Saturday, July 19, 2014


It is not a popular opinion, my sense that we homo sapiens, no matter how we wish to transcend matters of flesh and blood, are instinctually motivated, always - yes - always. Because of our humongous brains we're able to weave lovely narratives to describe behavior in ways that make what we do sound lofty, somehow above our instincts, beyond our limits. If only! It's ambitious, but of course that's a part of who we are as a species. Problems arise because we are so invested in our narratives. We believe them to be "true" - whatever that is. It's a conundrum.

I will survive explains everything we do. Survival is the god of instincts. Like the many arms on a Hindu deity, survival takes on many shapes, colors, descriptions. There is a lengthy spectrum of survival behaviors, from brutal violence to great philanthropy, and everything between. We are really complicated animals, endlessly creative, tender, soulful. All among us are driven by the instinct to survive, thrive, and make more of us.

I mention this because of the Malaysian airplane shot out of the sky, because of the ground invasion of Gaza by Israel. Here in DC, on FB, on the radio, in the newspapers, every story is full of horror and outrage. It's a completely understandable urge to think the Russian separatists are not like us. They're animals, unable to rise above their instincts. How could they?

Maybe they're like us, but less fortunate, way less fortunate than the president, members of Congress, also far less fortunate than the crowd at the coffee shop on Capitol Hill. We in my community, even the most desperate among us, lives a life far more luxurious than most of humankind has ever experienced anywhere on earth. Yes, we often take it for granted. I do, too.

I have no idea how anyone could fire a rocket at an airplane, but then I have never been truly hungry either. That I can't imagine that behavior betrays my incredibly comfortable life situation. My survival instinct expresses itself by way of duck and cover behavior. I hide, and I survive. In many situations, that wouldn't work out over time. I have a truly luxurious life.

How to do you survive? What's your strategy? Have you ever thought about it? What is the narrative of your strategy? It's interesting, at least to me.

Good to remember: humans are capable of love and compassion. It's in there, it is. Through love and compassion, we can move along the rainbow bridge of instinct from survival to something more opulent, a state in which we can thrive, in which we can become generous. To get there I believe the basic needs must be met: food, shelter, that sort of thing. It's hard to be generous when hungry or in pain.

Every person I know on Capitol Hill has the luxury of developing love and compassion because we live so well. My prayers today are not about vanquishing the bad guys, whatever that means, or even assessing blame, something many people are eager to do. My prayer today is that the hearts of those who can afford it will open in love, connection and trust instead of blame and outrage. Adding more of that energy can not possibly help unravel the tangle of this moment in time. Let our hearts and minds be clear and calm in the midst of the insanity. May it be so.

May these horrible situations unwind without spinning out of control. May we survive - all of us. May it be so. Shalom.

No comments: