The Human Condition ...

There lurks in the heart of every man, remnants of that savage untamed beast that begat us in the dark long forgotten past.  Deep in the intertwining double helix strands of our DNA, remain the primal drives and instincts that allowed us to not only survive but to search out, conquer and destroy all that lay before us.  Much of humanity continues to rely heavily on our primitive past to navigate and survive the ravages of our still savage planet.

For the modern man, living in a civilized world, there is a need to distance ones self from, and silence, those dark inner voices.  To use our inner beast to justify our savagery and disregard for others, is to deny our humanity and remain primitive and unrefined.  “I can’t help it, that is just the way I am” is a sad and demeaning plea that suggests the lack of choice or self-determination.  Our cerebral cortex and its executive functions were not evolved simply for show, to remain idle and unused.  Our feelings are perhaps beyond our control, as chemicals course through our veins.  Our actions are, however, within the realm of our control and I might argue necessarily placed under that control.  Choice is not limited to fight or flight as some might suggest. 

Control and self determination seems to have been an early theme in my life.  Stories of how I stubbornly took the clothes laid out upon the bed and returned them to the closet, only to make my own choice.  At least that is the way my mother told it.  I remember high school as a time when many were experimenting with hallucinogens of varying sorts.  In my time spent as a volunteer in drug clinics, encounter groups were all the rage as a means of therapy.  Those with greater dependencies often entered a rehab program led by Vinny, Izzy and Jerard.  They were characters right out of the Godfather and ex-addicts from back East.  Encounter groups were quite confrontational and I doubt anyone escaped without being brought to tears at some point, myself included.  The point being that Vinny and others spent many an hour in those groups trying to dissect the whys and hows of my unwillingness to take drugs and others seeming inability to stop.  In groups and outside I was prodded and tested.

I remember a night spent camping on a small island just off the beach in Lanikai.  My friend and neighbor was moving soon to another state and pleaded with me to indulge on that night.  It seemed important to him that I give in and somehow validate his own dependencies, one might guess.  Assuring me that no one would ever know, seemed to imply that he thought I was merely afraid of getting caught.  We talked of many things that night, as sleep was not forthcoming, and in the end he did not get his wish.  Even more than the taunting of my friend, I was tormented by the soulful moans of the seabirds nesting so near and the sand crabs scampering over my blanket, in complete disregard for my presence or piece of mind.

At school events during my youth where others screamed and chanted, I watched detached and with amazement.  In Bangkok on the few occasions where I was obliged to visit Lumpini Stadium, my focus was not on the squared circle and its performers but on the wild-eyed punters, thankfully restrained behind chicken wire, and so in touch with their inner animal.

In my youth, I was unable to adequately articulate why I did not follow the crowd and do as those around me did.  Over time I gained insights and understanding of my condition.  I find myself unwilling or unable to relinquish control to anyone or anything.  Be it group behavior, mind altering substances, charismatic individuals, or even governmental or religious institutions.  That is perhaps one reason I would not make a good soldier, religious follower, or group member of any sort, for that matter.  Even being a leader is out, as one must renounce some control over self to accept control over others.  One of my earliest schoolyard memories is of spurning the requests of those who saw me as their leader.  I had my own interests and they did not include the time consuming constraints of needy followers.

To maintain control one must, in the very least, be free of self imposed restrictions.  Debt, obligation, dependencies are choices in themselves that limit our control and scope of future choices and direction.  Some say they have no choice but I say we all have choices.  The problem being that we may not like what choices we have limited ourselves to.  Though I am not in the Ophra camp, of believing all 6.5 billion of us have some special and unique purpose on the earth.  I do, however, believe that through our choices we can either take control of our lives or relinquish it to others.  We can be proactive or reactive.  But then again what do I know?