the interview very well at all which probably in turn contributed to the book’s demise. What I should have said – and isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing? – is that we all, whoever we are, have the capacity and the duty to express our thinking and to share our feelings. Such feelings and thinking are not just for high-fliers, celebrities or intellectuals. Self-expression is something we all have a right and obligation to do in our own unique way.
To share our own feelings and express our own thinking feature strongly as themes throughout The Problem with being Human.
Anytime and anywhere in the passages which follow, where I strike up a proposal or make a statement which is relatively new, strange or challenging to you, I ask you not just to go with it verbatim or reject it on the spot. Instead, think about it. Throughout the book I load the text with messages not to accept the truth of others as your own because it is important that we all establish our own understanding, our own inner feeling of the truth, and that we do not just rely on the words or findings of others.
Here is a powerful mantra:
So, if you find me stating one of my truths and it makes you raise your eyebrows, then raise them, and check to see what feeling it gives you and how it sits with you. Because it is all about feelings, it is not about proof or being rational. In this book, that which is rational is out of bounds because it was partly being rational that caused many of the problems with being human in the first place.
As we go forward, we’ll stick with the pronouns he and him instead of she and her, not because he might express truth any more than she should but rather for fluidity and falling in with general custom and practice. Later, however, we shall break with custom and practice in Chapter 13 for reasons to be divulged.