Daily Letters

A selection of letters received.

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July 23, 2004

Take a gander at the forest

Dear George:

I’ll admit that I blame you for a great many things, but only inasmuch as I blame everyone, myself included. As bizarre as it may sound, I believe that the human race hasn’t really evolved at all since it split from the chimps. Almost all of our underlying assumptions – our core of beliefs – the givens that make up our shared world view – are not only fundamentally flawed, but, from an evolutionary perspective, are fast becoming maladaptive. What does it mean, for example, to be the president of a nation?

It means that nations exist. Why do nations exist?

Nations exist because of territorialism. What is territorialism?

Territorialism is a vestigial instinct left over from our pre-human ancestry. Territorialism is nothing more than the imperative of the alpha male primate as filtered through a freakishly enormous brain.

It is, in short, arguable whether intelligent life has actually arisen on our planet.

Human evolution is on a strictly voluntary basis. Either we’re lazy or we’re stubborn. Maybe both. Or perhaps we’re simply too proud to handle a deeper level of self-reflection. Regardless, we need to come to terms with the fact that nationalism is maladaptive. We live in a global age; if we don’t learn to pull together as a single human race, surely we’ll fall as one.

We need to stop thinking small. We need to question our most fundamental concepts, categories, and definitions. The human race has spent millions of years now staring at a single tree. Maybe we should take a gander at the forest.

Our world view is founded upon competitive metaphors, but we need cooperative metaphors to replace them. Goodness knows, cooperation is challenging enough without turning every imaginable human endeavor into a competition.

George, you identify yourself as a Christian. I’m an agnostic. I have read the New Testament, however. Many times. There’s some great stuff in there, true genius, true wisdom. Even an agnostic can recognize the loving, sincere philanthropy of the words attributed to Christ. The problem is that we tend to embrace Christ’s idealism with one hand while dismissing it with a wave of the other. Noble principles are all well and good, but we do, after all, have to live in the real world. (Never mind that the real world is a construction of our own design.)

Christ comes off as genuinely concerned about humanity, not just someone paying lip-service. I think one of Christ’s primary messages, if I might be bold enough to paraphrase, was: “Pride is always arrogance. Hatred is always self-loathing. Violence is always self-mutilation. Killing is always suicide.”

In other words, pride, hatred, violence, and killing are flat-out stupid ideas. Not just some of the time, but all of the time. Not just in some situations, in all situations. Not just with regard to some people, but with regard to all people.

We’re so busy investing imaginary value into material items that we quickly lose sight of the only truly valuable thing we have: our infinite human potential. I, for one, refuse to believe that an imaginary line drawn on a map is worth the price of even one human life, ever. You can call me crazy for believing that. You can call me misguided, naïve, moronic, hopelessly idealistic. But don’t call me evil. Anyone can cast that stone.

Besides, I’m a lover, not a fighter.

In conclusion, perhaps the best advice I can pass along to you personally, George, is that there are three kinds of people in the world: those who are full of it; those who are full of it and know it; and those who are full of it, know it, and are willing to admit it.

Peace be with us all.


John
Age 38
Silver Spring, MD

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