How evolved are we?

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

Evolution is individual; devolution is collective. 

– Martin H. Fischer

When it comes to finding new ways to build things, improvising when something is broken or navigating around obstacles, humans may be inherent problem solvers. We are not so good at solving problems between ourselves, however. Humans can be judgmental, critical, aggressive and adversarial. It would be interesting to see how much of our daily conversation centres on being annoyed with people or gossiping about them.

In the past, being aggressive or adversarial probably helped primitive man to survive. If someone threatened to take away a man’s hunting catch or his woman, for instance, it was probably best to dispense with him, or, at least, put up a good fight to protect what was yours. There was no small claims court then!

Whereas, the biological impetus towards aggression once served humans in frequent fight or flight, life or death situations, we rarely encounter such dramatic conditions now. Yet the aggressive/adversarial impulse is still strong. We take adversarial stances in relation to sports (often extending way beyond healthy competition), eating (vegetarians and meat eaters judge each other,) gay rights, stay-at-home vs. working mothers, religion and politics.

This kind of human behaviour is so ubiquitous that it is rarely questioned. Parents do it so their children do it too. Politicians do it so if that is how the country is run maybe that is just how it is. But does it have to be?

Much of our world still seems to run on the principle of “survival of the fittest,” a term coined in the 1860s. But in the 1970s, Jonas Salk talked about “survival of the wisest.” He held that wisdom, not power and force, was what we needed to evolve as a species. He wrote about this almost 40 years ago, but things have not changed all that much. True, it is no longer okay to hit your spouse or your children, but much of human interaction is still pretty primitive at times.

It is not that we do not know better. We may be appalled and even embarrassed by the childish behaviour of government officials. We may be annoyed when someone says something hurtful to our child. Yet there may be times when we act in very much the same manner.

What is going on here? While most of us have the wisdom to recognize decency and integrity, ego is easily triggered and doesn’t care about those qualities. Ego is out to protect and defend itself, often regardless of the cost. Ego sees the world in terms of right or wrong and good or bad and believes it is on the side of good and right, which automatically makes the other bad and wrong.

We all have aspects of ego as well as a higher self. However, higher self/wisdom characteristics are still often seen as the territory of Mother Teresa and Gandhi types and not related to the common man. Herein lies the problem. If we see that kind of goodness as special and unique, how can we expect to manifest it?

If a six-month-old throws food on the floor, we do not get too upset. If a five-year-old does the same thing, we see his behaviour as completely unacceptable. Once you know something is inappropriate, you are expected to act accordingly.

Adults, it seems, hold themselves to a different standard. They may dress in suits and hold important positions, but at times still conduct themselves like unruly kids in the playground. And they may be well educated and good at their jobs, but still gossip like grade-six girls.

It is true that evolution takes time. It is not easy to change the world. What we can do is make changes in our world. Humans learn by watching others. As more individuals choose to claim the wisdom that exists in their higher selves and behave in more evolved ways, the more others might begin to feel uncomfortable with their own more primitive behaviour.

Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist in private practice and author ofGrowing Into Soul: The Next Step in Human Evolution. For more articles, permission to reprint and information about her books and “Deep Powerful Change” personal growth/hypnosis CDs, visit www.gwen.ca

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