Peak Apes in a Self-Entangling Universe

When you realize that it is impossible to alter the course of human events in a world indifferent to you and your concerns and your interests, then the challenge becomes to fashion a life that unfolds with reasonable delight given reasonable exertion, and is experienced as fulfilling despite the knowledge that all is impermanent.

We are a species of pyramid-building apes living in a self-entangling universe. Our fantasies of self-worth and our obsessions of personal gain are homogenized into mass neuroses (and for some, psychotic cults) that we distinguish as strains of politics, and varieties of religion. We like to keep our minds focused on our wants in the here-and-now, and more narrowly so as our selfishness becomes more consuming. This blinds us to the panorama of interconnectedness we are immersed in, and that robs our brains of accurately interpreting sensory input, our minds of realizations based on fact, and our consciences of forming resolve that recognizes personal responsibility.

The left wing politics of complaint is useless, the global consensus for selfishness — whether massed in chaotic jumbles of grasping individuals or as organized units of capitalism — has a cumulative inertia that is unstoppable by the force of logic or the appeal to morality. Right-wing politics is entirely the machinations of organized greed, and all its rhetoric is merely a blustery show to distract attention from its purpose. Fundamentalist religion is the male cult of sexism and misogyny, the ultimate in self-righteousness for excusing willfully ignorant authoritarianism.

We have not evolved to the point where altruistic attitudes about social inclusion and species solidarity can outweigh our immediate selfish desires when choosing how to act, which is usually reflexively or impulsively. The rush to satisfy our constant streams of immediate wants overwhelms any concern for the exercise of social responsibility for the long term benefit of all life. As a result, we can anticipate that human extinction will be nature’s response to capitalism.

A fulfilling life is to be had by acting in ways that maintain your self-respect while also transmitting a positive — or at a minimum neutral — experience to the people you have direct contact with. Given human reality, none of us will always achieve this ideal. However, successful practitioners of such mindful living will only lapse into unkindness and hostility infrequently. The basis of “self-respect” as used here is: your truthful estimation of your moral character. This has nothing to do with affectations and acquisitions used as measures of social status.

It should be freeing for you to know that the achievement of personal fulfillment through mindful living is very rarely noticed, let alone acknowledged and celebrated. It is its own reward.