“The basis of our nature is cooperation and democracy. It’s in our DNA.” -Thom Hartman author of “Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight”
I saw this sweet story today about this lovely dog, who’d been rescued from the street himself, paid it forward when he followed his instinct to save kittens who’d been thrown in a trash heap. Here’s a pic…aren’t they cute?
I love stories like these because I feel like they illustrate what’s in our truest nature as animals on this planet. We are inundated with news, images and advertisements that paint a different picture of what we are at our core and I understand that the news plays to our physiologically wired negativity bias when it chooses what is important to report and advertising takes advantage of our fears that we won’t fit in or won’t be ______ (fill in the blank) enough.
But if you think about it, none of that would even work if we weren’t wired for cooperation and companionship. The reason negativity bias even exists is because we are wired to ferret out the exception to the rule in case it can be of danger to us. Doesn’t that mean that the rule is that our circumstances are, by nature, pretty safe? What would make us safe? Coming together, working in concert and looking out for each others’ welfare. The reason we have a fear that we aren’t enough is that we’re wired to be part of a herd, a pack or, as we call it, a family. We are physiologically designed to work together.
In Tom Shadyac’s documentary “I am” Thom Hartman cites several studies of a variety of species (from insects to primates) where it was concluded that animals work instinctively with one another and not in competition with each other. A lion may eat a wildebeest for dinner but unless she needs to eat she does not hunt. And the other wildebeest do not make it easy for her as they travel in cooperation with each other to confuse her, they run close together in an attempt to keep the majority of the herd safe in the middle, and often they will come back and try to scare her away when she’s caught her prey. The wildebeest are not in competition with each other putting their individual lives ahead of the lives of other individuals in the herd.
Marc Ian Barasch, author of “Field Notes on the Composition of Life,” sites that in Charles Darwin’s “Descent of Man” the phrase that we came to build our modern-day societal structure on, “survival of the fittest,” which paints a picture of us being in competition with one another and has wielded generation after generation of people who believe we are meant to compete for resources, acclaim, money and attention was actually only mentioned twice. Darwin’s study of animals and how they come to thrive cited the word “love” 95 times!! His conclusions were that cooperation with one another is our key to survival as a species…the whole of humanity is not only wired for love and cooperation ultimately it relies on it. Alduous Huxley popularized Darwin’s work and his own bleak view on life kept the focus on the “survival of the fittest” part of the studies.
When people ask me what my purpose in life is I always answer, “I want people to love themselves again.” Notice the “again” part of that. I feel like I’ve always known, somehow, that we’re navigating our way back to what we really know to be True in ourselves…that Love is not just the answer but that Love is actually who we are. Love is a state of being; we are Love – it is only when we behave in contradiction of that truth about who we are that we become lost and angry.
Not everyone is going to join me in this belief since many still hold humans entirely separate from animals and that’s ok. I’d rather be wrong and be empowered by the joy Love creates than be right and feel like I’m fighting the world.