1. What is the noblest in man ? What are the noblest of man’s accomplishments ?
In short? Self-knowledge. We have the ability for introspection. Many people look into themselves and are scared at what they see. They judge their value based on distorted social criteria for what is good, and what is evil. The noble man or woman discards these subjective judgments, looks deep into their own psyche, sees and accepts their full potential. They see the value in their own darkness and anger, as well as their light.
Religions seek to limit us to emotions like love, light, kindness, AND OF COURSE compassion—oh that one makes me sick—COMPASSION—yuck. Who doesn’t have compassion, really? The only people who don’t FEEL compassion are psychopaths. It’s what we do about it that matters. Want more compassion in the world? Go out and create it yourself if it makes you happy!
We are ALL potential serial killers, and at the same time, we are ALL humanitarians. Speaking of compassion–serial killers just have their empathy gene switched off. They can’t relate to others’ pain, so they see no reason not to keep doing something that apparently gives them pleasure. It’s no mystery, and it’s certainly not evil. Evil ceases to have any meaning when applied to a person’s genetic makeup. We might all be killers if we had such faulty wiring.
[NOTE: This should not be construed as an argument for lack of consequences for serial killers. They should be caught and executed. But we do not blame a tiger or shark for killing it's prey. Likewise, society can act for the protection of its weaker members while still acknowledging the naturalistic mechanisms of biology which drive sociopaths.]
But the killer instinct gets a bad rap. Historically, it conveyed many advantages on our ancestors. Without it, we go soft, we become indecisive. Without the humanitarian side, impulse control, and empathy, our bloodlust becomes boundless. Believers, nihilists, cynics and misanthropes have all missed the point. Evolutionary psychologists are just now starting to shed light on what we humans are all about. It turns out that many things heretofore thought of as negative traits have actually been essential for our evolution.
This includes killing, deception, manipulation, and the relentless desire for dominance. It turns out that sexual deception, and detection of sexual deception has been one of the primary motors of higher brain development in humans. You can read more about this in the book “Jealousy, the Dangerous Passion” by David Buss.
We humans are complex, conflicted and terrible, yet we are also brilliant and inventive. As Carl Jung taught, we must embrace our shadow, individually and collectively. Sentimentality, and moralizing about quote human ‘goodness’ are as dangerous as unbridled aggression, because they give rise to false peace and false stability. Our modern sensibilities provide too many places for the opportunists among us to hide.
Strong individuals don’t need this nonsense. We can take responsibility for what lurks inside ourselves as well as inside of others. Evolution has already given us the instincts we need for this. We don’t need leaders in either religion or government to tell us when there is danger around. We can become, in a word, conscious. Only conscious individuals can form the equitable agreements with each other that prevent the machinations and manipulations which now seem to carry the day.
When engaging others, we must recognize that we aren’t bound by our bloody history. We don’t have to settle for the paltry solutions and lack of imagination offered by those who call themselves our leaders. As individuals, we give them the power. We are the only ones in control–our future will be what we make it. Knowing ourselves—and being willing to face our own darkness–now that’s noble.