Compressed into our DNA, they say, is this deep and hidden fear of being prey to predators. It comes to us from our ancestors, far back before housing, before tools, before weapons. And this fear rears its leviathan head in all sorts of ways. One of these is to suppose, and then obsess over, higher beings who control our destiny. Used to be gods and spirits. Sometimes aliens. Often, secret societies. Nowadays, two new takes on the secret society hidden hand have been unleashed from the American psyche: the breakaway civilization that has already colonized space and is likely working with aliens; and, less drastically, a cabal of lifers in the corridors of political power known as “the deep state.”
As white America morphs into multiracial America and the middle class disappears, along with its dream of working toward a wealthy future for self and family, it’s tempting to say that we are searching for bigger and better scapegoats for our misery. And that can be a factor, but actually, as we’ve seen recently, there is no need. Good old fashioned racism and xenophobia will still do the job quite well.
Fearing and fighting against faceless overlords is also a convenient way to ignore one’s own role (and voting record) in political/financial oppression. Set aside the debate about whether voting is rigged or not. If you’re a voter, are you identifying with an obvious liar telling you what you want to hear? Are you not gladly partaking in your own disaster?
But there’s another thing going on here—another deeply buried agitator echoing within us that keeps us fearful of predatory societies, regardless of our current socioeconomic and educational situations, and it is this: our drive to pretend to be whole when faced with the reality of our partialness.
We know we aren’t whole. But we don’t inquire into why this is. We prefer to answer it with the line, “That’s human nature,” before it becomes a question. This copout is our surrogate sense of completeness.
Some of us are more cunning than settling for that non-explanation demands. We appear to move beyond conventional wisdom to the notion that life is a school and we’re all students. This presumes that who we are right now is the entity who needs to learn. But the entity we are now can’t learn anything that completely transforms us, which is why we are doomed to repeat ourselves. We are the record and, like a real record, are also that skip in the record. There’s no separating the two. So here we are again at, “That’s human nature.”
What to do, what to do?
Through mental dysfunction, wholeness beckons. Wholeness is us, and we self-identify as that when we’re healthy. However, since we started out dysfunctionally as body-projected selves, we don’t know that we’re unhealthy, and we don’t know we’re wholeness waiting to happen. We started out life repressing our whole nature, yet, because wholeness is us, it has no choice but to try to get through to us.
When wholeness calls, rather than being transformed by it, we translate the call into something we can identify. We hold wholeness at arm’s length in all sorts of ways, but most obviously by speaking it in stories and parables and ideals. Those iterations are setups for goals that make us feel good as we strive toward them, knowing full well we will never achieve them.
Try to be the best you can be. Never be best.
Often, when we don’t translate wholeness into an ideal, we translate it into a nightmare. The fear that there are “higher” (or “whole”) psychopathic oppressors controlling our fate, who can never be stopped, and who have always secretly been there, like super-organized demigods dangling us from invisible strings, is one such nightmare. The rationalization we give for believing in terrifying, cruel “higher” people is that we know there are predators and prey in the natural world. We know there are top predators, eating machines, whose only role is to consume victims beneath them in the food chain. That is life, we tell ourselves. And so that must apply to us as well. That’s human nature rears its shrugging shoulders again.
But how do we know what we know? Is that the story of the natural world? Or is it a narrative we have come to blindly in modern, disconnected times? From whence comes this certainty about the gruesome mechanical food chain that gives parallel to our imagined preternatural oppressors?
Certainly every organism eats. And we say that animals are perfect as they are: a shark is always living out shark nature; a crocodile is living out crocodile nature. Surely, there is a perfect psychopathic alien or human offshoot above us that is consuming us like the great white shark from Jaws.
Just when we’re getting comfortable with that fear, along comes some pity-party pooper who says, “Humans aren’t living out human nature, they’ve stagnated in the notion that the self is their full nature. There is no such thing as a pure top predator, that’s just the story we tell ourselves as we struggle against wholeness. The story is that there is such a thing as a complete, or higher, being—and this being is manipulating us, squishing us with his thumb. It’s a nightmare, this wholeness. Better to fight the good fight against it. We do love a good hero’s journey. Forever. Because that’s when we selves feel really alive.”
Fact is, truly whole people cannot be cunning predators. There are, of course, cabals of self-interested rich people conspiring for themselves, which translates into “against us.” But there is no thread through all of history, no lineage of perfect people always getting away with it, lightyears ahead of us, puppeteering the globe. For one, a global vision is a relatively new thing. For another, no predator is perfectly, robotically predatory. We made that up to feed our real top predator: fear.
In fact, and here’s the important point, there is a gray area within the natural predator/prey dichotomy we moderns and post-moderns have been ignoring. It’s not just victimizer/victim, or eater/food. Wafting betwixt and between and through that necessary script is the perfume of impersonal Love. This takes the form of nurture between predator/prey species. Between meals, you could say. Beyond that, predators and prey often form loving bonds. Friendships.
Yes, the scent of impersonal Love wafts around and through the wild predatory play—and in another incredible way we rarely, if ever, consider. How about the very fact that entire prey species don’t pack their bags and run to safety? Individually, they run. As a pack, they run. When alarmed, they run. When in danger, they run. But not forever. They come back. Prey stick around the same territories as their predators. Why do they do this? Why don’t gazelles move to a place lions will never find them? Surely there must be a hidden watering hole somewhere on the massive African continent.
Perhaps there is a natural concept, a truth about giving and taking, life and food, that has a beautiful interconnectivity to it, even though the experience of being killed and eaten plays out in terrifying and painful ways. And perhaps—no, certainly—when we don’t allow ourselves to question, to see, and to gain clarity on these primal issues, we take only the obvious, terrifying, painful aspects, blow them up, and fear that someone invisible is doing this and only this to us. Some cunning, higher society of whole people that is not our society, that we can shadowbox to never question ourselves in ways that halt the machinations of self. That’s human nature.
Until it isn’t.