Often when humans talk about our relationship to the natural world, we look at ourselves as separate from or superior to other animals. When we talk about human instincts we dumb it down and talk about fight or flight, as if that's all we have left from the great old world that we came from.
I argue that human instincts are far more complex than fight or flight and that we use them every day. Emotions take us over by surprise. Instincts. Emotions are instincts. Our body computes danger or threat or opportunity or truth far faster than our mouths can articulate why we were overcome with those emotions, but if we look close we can see how these emotions relate to survival.
Other animals, like penguins, make complex journeys every year to raise their young, feed and breed. They are a pack animal, like humans. But they are much more open about their habits than humans. They don't live behind closed doors and gated community fences.
How do we not know that our journey as humans from birth to death are just as complex. We have a different set of obstacles to overcome. We need strong communities to feel a part of. To build strong communities takes patience, good will and an over abundance of our altruistic priorities.
This is where religion comes into play. The Bible should be interpreted as thousands of years of humans trying to teach the right values to live by. These values directly relate to our instincts. When we come to hate our parents for example, and violate the commandment to love and honor our parents, we are creating a rift in the community and we are endangering collective survival. If a community is torn apart to pieces how can it defend itself from an outside threat?
When we cheat on each other and sleep with lots of partners; when we treat sex as casual and forget that so much rides on sex for community, we set ourselves up for broken hearts, resentment and ultimately danger.
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The best time to reach humans and teach these biochemical commandments is during childhood. Our instincts are at their sharpest as children, as we are running almost entirely on instincts during childhood. Nothing is there to check these instincts, and this is why you hear children say the darndest things.
If we were to teach children that they are going to be parents themselves one day and eventually senior citizens and that the happiness and satisfaction of their collective journey will depend on the moral choices they make today and throughout high school and college we could build strong communities.
We would need to agree on what humans need to accomplish to survive for 200,000 more years and decide to pursue it. The happiness and satisfaction would come along the way as a united community pursued survival goals together. In the collective pursuit of long term survival each community members' strengths would shine through and the value of the collective would grow stronger.
Children could write the biochemical commandments: Don't cheat on your partner. Don't lie. Don't steal. Honor your mother and father. Love your neighbor. These are just a few of the commandments that we could have children write for a school or Sunday School project.
Teachers could teach these commandments to future generations of children and talk about how they will affect the child long term. These teachings might even sway oil executives to think harder about living fulfilling lives than leading rich lives. It must be taught that money doesn't bring happiness. The two don't have mutually coexisting ends. You can have money and be happy but if you are not a happy person to begin with all the money in the world won't change you.
Remember. Happiness and satisfaction are nature's rewards for behavior that is good for survival. Almost all humans can benefit from learning this lesson.
Dean Powers lives in Castleton, VT. He has apprenticed at several newspapers including The Nation. He currently writes for OpEdNews. He can be found at facebook.com/deanppowers.