Insights Into Human Nature & The Human Condition

I want to continue, flesh out, and give some concreteness to that which I shared in this  post: What Is Our Fundamental Nature? Is It All Made Up?  What better way to do that than share the insights of ‘sensitive’ human being (Ted Simon) who spent four years travelling around the world on a motorbike in order to come face to face with life, and experience-feel all that goes with being truly alive:

The concept of the Self seemed to connect with my own thought …. of being made of the stuff of the universe, all pervading and imperishable.  The Truth was in the stuff itself, revealed in the natural order of things.You have only to merge with the world to know the Truth and find your Self. 

There are shapes and forms which arise out of the natural order. Trees, caves and animal architecture lead naturally to thatched roofs, stone houses and mud walls. If you knew this you would not choose to put up a roof in corrugated iron. Nor would you think of throwing a plastic bag in a stream, not because of what you have been told about pollution, but because the idea of a plastic bag is offensive in itself. Without this sense of what is naturally fitting you can be cleaning up the world with one hand and spreading poison with the other.

It surprised me to discover that this sense of rightness does not appear naturally in people, even though they live in the heart of nature. In my own village in France the same people who fished the stream shoved every possible kind of refuse and sewerage into them, even when offered a convenient alternative. In Nepal, where not a single engine or power line disturbs the mediaeval rusticity of the Himalayan valleys, people shit in the rivers with a dogmatic persistence ensuring that every village is infected by what the people upstream have got.

The Truth obviously does not reveal itself unaided to humans. It has to be uncovered by an effort of consciousness. Or, more likely, it exists only in human consciousness. Without man to recognise it, there is no Truth, no God.

Yet it is not consciousness that governs the world, nor even ideology, nor religious principle nor national temperament. It is custom that rules the roost. In Colombia it was custom to do murder and violence. In a period of ten years some 200,000 people were said to have been killed by acts of more or less private violence. Yet I found the Colombians at least as hospitable, honourable and humane, as the Argentines, whose custom is merely to chat. Arabs have the custom of showing their emotions and hiding their women. In Sudan it is customary to be honest. In Thailand dishonesty is virtually a custom, but so is giving gifts to strangers. 

Every possible variation of nudity and prudishness is the custom somewhere as with eating habits, toilet practices, to spit or not to spit; and almost all of these customs have become entirely arbitrary and self-perpetuating. Above all it is customary to suspect and despise people in the next valley, or state, or country, especially if their colour or religion is different. And there are places where it is customary to be at war, like Kurdistan or Vietnam.

Speaking of the more vicious customs, and of men who should have known better, St Francis Xavier  said a long time ago: ‘Custom is to them in the place of law, and what they see done before them every day they persuade themselves may be done without sin. For customs bad in themselves seem to these men to acquire authority and prescription from the fact they are commonly practiced.’

Custom is the enemy of awareness, in individuals as much as in societies. It regularises the fears and cravings of everyday life. I wanted to shake them off. I wanted to use this journey to see things whole and clear, for I would never pass this way again. I wanted to be rid of the conditioning of habit and custom. To be the slave of custom, at any level, is much like being  a monkey, an ‘ape of the wayward senses’. To rise above it is already something like becoming a god.

Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.

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