There was an interesting documentary, I think it was the BBC’s Walking with Cavemen that explored the origins of humanity, that is from Homo Erectus through to Homo Sapiens. The thesis for how humanity got to the final step of becoming Homo Sapiens was something like this: nascent humanity was dying off due to an ongoing drought in its birth place, southern Africa. However there was enough seasonal variation in the weather for some of the sharper ones among them to collect ostrich eggs and store water in them for the dry period.
They’ve found buried ostrich eggs, once used as flasks, that have been carbon dated back to the human fossils they’ve found. It was the ability to predict the dry season, create a plan for it, act on that plan and defer gratification that lead to the survival of humanity and perhaps to Homo Sapiens itself. And the neo-cortex grew over the limbic system.
Sigmund Freud identified that the human psychology is driven by two opposing forces Eros and Thanatos:- urge towards life and death anxiety. I tend to agree with Anthony Robbins’ interpretation of this condition:- pleasure and pain. Perhaps our African ancestors linked incredible amounts of pain to failing to plan. It is amazing how compulsive the planning and collecting process actually can be. It seems that it was essential to being human.
Then at some point we realised that we could use this planning ability and use it in the pursuit of physical pleasure and in the pursuit of social power.
Our minds have ensured our survival and created vast amounts of pleasure and social power for us. We are wealthy beyond what humanity has ever conceived. Yet now it is likely that this incredible ability of ours fettered by desire will destroy the planet. So now we must also discover how to control our minds for the common good. It is time to enter a new age of enlightenment.
Curiously, it was around 600BC that humanity began investigating the very mind itself. There was Buddha in northern India, Lao Tse in China and Greek Philosophers just a little later in Europe. While Buddhism may have attained the most pure insight into the essence of the mind, it left a legacy that people were to remove themselves from society in order to pursue enlightenment.
Yet what’s required of humanity right now is probably as big of a shift as happened in South Africa. We must achieve a measure of planetary awareness as individuals operating in society.
So how do we do this? Firstly, by discovering that the driver of consumption – attachment to things, social power and wealth – is inherently deluded because things, social power and wealth are all inherently empty. And secondly by discovering that the fundamental human relationship not only to ourselves but to all the sentient beings we share the planet with must now be established in loving kindness.
This is the path of love/wisdom.