Saturday, February 18, 2012

human nature

“It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” 
― Anne FrankThe Diary of a Young Girl

Up until very recently I subscribed to the Anne Frank view of life.  I want to believe that despite it all, we human beings are decent people.  That we are fundamentally ''good''.

Unfortunately recent events are leading me to re-evaluate that opinion.  A person who is extremely close to me has been badly deceived by someone she trusted.  It's not important to go into the details, but suffice to say, her belief in the goodness of mankind has been somewhat shaken too, and I'm seeing the after effects and pain that results from the deception.

And so I've changed my perspective.  I still hold the belief that human beings have the potential to be good.  That we have an underlying drive for self preservation and also for the preservation of each other, and that includes upholding our core values.  But I also think that maybe we have an equal potential to be ''bad''.

I am still not entirely convinced of the Christian theological position that we are all inherently evil and born that way.   But I am becoming more and more sure that we have it within our selves to be sinful (to use a Christian term), or hurtful/selfish (to use a more humanist term).

 And, I'm beginning to think that maybe it is not until we experience hurt ourselves, that we can shine the light on our own hurtful behaviours and take steps to change them.  

This conclusion makes me sad.  And even though I still have at the root of all this, the belief that every person is redeemable (there's another of those Christian explanations), and that no-one is irrecoverably broken, the fact that we are human makes us capable of harm without effort or even intention.


Anonymous said...

A farmer had only one horse, and one day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to condole over his terrible loss. The farmer said, “What makes you think it is so terrible?”A month later, the horse came home–this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer’s good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, “What makes you think this is good fortune?”

The farmer’s son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. Such bad luck! The farmer said, “What makes you think it is bad?”

A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer’s son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. “What makes you think this is good?” said the farmer.

This Taoist story contains a great big fat key to happy and healthy living:

Things that happen to us are neither good nor bad, they are just things that happen.

When we quit labeling events as “good” or “bad”, we free ourselves to decide HOW we wish experience them.

For me, this is quite simply life-changing.

susan said...

you're right. and the terms good and bad are so emotive and pre-destine the experience in some ways.
i suppose this post is rooted in the disillusionment I am currently experiencing with human nature rather than where it sits on the spectrum of ''goodness''.