When I pause from the day to day mania and busyness of my own life, the paradox of our human condition becomes stark. In fact thinking too much about the horror of what some humans wake up to and face each morning can be too much to bear. So with no apparent explanation for our contradictory behaviour, we just hold our head up and stoically ‘get on with things’. The ‘haves’ preoccupied with themselves and the ‘have nots’ with surviving.
Meanwhile society disintegrates in every corner of the globe. Levels of violence, corruption and despair are unprecedented. One in seven humans are hungry (World Education Centre 2012 Facts and Statistics), across the globe in the next twenty four hours, 1,439 teens will attempt suicide, 15,006 teens will use drugs for the first time and every 2 hours another youth is murdered (Denise Witmer; What is happening to our children). Corruption, greed and power have infiltrated government, business and sport, the left and right in politics seem irreconcilable, new age ‘causes’ and band aid solutions spring up in isolation making no long lasting change.
And to this backdrop life goes on with no real solution on the horizon.
For all their contributions over thousands of years moderating, managing and solving society’s problems it is becoming clearer that governments, humanitarian programs, religions, new age movements, self or imposed disciplines and restraints are not going to save us from our seemingly self-destructive plight.
‘None of us are right’
However insight as to where the real solution might originate from are found in the words of world renowned philosopher, Sir Laurens van der Post:
‘For we are none of us right; we do not know ourselves sufficiently. We have not faced up to the fact that we ourselves, not our institutions or stars, are the source of the error, and that until we have dealt with the error in ourselves we cannot deal properly with what is wrong with the world’ (A Walk with a White Bushman 1986).
Throughout history there have been a handful of philosophers and scientists, including Plato, Marais, Jung and Koestler, who have ventured to the ‘source of the error’ and contributed to understanding our troubled condition. This leads me to Australian biologist Jeremy Griffith, who has been writing about and explaining this ostensibly off limit subject of the human condition for some 30 years.
I draw on a passage from Griffith’s book The Real Book of Answers to Everything;
‘the issue of the human condition has been the real, underlying issue we needed to solve if we were to exonerate and thus rehabilitate the human race, we have been so fearful and insecure about the subject that instead of confronting it and trying to solve it we have been preoccupied denying and escaping it. The truth is that while much attention has been given to the need to love each other and the environment if we are to ‘save the world’, the real need if we were to actually succeed in doing so was to find the means to love the dark side of ourselves–to find the reconciling understanding of our ‘good-and-evil’-afflicted human condition that was causing so much suffering and destruction!’
Making sense of the world
The power of Griffiths’ work is its ability to give full explanation and compassionate understanding to the world we live in and to our own lives. It makes sense of a world that seems inexplicable.
Through first principle biology Griffith explains that the paradox of the human condition is our capacity for both ‘good and evil’, of why when the ideals in life are to be cooperative, loving are selfless are we humans capable of such incredibly angry, selfish and divisive behaviour. And until we could explain this dilemma we were left carrying a deep ‘burden of guilt’ and insecurity about our fundamental sense of worth, and could barely even admit we had a problem, let alone confront the issue of the human condition. We just held our head up and got on with life, living with the premise that our behaviour was immutable and unable to be changed.
Understanding and knowing
However suddenly, with acknowledgement and explanation of the human condition, we can reconcile the polarities in life, reconcile ‘good and evil’ and understand there has been a very good reason for all our selfish, divisive, destructive and literally crazy behaviour. And through understanding and knowing the reason for our behaviour, it can change; And quickly. And all the psychological trauma and veil of confusion that we have all being living with since time immemorial lifts like mist rising from a valley. The underlying burden of guilt and insecurity,that previously we have been unable to acknowledge, can be lifted from our individual and collective psyche.
So from this despairing path to self-destruction, I believe there is now incredibly exciting hope that our children will inherit a better world. Hope that a path to liberation from the duress of the human condition is being paved through understanding the ‘source of the error’.
Anthony lives in Sydney, Australia. While his greatest interest lies in how the human condition be reconciled he also has a huge passion for playing and watching cricket, tennis and rugby.