Bare Bones Biology 156 – Actually, The Glass is About a Quarter Full

So much for the glass is three-quarters empty.  Most people do not want to sit around watching it fade away.  They want to DO SOMETHING, but what to do?   What we tend to do very often makes the problem worse, because we tend to use our instincts as our guide.  And our instincts in this culture seem to be more or less the sorts of reactions that I described last week.

It’s normal.  We can’t obliterate our instincts.

But what to do about it?

We need to remember that humans have basically a three-part brain: first the part that runs our automatic systems, such as breathing; second the instincts that make us human, such as compassion, anger, denial, greed, these are usually expressed as emotional responses; and third the modern intellectual brain that helps us to learn worldviews and also helps us to use our emotions in ways that can lead to a better life for future generations – or not.  The intellect is   the part of our brain that informs our choices.  The modern American often reacts negatively to the word intellectual, but without our intellect we wouldn’t have modern America or modern Americans.  So I say the first thing we should do is use our intellect to understand who we are, where we came from and from that to build vision for how we would like to grow a future as our heritage.  Then the question is how to do it, and that too will require that we use our intellect to learn how things function.

131104-SantaFe-ASC_7017RsMost humans cannot feel fulfilled and content (which is a lot better than being happy) unless they can contribute to a community effort with a goal to build a better future (I didn’t say GROW, I said BUILD).  I believe this is a human instinct that is connected with the fact that we are a social species, and I believe the main problem with the corposystem is that it doesn’t know the difference between growing money and building a future.  And then it must resort to telling us stories that aren’t true to make us believe that we are building a better future, when in fact we are growing a disaster for all sentient beings.

Last week I listed a bunch of negative behaviors that we humans use so often to avoid dealing with problems faced by our communities.  All these behaviors are probably normal instinctual denial or avoidance mechanisms, so today I’ll take another look at the list and try to consider how we could use our intellect to turn the negative reactions into positives.

My favorite is “the glass is half full” because it’s so obviously a statement of:  “I don’t care about the bad things in life, I will just pretend they aren’t there.”  The concept of yin and yang is true.  There is no such thing as a problem-free life, and nobody can do anything to help a problem she can’t even see.  In that sense, it would be better to spend one’s time studying problems, the other half of the glass.  Otherwise the glass will get emptier and emptier.

I made a list of excuses last week (  Almost all of them can be addressed in a way similar to the half-full glass, except for the last, which is forgetting to study the long-term effects of our short-term efforts to fix problems.  And the most difficult of all, the second on the list, trying to analyze our own motivations.  Trying to understand, if there is a conflict between two choices, whether we are really working to solve the problem long term, or are our own instinct needs – our ego or our own sadness or loneliness or – surely not greed? — standing in the way of doing what is best for the long-term welfare of the community.

That would be the real hero’s journey, and in today’s world it’s not possible to understand the long term needs of the community without fact-based intellectual study, and even then it’s hard work.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS FM 89.1 in Bryan, TX.  A copy of the podcast can be downloaded at:


131101-trees-ASC_6993RLSsI was sitting alone in the canyon, breathing clean air, craving nothing, but I was lonely.  I was sitting together with friends in the city, beset with anxiety and craving this and that.  But no matter where I was and how I felt, the needs of the ecosystem did not change,  Nor did my responsibility to myself, my friends, my community and to the whole of Life.