Assumption to Reassess: What Motivates Us?
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
I believe not that we have souls, but, rather, that we are souls, growing and developing individually and collectively in these vessels that we call bodies. I feel that there’s more to our interests, motivations, and choices than survival, material prosperity and physical pleasures. On a regular basis, I feel selfless love, altruism, humility, detachment, fair-mindedness, a yearning for justice and a willingness to sacrifice for the common good. We presently have few ways to measure or quantify those very real parts of our experience, and my assertion is that those selfless parts of being human are missing in the models that have evolved over time to explain what we do and why.
I also want to be clear that self-interested behaviors exist. My point is that while choices made from motives of self-interest have countless times in human history brought about devastating events, humans have also shown a wealth of capacity for collaboration and cooperation. The models that expect a person to act wholly in his own self-interest have influenced many policies that we have, with the unfortunate outcome that many of my peers feel a hopelessness about the future because they don’t believe that we can work together. Cynicism and apathy abound amongst my people regarding the capacity of the human family to rise above the primal instincts encouraged regularly in the social messages they absorb.
One reason we have models set up this way is captured well with this quote from a document entitled, “Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth”:
*”…we have to be mindful when considering any situation not to break it apart in such a way that we begin to compartmentalize aspects of our lives, which can lead to unnecessary contradictions. In general, the human mind has a tendency to fragment the world it encounters. Reality — physical, social, or spiritual — is too vast to be understood in its entirety. It is not unreasonable, then, to break it up in order to understand it in parts. However, when this is done without taking into account the wholeness of reality, difficulties arise. Conflicts among people of different races, colors, nationalities, and religions are examples of some of the many problems that can emerge from a fragmented conception of existence. For, the oneness of humanity is real, and its division along racial, ethnic, and national lines a product of the human mind and the result of historical circumstances.”
It makes sense to me that we might section off parts of problems we are trying to understand in order to break them into more manageable bits as the quote described. It’s when we leave them that way, and compare them in black and white – or worse…ignore the other elements altogether – that I feel is part of the challenge created by applying the materialist model or the classic “economic man” model to one area of life, and another entirely when considering something like a political view or system. This fragmented viewpoint then justifies conclusions that are based on only a partial analysis of a situation or problem.
How one might view or define their soul and its interaction in this complex situation can be quite varied, but it seems pertinent to consider all the facets of reality at play. What is the source of your attraction to beauty or order? What inspires you to engage in your career, trade or profession above the salary or wage it might provide?
To close, I ask you to consider the social environment that you exist in… Do you see contradictions in how things are valued? How can you live more consistently with what you believe?
I look forward to hearing of your experiences…