Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Know your Nature

This above all: To thine own self be true,
for it must follow as dost the night the day,
that canst not then be false to any man.

- Shakespeare (Hamlet) inspired by Socrates (Know thyself).

Some observers suggest that humans make up themselves “from a tool kit of options made available by our culture and society ... We do make choices but we don't determine the options among which we choose.” Well, yes and no. As psychologists, like George Kelly has suggested, experience is not just what happens to us, it is also about what we do with what happens to us. And, a significant component of the what we do with what happens to us is programmed into our genetic profile.

Humans are part of the natural world. Consequently, our options also come from some innate forces. Walt Disney may have been the first media mogul in the last century to capture this in his iconic characters. Although we recognized many of his characters as animals, their innate selves were clearly visible, whether duck, mouse, rat, dog, or cat. Our various individual behaviors, too, can be found in animals, which is to say that a particular type of animal behavior can be found in all humans, some with more than one. For example, I may think of myself as a bird with the following profile: do not like chatter; a hunter, who can sit quietly for hours; domestic, preferring the nest (home) to roaming; can live alone or with others; and, enjoy certain aspects of childrearing. What type of bird am I?

Why is it important to relate to yourself as an animal? Because humans are animals! And, the type of animal you are determines many things: the type of mate you need to be looking for or why certain social and business relationships do not work for you. There can be a relationship of tragic consequences formed between two persons whose innate natures are that of a bird and a cat. Everyone needs to know the inner animal of potential mates early on so that when faced with relationships of choice, we can select with wisdom.

Most of us move through life looking for a "soul mate," expecting some "chemistry" to let us know if someone is "the one." That chemistry may only be a primordial feeling. Any two humans can get it on up to a point, but it takes a special person that can and will commit to a single person to help them get on with life and derive satisfaction from that commitment for a lifetime.

Another reason for better understanding the animal in you is that by doing so you can become a better judge of the animal in others: the predator (hawk, lion, shark, or dog), the scavenger (hyena, rat, or chicken), the hunted (gazelle, deer, or bison), the gatherers (bees, squirrels, bears), the colonizers (ants, bees, termites, mammal), royalty (elephant, rhinoceros, giraffe, lion, whale), the solitary (panda, tiger, snake), the spirits (ravens, horses, bats, spiders), the migrators (birds, sea turtles, whales, seals) There is an animal group that correlates to any human emotion; a flavor for every taste.

Gaining an understanding of the kind of being you are can lead to less self-esteem problems and a greater conviction in the value of your being and that of others. If you find your animal among the negative categories, just remember that human beings have the capacity to change just as some wild animals can be domesticated; whether we do change or not is not an easy thing to do, but we know that it can be done.

At any rate, avoiding criticism is impossible. Do not try to please everyone. To do so, will cause you to forget who you are or to become much that you should not. A story from the Arab world about Nasrudin, a Sufi folk character in jokes, and his attempt to avoid criticism illustrates this:

Nasrudin and his son were traveling with their donkey. Nasrudin preferred to walk while his son rode the donkey. But then they passed a group of bystanders, and one scoffed, “Look—that selfish boy is riding on a donkey while his poor old father is forced to walk alongside. That is so disrespectful. What a horrible and spoiled child!”

Nasrudin and his son felt embarrassed, so they switched spots—this time Nasrudin rode the donkey while his son walked.

Soon they passed another group of people. “Oh, that’s detestable!” one of them exclaimed. “That poor young boy has to walk while his abusive father rides the donkey! That horrible man should be ashamed of himself for the way he is treating his son. What a heartless parent!”

Nasrudin was upset to hear this. He wanted to avoid anybody else’s scorn, so he decided to have both himself and his son ride the donkey at the same time.

As they both rode, they passed another group of people. “That man and his son are so cruel,” one bystander said. “Just look at how they are forcing that poor donkey to bear the weight if two people. They should be put in jail for their despicable act. What scoundrels!”

Nasrudin heard this and told his son, “I guess the only way we can avoid the criticism of others is to both walk.”

“I suppose you are right,” the son replied.

So they got off the donkey and continued on foot. But as they passed another group of people, they heard them laughing. “Ha, ha, ha,” the group jeered. “Look at those two fools. They are so stupid that both of them are walking under this scorching hot sun and neither of them is riding the donkey! What morons!”

Stand for something because some people have the innate nature always to find fault. If you find yourself in such a relationship or in a bevy of quail, my advice is to get a passport and find a new home.

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