January 5

An Asteroid is About to Impact, So Why Are We All Smiling?

January 5, 2015

Personal Growth

I watched a talk from 2012 by Jonathan Haidt about our regrettable tendency as humans to unite in our efforts mostly when we share a common threat. If a large asteroid, for example, were hurtling toward the earth, every nation and business and scientist would likely unite to come up with a way to divert the impending disaster. Without a common threat, however, we tend to compete, quarrel, and manipulate each other.

Mr. Haidt then described problems that were growing to the point where they would destroy us as surely as a large asteroid, among them global warming and the national debt. But we are doing virtually nothing about these and other potentially fatal problems because of partisanship, mostly political, with one group screaming panic and the other denying the existence of the problem. Pointedly, he added, “We are doomed unless we start acting now,” and he made some recommendations for reducing the effects of partisanship in this country.

I suggest we look even deeper—far deeper—than Mr. Haidt suggests. Partisanship is, after all, simply one of the many faces of the omnipresent human characteristic of selfishness: my needs are more pressing, my wisdom is greater, you are so stupid, and I am more important. Selfishness in turn is only our response to the pain of not experiencing what we want most: unconditional love.

So yes, there is indeed a building threat to our very existence, but it is more basic than global warming or debt. We could, in fact, unite to solve either or both of the latter problems, but the underlying problem—the root from which all the others grow—would simply surface in other ways, and we would chase solutions forever.

What is the root problem? We simply do not care enough about each other unconditionally. In our defense, most of us have never experienced unconditional love, nor could we even define it. But the problem remains that until we learn to truly care about each other, NO political solution will save us from ourselves.

We have united politically before—during wars or epidemics, for example—but the union has been brief and limited. Until we genuinely care about each other, we will continue to use the earth’s resources in a way that best suits US in the moment. We will make decisions about money and technology and our families that will be most advantageous and convenient for US in the short-term, and thus we will destroy ourselves.

And so it is that until the pursuit of unconditional love is the foundation of our lives, and the foundation of our attempts to solve all other problems, our problems will continue to grow, and the likelihood is great that they will eventually cripple or destroy us.

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