Are humans simply doomed to bring about our own destruction? Is our nature to destroy ourselves like big Arnie says in Terminator II? Lately, I’ve been hearing this more and more – that it is in our nature to destroy ourselves and that one need only look around the world to find proof of this. However, I’m torn about this and have been for quite some time. OK, the world is pretty messed up and has been since the dawn of what we commonly refer to as “civilization”. But it’s not like we really have another self-conscious life form in the universe/multiverse to cross reference with is it? So how are we to know? If we evolved into something with the ability to reason and self-reflect, then this implies, even if only to a small extent, that we can be aware of ourselves and what we yearn for and balance this with how we reason about these yearnings. Do we auomatically choose war, death and destruction with this ability?
With regard to the “current situation” in the world, the question posed becomes much more complex. We must really ask to what extent each current war/conflict/fight/dispute or whatever is a reflection of this “nature to destroy ourselves” or if it is more about pawns whose free will to reason and will for natural peace (or something else) has been hijacked by the power-hungry, the elite, the religious fanatics or whatever other form of social invention that we humans have conjured up since the development of our self-awareness.
Or is it that the statement “it’s in our nature to destroy ourselves” is a completely wrong way in which to think about the issue? Since we actually have the ability to reason and self-reflect, doesn’t this imply that our “nature” (whatever it may be) is overridden by the development of our reason anyway? Do “we” really use our reason to choose death, destruction and war? If we do, then it would seem that we as humans have set up this conflict between our will to survive and our “reasoned self reflective choice” to destroy ourselves with war and what not. So, we have these two seemingly conflicting sides – our will and reason. Is there a happy balance between them – can one be manipulated by the other? Is one advantaged to win out over the other? I really don’t know.
However, I think to say that “it’s in our nature to destroy ourselves” is a little simplistic and melodramatic. It is an easy thing to agree with on face value and certainly has been envisioned marvellously in films such as Terminator II. But it is just as easy to agree with and envision that “it’s in our nature to live in peace with each other”. I think there are just as many human beings willing and reasoning for peace and love as there are death and destruction – if not more… We just don’t get the press coverage. I think the logical choice between these two conflicting “natures” is to reason and will for peace and love. Since we are aware of our will and our thought process, we have the ability to change and manipulate our environment as well as ourselves. In light of this, it would seem only logical to me to choose life, love and peace. Since we’re here anyway, we may as well make the most of it and not end it prematurely.
So, what to make of most of human history then that seems to disagree with what I think seems logical? I don’t really know. There’s living and there’s living. We’ve survived until now, but not really as a result of any concerted effort to bring about a happy marriage between our will and reason and certainly not because peace and love have won out over war, death and destruction, because, as you would be well aware, they haven’t. But again, I think it’s difficult to say whether this is a result of our “nature” or of the complex situations arising from the complex social mechanisms we’ve invented. It brings me back to a line I quoted from Tool in a previous post:
How they survive so misguided is a mystery.
Repugnant is a creature who would squander the ability
To life an eye to heaven conscious of his fleeting time here.
Cutting it all right in two.
There has been much debate about what the last line means – cutting what right in two? The happy marriage of our will and reason perhaps? This would certainly be consistent with some other themes and metaphors used on Tool’s new album – but that’s to discuss at another time.
Our potential as individuals and as a collective species in my opinion is absolutely amazing and as we develop further technologically and our individual and collective consciousness expands, who knows where we will end up? I won’t use the word “limitless” because of the far-reaching implications of it, but I think almost everyone would agree that our potential is fairly far reaching. Perhaps our “fate” as a species relies on how we are to reconcile our seemingly “natural” urges with our amazing ability to self-reflect and reason. How will we reason over or about our will and will over or about our reason? I don’t know, but within me at least, I feel no conflict because I will AND reason for peace and love – to me, it just feels right and it just makes sense.