Human Nature

This is exactly what I look like today. Exactly. I’m having a bad hair day. I’d be embarrassed for people to see my hair like this. I’m not proud of my concern for appearances, but there it is. I’ll shampoo later and that should fix it. In the meantime I’ll wear my cap.

Standing around this morning watching the news, waiting for Elizabeth, my wife, so we can go to the farmers market. The news says that somebody set off a car bomb in Beirut that killed some people. Injured a lot more. You probably never see that coming. Or maybe a second before it goes you see something, and it’s already too late. How the hell does anyone live with that? Cars blow up and kill your kids. A drone flies over and blows up your neighbor’s wedding reception or a gunship sends a Hellfire into your grandmother’s house.

There’s a fifteen year old Pakistani girl in a hospital in England. Her name is Malala Yousufzai and she’s been standing up for the right for girls to get an education since she was eleven – a rights activist since she was eleven years old. What amazing heights of human dignity has this child reached by age fifteen?! The Taliban put a bullet in her head. Education for girls is against their religion.

Regrettable consequences of our human nature, people will say.

The next story comes on. A family is at the checkout at a Target and their credit card doesn’t go through. It’s $163. While the young couple are conferring on what to do, the lady in front of them gives her card to the cashier and says take it out of this. Cashier says, Are you sure? I’m sure, the lady says. I’ve been there. Cashier runs the lady’s card through and the lady leaves. The cashier tells the couple it’s been taken care of. They are awash in kindness. The man says, I’ve got a twenty in my pocket, put it toward the next person in line. Human kindness begins to snowball down the line. Soon everybody’s paying for somebody else.  The cashier is wide-eyed on the teevee. Her heart is broken open. She says it’s the best thing she’s ever seen.

We make it to the farmers market. It rained hard overnight and the ground is a bit muddy. But this is Maine and Mainers don’t mind a little mud. I go where I always go – straight to Barak the baker. He makes outrageous loaves of  bread, but that’s my wife’s department. I want a cinnamon roll. He makes them out of unbleached this and organic that, and they are perfect.

Angie comes up and we start talking. Angie and her husband are farmers and their stand is just up the row from the baker and she’s come over to barter some of her produce for some bread. She’s a yoga teacher at the studio where I teach. Her yoga love is Kundalini, and when she teaches Kundalini she wears whites and a turban. She’s also pregnant and as usual she and my wife start talking about babies. Swapping stories. I know that I will not be part of this conversation, and so I take my cinnamon roll and wander off.

I walk down to the end. I like doing this because from there I can survey the whole scene. I can watch all the movement. Nobody’s moving fast. Lots of chit-chatting and dog-petting. Kids running around. Standing there for a while my feet sink into the mud a little – kapha kicking in.

Kirsti walks by, doesn’t see me. She’s one of my wife’s bestys. I look down the row and my wife is still hanging with Angie. And Kirsti’s headed in their direction, so I know we’re going to be here for a while.

A guy with a mandolin and a guy with a guitar arrive and start setting up. These two look nothing alike. Way different ages; way different styles. I wouldn’t have put them together. They’re talking and laughing together while they tune up. They have their music. They kick off a tune, and they can cook.

I see that my wife’s party has increased by a couple more people.

I go over to see my friend Sarah. She makes wonderful cheese and sells it at the market. She’s a retired school teacher; lived in France for years. She won a championship for one of her original recipes. She beat out some big outfits. She submitted the only wheel she had of her winning cheese. Took her two months to make some more. She forgot her scale today so the man in the next stall over lets her use his. Sarah comes to my gentle yoga class. Another yoga student I know comes over to buy some cheese. Her name is also Sarah. Sarah meet Sarah.

I love humans. In principle, I love them all.

Have you ever noticed that when human nature gets cited as the reason for something, it’s always for something bad? Have you ever heard anyone cite human nature when somebody does something good?

The old yogis taught that there is nothing at all wrong with our human nature. Our nature is perfect. What’s wrong is that we are ignorant of our nature.

I make a point of trying to keep my mind open. I try not to get certain about things. I don’t want to tighten up around one view in a way that keeps me blind to other views. And I humbly give this same advice to any who care to listen to me. But in this case I’m going to go against my policy and state something about which I am certain: There is no possible way that our true human nature can manifest itself in the form of a fucking car bomb or a fucking Hellfire missile. There is no honest and true identification with the divine that could ever in righteousness lead a soldier to fire a fucking bullet into the head of a fifteen year old girl because she is pleading for an education. The brutal treatment of other beings, the reckless exploitation of our home, avarice and greed turned to virtue, the unceasing, unsleeping lust for power over others and many, many other sad insults to the conscience are not expressions of who we truly are as human beings, but rather are the foul price paid by us all for living in dark ignorance of who we are.

The journey within is a long one; at least it is for me. And with such clarity as I may have I can see this much: The journey of realization of our human nature does not lead to some grinding, black pit of mindless destruction. The journey of realization of our nature leads absolutely away from such insanity. If we live in greed and hatred, it is only by abiding unnecessarily in ignorance of who we are that we do so.


5 responses to “Human Nature

  1. I love the image of your market (and your hair) and I know the loveliness of that experience that we have here as well. I find it reassuring as a the mark of civilization that works well. There’s something for everyone in that setting. This is the environment that does not challenge the reasoning mind to don protective gear.

    We people thrive in the environment of acceptance and friendship. What gets in the way of that? Why would it be other than that? If things stray, where did that start?

    Best to let oneself bask in the glow of contentment for as long as it can linger and then to push it to linger even longer, and even longer still.

    Thanks for sharing your home with this visitor. I am basking in the glow of your warmth.


    • People are very capable of dealing decently with each other, aren’t they. We do it all the time. At the same time we have a disastrous willingness to listen to demagogues. Thanks for dropping by, Hilary. Always good to have you in the house.


  2. This post was very resonant for me. As a yogini and an Eastern Orthodox Christian (huh?), what you describe as our human nature (both the losing sight of it – which we would attribute to the fall; and the attempting to realise the divine image in which it is created – which we would call theosis) really rang true for me. So much of Western religion has been taken over by some kind of pseudo-Calvinism (we are all totally depraved!) that people have no idea that there is more than one way to “go East”, as it were.

    This was very nicely written, touching, and I appreciated reading it. I stumbled across it at the right time!


  3. Pingback: On yoga and spirituality. And religion. Yikes. | My Secret Bikram Blog

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