Grief: The Irrational Clue to Humanity’s Origins



It makes no sense from an evolutionary standpoint.

When we suffer loss, we rage at the cruelty of fate and grieve for an imagined future that will never be.


When our dreams shatter, when we fail ourselves and each other, when shit happens, when the universe rubs us out like a bug, we grieve.


Are We Beasts?

People are shitty to each other, and we act like it’s wrong. But when animals prey on one another, it doesn’t bother us in the slightest.

Why do we expect people to be different?

It’s perfectly normal for the strong to prey on the weak. Doesn’t nature herself – sharp of tooth and red of claw – teach us that this is so?

When the strong devour the weak, why do we not shrug and say, “glad it wasn’t me”? That would be the normal, natural reaction to a creature that was entirely of this planet.

We don’t label the killer whale is “evil” when it grazes on dolphins for breakfast. We don’t call wolves “evil” when they run down the weak elk in a herd for lunch.

Strong men who prey on weak men are no different than killer whales or wolves.

Are they?

“Things Should Be Better”?

So why this universal belief that “things should be better”? Why this conviction that “there’s got to be more to life than this”?

Why do we expect that “things should be better” when the entirety of human history tells us that better almost never happens?

If we are the result of a cosmic chemical accident, then the whole idea of “should” is meaningless.

Should implies alternatives.

Chemical reactions don’t have alternatives.

We act for all the world like we believe we don’t belong here.

We should have no reason to do so, and yet everywhere you go in the world, we believe in good and bad, we believe in justice and fair play and honesty.

Yet these are evolutionarily useless beliefs.

It is clear that those without conscience and without remorse are far better suited to getting what they want.

So why do we consider it “wrong” to live without conscience and to act without remorse?

So how to explain the almost universal belief that life is not as it should be?

I think the only reasonable explanation is this:

Because it is true…

Fallen From a Great Height

I suspect that we as a race are somehow fallen from a great height. Else why would we even have the sense of missing something? Some genetic, generational memory must be at work in us – a distant echo and shadow of a place our race used to live, a place that was paradise by comparison.

The only answer I can find is that we really are descended from a race that was better. I think there is something written into our DNA that we remember.

We know about justice because justice is inside us.

We sense the difference between good and evil because it is written into our cells.

I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but I am certain we are not mere descendants of our animal cousins.

I doubt we are cousins at all.

1 thought on “Grief: The Irrational Clue to Humanity’s Origins”

  1. Your thoughts reminded me of one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
    He comes at it from the angle of destination, rather than ancestry, but essentially the same point is made that the deeply innate belief and attitude about the way things should be, but aren’t, isn’t an anomoly or fruitless fantasy. It rises from who we are.

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