Gorillas, Human Nature, The Tribe, The Ego, and Self


A 900 pound gorilla wrote this:

“I came to a simple, single theme; that it is all based upon skewed and inflated perceptions of our own egos. There is a tendency in a world in which we are small and overwhelmed all too often to sub-divide the world down to smaller and smaller parcels to understand and pretend our own preeminence.”

Now I’ve spent a good portion of my life with street people, drug addicts, ex-cons, even killers. I’ve known politicians, hobnobbed with diplomats and millionaires, and met the Prime Minister in his office. I’ve made $100,000 a year and I’ve lived in the Mission. Rarely have I met anyone I simply could not “get”. We are far more similar than it appears on the surface.

Yet asked to describe “human nature” we almost invariably describe a creature less noble, less generous, less enlightened, and less altruistic than ourselves. This seems to hold whether we are highly cynical or hopelessly optimistic which begs the question: If we are all somewhat “better” than our view of human nature, doesn’t it follow that our view of human nature is incorrect, deflated, overly cynical?

We see in ourselves what we don’t see in others — the moral machinations that go on behind our observable actions. If I have a moral slip, I realize that it is a moment of weakness and not characteristic of my “self”. The same behaviour in someone else, however, is harder to mitigate unless I am close enough to them to intuit their motives.

The ego-driven front, the shield we present to the world, is the result of fear — fear of loss, of pain, of humiliation, of betrayal, “of the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to”. Even “want” arises from fear  — of failure, of loss of status, of emptiness, of an indigent future. And fear is more often the result of ignorance than actual threat. It is the strangeness of strangers that pings our mistrust. It is the fear of having nothing material to validate our ego that forces us to compete ruthlessly rather than playfully.

What we fear most is continuing fear, so we grasp for whatever might assuage it, even briefly. Because of this fear, we can never truly be ourselves. Vulnerability is not an option. To be vulnerable is to risk our ego, and if our ego is our “self”, then vulnerability is a risk to our very existence.

The ego, however, is just an epiphenomenon of consciousness, a machine within the ghost that is consciousness itself. The ego is small, constricted, somewhat blind and yet bursting with self-importance which can manifest itself vaingloriously or in self-hatred and every rank between. It is always, however, a tiny, cramped universe unto itself.

To recognize this and see past it to recognize ourselves and, by extension, the authentic “human nature” which is, above all, communal and inter-dependant. Society alone prevents the extinction of our species. Our anti-social instincts, once critical for preservation of “the tribe”, become obsolete when the tribe encompasses the entire human race.

Which is really what it all comes down to. To fully and completely accept the global village, the fallacy of us and them, of an enemy within our own community, is to free ourselves to be ourselves, to follow our true nature. To know this is to be free.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you.  You have an admirable tolerance for the “warm and fuzzies”, the new-ageist vagaries and mystical babble of writers who exposit upon the unexpositable.  In truth, it’s not in my nature to stray this far from observable realities but sometimes the simplest things are those that mangle one’s thoughts the most.

~ Δρακακις



About Drakakis

Street Poet scribbling to your tired, your poor, your huddled masses; the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, the homeless, tempest-tost ...
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