What we are

Written by Tim King

Conscious, subconscious, reason, emotion, animal, enlightened being; human being has always been a conflicted realization. Without a clear modus operandi, what is our reason for being such a successful species? In the movie "The Matrix", the nasty computer program describes us as a virus that destroys its environment, yet we are at heart lovers of passion and violence and this often curtails our unrepentant procreation. How much of us is enlightened, rational being and how much of us is animal looking for immediate satisfaction? Are we animal or divine being, or even worse - are we a virus bent on destruction?

Analogies abound in the realm of describing humanity, and I'd like to offer another one: human being is a hollow ring of rational, intelligent, self-realized thought surrounded on the outside by an uncaring, mechanistic universe intent on maintaining itself and completely indifferent to the sentience within it. Go inward beyond that thin veil of self realized conscious thought and the human being quickly finds that it is looking at a self it doesn't recognize. Immediately beneath the frail, rational, self realized being is the animal self that supports it. In many ways the urges from this animal, when refracted through the rational ring, produce our greatest art and science. Our animal urges for sex, hunger, comfort and control cause us to develop complex behaviours to satisfy our animal lusts.

Food is a great example of the animal urge for hunger being satisfied by our intelligence and reason. Cuisine is raised from shear need to art form and in the process we reinvent the original need. Hunger is no longer satisfied by merely eating, it is satisfied by the process of choosing food and drink that will inspire and satisfy on many levels. Likewise with sex, while the simplest of us will drive to the finish line with a singular intent, looking purely to satisfy the animal within, those who refract the sexual urge through their rational ring develop fetishes, perversions and other complexities to a simple act and, in the best cases, turn it into art.

The great irony is that there is no reason or belief free of the animal beneath us; it is what we are. The urge to create, organize and destroy, find their roots in our animal urges. There is no art without lust, no science without benefit and no religion without comfort. We do what we do because the vast majority of ourselves lies buried beneath in our subconscious, or more accurately, our animal selves. Science exists to understand the universal mechanism and exploit it to satisfy our animal need for comfort. Ironically, religion is quite similar in that it also exists to explain the universal mechanism and exploit it to give us comfort. The difference between the two lies in the fact that science observes and theology creates. We are able to drive a car to an airport, get on an aeroplane, hijack it and fly it into a building because we observe our surroundings and then manipulate them with machines we invent. We want to get on an aeroplane and fly it into a building because we create a feeling of absolute belonging with a fictional deity that demands clear, purely abstract concepts of right and wrong and absolute obedience. Science gives us the tools, theology the reason, both have evolved directly from an animal need for comfort.

If we want to understand ourselves we need to recognize what causes the complexities and what the original motivations were. Analysing the rational ring is the job of psychiatry. The complexities have developed a self reflexive science that borders on art in its attempts to understand the human being. What lies beneath is still difficult to get to because of the many insulating layers we place between our fragile selves and our seminal beings. This is another specialty of religion, to veil our true selves by inventing divine selves that are more palatable. Resistance to evolution, medical processes and even psychiatry are clear examples of where science stubs its toes against religion; science is confounded by the religious fervour that surrounds the holiness of humanity. In three hundred years they have managed to demystify much of the human body, but the mind and soul are still safe from simple quantification because the fragile veil of self-realization, on a profound and instinctive level, understands its own vulnerability. We protect our mental self with religion while we use science to comfort our physical nature; science is a necessary evil in manipulating a cruel, mechanistic, uncaring universe.

In an ideal case we would exploit science to directly improve and enhance our feeble ring of self awareness. Psychiatry may attempt to fix the problems within that narrow space, but what caters to the hidden, vast majority of our beings? Strangely enough this is the realm of economics. If you want to be successful in business you need only provide merchandise or a service that satisfies and animal need. From restaurants to strip bars, computers to bullet trains, we have crafted an economic justification for satisfying our primal needs. If you really want to understand the human animal, the vast, understood but not talked about animal self is on display everywhere in the form of business. Yet the study of economics ignores the reasons for its success in favour of inventing itself. Like religion it redefines its value based on its initial success at something else (satisfying our animal needs). Soon enough economics becomes an abstracted, self aggrandizing field bent on furthering goals unrelated to its initial reason for being. Unfortunately that kind of economics exists purely in the tight confines of the rational ring and quickly loses its once powerful foundations as a means of satisfying our basic needs... much like religion has. The danger of becoming self engrossed is a logical result of abstracted a basic urge into the tiny realm of conscious thinking - itself a tiny part of our being bent on preserving itself at all costs.

All of these fields of rational enquiry (science, religion and economics) are swallowed by a single field of thought:: politics. Having evolved from a social, group orientated animal, human beings are still instinctually drawn to a need for belonging. Politics is the ordered, self sustaining result of that need being refracted through the ring, and it becomes a kind of meta-field of enquiry because it subverts all others to its needs. You are free to use religion, science, economics or anything else to justify your politics, it is a cut throat course of study in a feral art. That art continues to become more adaptable in its ability to define and shape groups - a process used to order the social structures we are hard wired to collect into. Politics have evolved in a way that allows us to free our prejudices from a static foundation. We used to base our politics on easily accessible criteria. A clear example of this is racism. People who look different can be isolated and prejudiced against. The benefit to the group doing the segregation is obvious. A common (clearly defined) enemy solidifies your group mentality and gives your members an enhanced feeling of belonging and purpose. Political labeling gives you much more latitude, because you can target anyone at all - they don't have to be an obviously different colour or culture. Labeling people leftist or rightist, environmentalist of industrialist, allows you to invent a division that you can exploit as a prejudice. It allows you to discount them as an individual and ignore their thoughts, while all the time strengthening your own invented political agenda. Notice how politics exploits everything from psychological predispositions to technology and natural science in its efforts to segment and define humanity in that tiny, virtually meaningless ring of consciousness?

In the final analysis our fragility at the cusp of self awareness still stands out. We are only a few generations on any meaningful time line away from non-realized existence - but a step from the animal that we were. As a rational race we are a child having to learn the world for itself without the guidance of an older, experienced hand. Were we to meet a race with many more generations of experience in self-enlightenment we would likely repulse them with our fearful, awkward, misunderstood selves, and lash out at them because of our inadequacies. Teaching humanity now would be like trying to teach a feral child found in the woods, and like a child who does not understand what they want, but wants it anyway, human beings lurch from one need to the next, all the time dressing them up in the complexities that are a result of passing through that tiny band of light that is our conscious, active, rational self.

Perhaps the best solution is simply to be alone with ourselves and understand our true nature. Become acquainted with the animal within you, do not fear its needs but come to understand them. By doing this thing you extend your realm of control inward and further enhance your free self in the world. Doing any less makes you a slave to animal urges refracted and abstracted by the complexities your conscious self is constantly creating.