Why our misery and misunderstanding comes from the refusal of our instincts.
We tend to forget, or as many people do, to consistently and stubbornly refuse the fact that we’re animals. Calling someone “an animal” is a grave insult in most cultures; a “pig” is a dirty individual with a lack of morals of simply unfit for our organised and neat society. An animal is way below us in the world’s hierarchy. Our mind gives us the right to be above them, to be called Human beings, a label that goes far beyond categorising our species, it puts us aside as a whole new and unique section of living creatures, beyond animal’s instincts, needs and nature.
A marvelous example is the disgust many people have towards breastfeeding in public as if it was the most disgraceful thing a woman could do; to feed their baby the way nature demands. We have breastfeeding rooms, to avoid their interaction with the rest of society as if a baby drinking her mother’s milk in a restaurant was any different from ourselves chewing a piece of meat.
Somehow the idea that we, all mighty Humans, are not animals became widespread, inserting itself into all of our minds, making anything that challenges this idea to become tabu. Breastfeeding is nothing but a remaining of that disgusting past, something we’re slowly replacing with baby formulas, that advertise to provide the baby with “everything they need”, yet certainly not the human touch much less a mother’s love.
Sex has become a taboo as well, although this has been forever in our nature since we’ve gathered in semi-advanced societies rather than in tribal knots. We’ve all done it, we all do it, yet sex is seen as disgraceful, dirty. Nowadays pop culture uses it as the most powerful tool of advertisement. Bue we’re the only animals that use sex for anything but reproduction, and the only ones surrounding it with taboo.
What are we, but animals? I’ve read the same sentence with the “thinking” verb introduced: “What are we, but thinking animals”, as if animals themselves were non-thinking, merely robots driven by their instincts and unable to break free of their genetic-driven behaviour. Anyone that has a loving pet would surely know otherwise. How human-like their feelings can be. We categorise a dog as “man’s best friend” due to their forever loyalty.
This idea that we’re not animals, that we somehow broke totally free from our ancestral roots causes an incredible amount of self-misunderstanding. We want to see men (and women) as a perfectly thinking, logical and emotionally stable creature, one that makes the right decision, that doesn’t have to deal with millions of years of ancestry, of behaviours that define us way beyond our control.
As much as I try not to, evolution must come to the table sooner of later. Darwin, in his masterpiece “The Origin O The Species” didn’t explain every single animal and behaviour, that would have been impossible. He instead offered a logical tool to explain any behaviour watched in nature, a way of expressing it into something close to equations. Natural selection.
We, Humans, are evolution’s creation. We’re mammals and our descendants, our children, are created in the womb and emerge as ready as they can to face the world. Our brains are amazingly evolved, yet we share most of our features with many of the other creatures in this world.
A dog is not so different from us. We can build rockets and the internet, but how many times have you been miserable because of some other human, your partner, children, friends; and how many times have you been miserable for a creation of our minds?
Most likely you’ve been hurt or simply depressed, yet we fail to see the reason, the logic behind it. It happens to the best of us. We tend to forget that we’re animals, that we have this huge baggage of ancestral behaviour that we have to deal with on a constant basis, while juggling with our newly evolved logic and even more newly created social norms. Our existence in this world is in the history of the earth what a blink of an eye is to a human’s lifetime.
Many of the reasons for our misery can be simply explained by what our ancestral behaviour is requiring of us, but we have so strongly refused the idea of our instincts that we can not see it within us.
We’re new here. We’ve always been new. We’re nothing but really amazing animals with the power to do almost anything we can image! If this is the case because of our ability to create, or due to our lack of imagination is unknown to me. But we’re creative, loving, amazing creatures. Me calling us “creatures” makes even me, the writer, uncomfortable. Why is that?
The society we live in requires us to be almost automatons, machines that neglect their emotions and behave as if our genes played no role whatsoever in our behaviour. Yet we’re wired to like beautiful women, we’re wired to protect our families and to fight unknown threads. If you’ve ever seen two drunk men fight you’re seeing nothing but their evolutionary ancestors locked into a fight-or-flight sequence.
Our genes rule a huge part of who we are. Every baby is unique, with their own character and behaviour, it’s almost magic. Yet we fight so hard to fit them into a mould of “the modern Human” and strip every animal-like behaviour they have. No eating with your hands! Don’t touch your intimate parts! Don’t play with dirt! Don’t run! Behave!
Behave, as if you were a Human and not an animal, because otherwise, how can we write Human with capital H to differentiate ourselves from… them?
Yes, our minds permit us to go beyond our genes, to surpass what has been laid out by our ancestral roots, we help fellow humans even when they’re strangers, to our own cost. Altruism is not a human invented behaviour, but we might be the best ones at it.
Let’s stop separating ourselves from our fellow creatures and instead start acknowledging that we also have our animal behaviour, our instincts. That will help us decide if we want to be ruled by them or not.
As the ancient stoics said, if you’re doing something unnatural, you’re not doing the right thing.