NERVOUS, UNSATISFIED PEOPLE

My friend Jarvis in North Carolina sent the following lines:

"Carl Jung wrote about a conversation he had with a Native American chief who told him that his impression of most white people was that they have tense faces, staring eyes, and a cruel demeanor. The chief said, 'They are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something. They are always uneasy and restless. We don't know what they want. We think they are mad.'"

Jarvis continues:

"Commenting on this, Eckhart Tolle writes, 'The undercurrent of constant unease started long before the rise of Western industrial civilization, of course, but in Western civilization, which now covers almost the entire globe, including most of the East, it manifests in an unprecedentedly acute form. . . This collective dysfunction has created a very unhappy and extraordinarily violent civilization that has become a threat not only to itself but also to all life on the planet.'"

I can understand how the uneasy and restless manners of our Northern European ancestors evolved, as can anyone who has endured northern or central Europe's spirit-crushingly cold, sunless, wet or snowy falls, winters and springs. Imagine what it must have been like for ancient Europeans living in caves and primitive huts. During Paleolithic times, anyone who wasn't uneasy and restless with regard to getting in plenty of firewood, of properly curing furs and storing nuts, roots and the like -- didn't survive long enough to produce us as their descendents.

A good guess is that our uneasy and restless manners are genetically fixed traits. Moreover, I suspect that these predispositions lie at the root of our obsessive consumerism, and our tendencies to want more and more, even when we have enough.

It's important to understand the roots of our impulses for ever greater consumption because our out-of-control consumption is destroying life on Earth. Why is it appropriate to destroy vast forests to provide cheap lumber for buildings that are mostly unnecessary? Why do we keep filling in wetlands for more parking lots and subdivisions, while our urban zones decay? Why eat so much when we are already fat?

But, it's not enough just to say that we must end our unthinking, destructive manners. Our self-indulgences must be replaced by other behaviors -- behaviors that on the one hand satisfy the needs of our genetically programmed "uneasy and restless" predispositions, but, on the other, are useful, soul-pleasing and nurturing behaviors, not destructive ones.

We must learn to  be obsessive and competitive at planting trees and gardening, developing our artistic talents, and producing well-adjusted, life-loving children and societies in which everyone can live in dignity and feel needed.