Grief: The Irrational Clue to Humanity’s Origins

Grief.

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.

Why?

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.

Why?

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.

Purplevania: A Parable of Tolerance, Dance & Death

The people of Purplevania, more than any country on earth, loved ballroom dance.

The waltz. The tango. The fox-trot and the quick-step. The paso doble and the rumba. Year after year, the greatest ballroom dancers in the world came from Purplevania.

Yet all was not sunshine and roses.

Purplevania endured a minor yet long-running dispute about ballroom dancing lessons.

Some people in Purplevania believed that everyone deserved free ballroom dance lessons. They loved the beauty of ballroom dance, the thrill of competition, the benefits of exercise and the really cool hairstyles.

Others believed that no one deserved free ballroom dance lessons. They were not against ballroom dance lessons. They too loved the beauty of ballroom dance, the thrill of competition, the benefits of exercise and the really cool hairstyles.

They believed that any Purplevanian who wanted ballroom dance lessons should pay for those lessons themselves rather than forcing all Purplevanians to pay for them.

For decades, the two groups of Purplevanians lived in peace with one another. Each group thought the other was wrong, but each group tolerated  the other’s contrary beliefs.

It was a peaceful, happy and beautiful time to be alive.

Until one day, when…

A charismatic, powerful figure rose to a position of power: Fabulous Frederick Flaminco

Fab Fred, (as his supporters called him), was a fiery speaker, aflame with passion for ballroom dance. He believed – passionately – that everyone deserved free ballroom dance lessons. On the strength of that message, he was elected Prime Minister by the narrowest of margins.

In a stunning departure from Purplevanian traditions, he commanded the creation of a special committee charged with collecting money from all Purplevanians to fund free dance lessons for all.

Naturally, the Free Dance Lessons for Everyone crowd loved Fab Fred.

The other crowd – the “if you want it, then pay for it” crowd – was horrified.

“Why are we forced to pay for other people’s dance lessons”, they rightly asked. “It violates our beliefs!”

They two groups of Purplevanians had coexisted for decades with those differing opinions. But now, one group had chosen “progress” over “peaceful coexistence” and was forcing their beliefs on the other group.

Of course, this story ends as all true stories do: with death.

A civil war broke out.

Purplevanians by the thousands were killed, wounded and horribly maimed by the war. Purplevania lost its stature as the ballroom dance capital of the world. The war destroyed all the ballroom dance studios and killed most of the teachers.

No more champions ever came from Purplevania again.

In the end, Fabulous Frederick Flamingo was deposed and fled the country to live out the rest of his life in Argentina, (naturally).

Some people still loved him. Some would forever revile his name.

Purplevania never recovered.

Today, where once there was prosperity, happiness, art, beauty and cooperation, there is only poverty, pain, sickness, destruction and suspicion.

And very few Purplevanians even remember how to dance.


 

Believe whatever you want. But let other people believe whatever they want, too. It’s not okay to force other to pay for your beliefs. Everyone loses in that situation.