“The whole point of civilization is that we exceed the limits of nature…” – Adrian Tchaikovsky, “Children of Time”
Remember how Conan/Ah-nold talked to Crom, his pagan deity, in Conan the Barbarian?
“Crom…I ask you to grant me [this] request…And if you do not listen, then the hell with you!”
This. This is how you talk to Nature.
Once again, here we are. Something is bugging the heck out of me and I don’t know how to express it in words. But let me try anyway, because try we must — words are almost all we have.
There’s this couple who are great friends of mine. They are proud “secular humanists” — so proud, in fact, that they give themselves the title. My perspective is that, in fact, everyone is a secular humanist: it’s just a matter of a degree. When Pope John Paul II got shot, he didn’t go get a bunch of cardinals to pray over him, he went to a hospital.
Anyway, so, this couple. I love them and people like them. They have brought so much joy into my life. They’re fun and irreverent. They liked Christopher Hitchens before it was cool or socially acceptable. But there’s a problem with their beliefs. They roundly and proudly reject the Abrahamic religions, indeed religion itself, yet they live in fear. This is like quitting smoking but taking up drinking — the problem is merely displaced. You see, they, and many others, have replaced religious fatalism with socio-scientific fatalism. They believe, apropos of nothing, that they could never seriously improve their financial situation. They believe, unironically, in state socialism (lol). They parrot and live in fear of every poorly designed “scientific” study that gets reported in the popular press.
And don’t even get me started on my other friend, a military guy and awesome musician, who got that genetic testing done where it gives you a “percentage probability” of certain crazy scary chronic illnesses and has since spent years living in a state of what can only be described as high-functioning despair.
Like, what the actual eff, man? If you people were going to cower in fear, then you might as well have remained medieval peasants — at least that way you’d get to talk cooler and wear fun clothes (this is an accurate portrayal of medieval peasant life, right? lol). What good is your “superior knowledge” if it doesn’t also give you courage?
When we decide that some tradition or philosophy is a bad idea, we must be careful not to replace it with an even worse idea.
The purpose of human knowledge — science included — is not to make us feel superior to other humans who don’t have it yet. That’s what flossing on Instagram is for. The purpose of human knowledge is to uplift. To empower. To transcend.
If something is wrong with our nature (or with big-En “Nature” as a whole), then it is Nature — either kind — that must give way, not us.
Everything that makes humans human is in our rejection of nature. More or less.
We don’t accept the cold: we get dressed. We don’t accept the heat: we fan, ice or air-condition it away. One day, we’ll probably control the weather directly, so it can be sunny all day and rain or snow appropriately all night. We enter the world naked and afraid, but there is no reason to live in it that way. How and where you start need not determine and how you travel or where you end up.
If Nature has left you lacking or deficient somehow, then fix it. Do not submit. Do not whine. Do not despair. Do not compare. Do not wish. Fix.
There are no excuses, just conditions to be played.
Biological determinism is religious fatalism without the benefit of art and pageantry (and history and comfort and community and all the other objectively good things that religion at its best offers people, directly or indirectly). It will impoverish your soul and your pocket — just look at any Communist (or, better yet, Communist country). To be secular but also a determinist is not to be secular at all. It is to replace the gods of our forefathers with a new god — Nature. And the new god is gobschyte. She sucks. And not in a good way.
What, you thought I didn’t have the courage to ruin this with juvenile sexual innuendo? You thought wrong, motherlover!
Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah:
This is why militant beliefs are so damaging. They start to become the same thing just painted in different colors. Militant secularists and religious fundamentalists all value dogma over pragma. Dogma — orthodoxy — dictates correct belief. Pragma concerns itself with the consequences of belief. And that’s all that need be said about that for now; it’s a redundant topic in that the vast majority of humanity — everybody caught in the middle, between the extremes — doesn’t need it explained, while the screaming minority who do need it explained can’t be made to understand it.
Moving swiftly on…
Do not make Nature your god.
You work with Nature, not for Nature. Be cooperative, not obsequious. Nature is not a god. Nature is a partner. A very powerful partner — I don’t suggest you walk the Sahara desert without water or swim San Francisco Bay without a wetsuit or pump yourself full of organ-destroying steroids like Rich Piana. But still just a partner. Nature is not immortal or invincible. Nature’s “rules” are riddled with loopholes, exceptions and exemptions. Nature is not an excuse to give up. Human will finds a way. And when it can’t find one, it makes one.
Transcending nature, both internally and externally, is the human project. It is the only thing that makes you human. The only thing. If you don’t have the stomach to make the “impossible” possible then you are, in a profound sense, not acting like a human being. There are enough species willing to obey. They do not need you to join them. FOXP2 does not make you human. Having two eyes and two hands and two feet does not make you human. The will to be more, do more, have more, know more: these make you human. Do not suppress them for anyone or anything but temporary common sense. Do what you will. Get Nature’s help. And if Nature doesn’t help you, then work around her.