For a long time, I have wondered about something that seemed evident but in a sense is inexplicable about us humans: Why, in contrast to all other animals, do we commonly seem out of place—confused, flailing, dysfunctional, destructive? For us, life seems a mystery of the “What am I supposed to do here?” sort. A few days ago, I was reading an overview of ancient Chinese philosophies and found that Zhuangzi made the same observation: All living beings except one, he thought, spontaneously follow the Way. Guided by their resonance with the eternal interplay of yin and yang as they fulfill their lives in the midst of constant change, birds fly, fish swim…they all live as creatures knowing who and where they are and why. Humans alone do not. Our minds get in the way, a strange thing since evolution ought to have made our minds like the other creatures’, adaptable to circumstance and built to fulfill our destiny in accord with a human Way. I’m sure there are many who consider this the glory of humanity, that our imagination and free will and overall genius liberate us from all bounds and open infinite possibilities. To which I say “bullshit” but am still left wondering how and why we came to be the peculiar way we are. Was evolution not paying attention when the crucial die was cast that gave us a mind unmoored? Or the opposite—Was it paying close attention and decided to take a flyer, lay the ground for adventure, allow a being to develop certain capacities beyond its ability through other capacities to regulate and use them for its fundamental good? Or maybe something like what has happened was bound to happen eventually due to the immense variety of evolutionary participants combined with the fecund creativity of mutational processes?
Image from the Public Domain