Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Universal Truths

Contained within your mind there is a fragment of the Eternal, a splinter of the universal intellect that creates and reclaims all things. Fan the spark until it burns bright and you will find the world around you transformed. The Logos (as the ancients called it) acts like a beacon, dispelling ignorance, misconception, and dishonesty to reveal brilliant truths about the human race.

These truths transcend nationality, religion, genre, and culture. They are basic principles that underlie the human psyche and govern human behavior on a fundamental level.

But how can this be? Isn't each person on earth a unique individual? Aren't we all different? How can we all be subject to a set of universal rules?

In order to understand how people from different eras and cultures are governed by the same universal principles, we must first accept a key truth: we are all one people, one race, segregated into subgroups by superficial differences and arbitrary lines. Peel back the layers of belief, judgment, bias, preference, and past experience and you will find that we are all remarkably similar.

Human Family

Trace your lineage back far enough and you are bound to stumble upon an ancestor linking you to every other human who has ever lived. This is true whether you believe that we are descendants of Adam and Eve or that we evolved from a common ancestor. Young Earth Creationists and those who subscribe to evolution stand in agreement: we're all members of a global human family. 

Your family tree is no tree at all; it is merely a branch in the tree of humanity, which is itself a branch in the ancient Tree of Life. We all come from the same roots and as a result, we are all governed by the same primal forces.

These can be boiled down to the principles of survival, suffering, and happiness.

1. The Will to Live

The will to live is a compulsion programmed into our biology. We will tolerate hardship, pain, discomfort, grief, depression, and a variety of other calamities just to go on living. Underlying all other wishes there is the desire to survive.

How else can we explain our existence? What motivated our ancestors to persevere through a wide assortment of wars, genocides, diseases, natural disasters, revolutions, famines, epidemics, and massacres, torture, terror, anguish, sickness, the loss of loved ones, and so on, if not some powerful, internal drive to survive?

The will to live can be lost--people can and often do commit suicide, after all--but this by no means reduces the validity of our first principle; it only shows that suffering, whether physical or mental, when present in sufficient amounts, can sometimes override the will to live.

Barring extenuating circumstances such as mental illness or horrible living conditions, we can safely say that all people wish to survive.

2. We Avoid Pain & Suffering

The connection in our minds between death and suffering was cemented over untold millennium while we roamed the untamed wilderness.

During this time, pain and suffering were counterproductive to our survival. A wound might not kill a hunter-gatherer but it would surely hinder his ability to hunt and gather, thus reducing his chances of survival. Likewise, emotional trauma, anguish, and anxiety would distract him and undermine his mental acuity, impeding him in his pursuit of food, drink, and shelter.

Some people learn to master pain; others grow to enjoy certain types of it. Then there are those who, out of a sense of duty or in the name of a lofty ideal, willingly put themselves in harm's way, exposing themselves to all manner of pain and suffering. Soldiers, doctors, firefighters, and police officers cannot be said to be avoiding pain and suffering; they are, in fact, trying to save others from it and putting themselves at risk in the process.

Exceptions aside, people will avoid unnecessary pain and suffering whenever possible.

3. We Pursue Happiness

Happiness plays second fiddle to survival and the avoidance of pain and suffering. It is only once we have secured our survival and put ourselves in a position to avoid suffering that we seek out happiness.

Think of all the things you do in your life: your hobbies, the TV shows you watch, the video games you play, the books you read, etc. What is the purpose of these if not to inject joy into your life?

Even our jobs further this end. The primary function of work is to provide us with the resources necessary to clothe, house, and feed ourselves--all crucial to survival--but any surplus money is put toward various toys and gadgets, eating out, going out for drinks with friends, or taking a vacation.

Whether people succeed in finding happiness or not is irrelevant: for our purposes, we need only agree that the desire for happiness is universal among humans.

Humanity is in danger. 

We are faced with problems that are too large for one or two nations to handle on their own. In order to overcome climate change, inequality, oppression of the many by the few, and the exploitation of our planet's resources, we must erase the imaginary lines that separate us. 

We are one people, one family. We all come from the same source. Earth is the only home we have and we must share it and protect it or see ourselves wiped from existence, our branch in the Tree of Life cut tragically short.

In order to move forward, survive, prosper, and live in harmony with one another, we must devise a new way of thinking and a moral code that applies to all people and that all people can agree on.

Muslims, Catholics, Humanists, Sikhs, Buddhists, Mormons, Protestants, Anglicans, atheists, socialists, fascists, capitalists, communists, liberals, and conservatives all want the same things: to live, avoid suffering, and be happy.  

If we learn to see our differences for what they are--superficial, arbitrary, founded on misguided beliefs--and to accept the common thread that holds us all together, we will have a much better chance of overcoming the challenges ahead.

/rant over