I was thrust into a conversation recently where I debated a Christian fundamentalist on morality. Particular why would we care about well-being, that only an existing divine moral authority would give us that imperative.
It seems obvious to me that morality is born out of need to learn how to survive best. And this of course would be different for different species. An intelligent life that evolved from frogs might simply have large litters and leave them all to fend for themselves and have completely different morals that made sense for their particular mode of survival. For us as social primates we have our own set of behaviors that make us most successful. I was then asked over and over again, “Why survive?” As if the answer could only be some supernatural force at worked. And yet it seems to me that survival is just the nature of life. I would go so far as to say if the nature of life was not to survive, there wouldn’t be life. It’s sort of the very definition of life. I would imagine that this is part of the definition of life we can most agree on.
Thus it also seems obvious to me that as a species of primates who have evolved to survive rather well through cooperation, we survive best when we are compassionate and kind to others. Building bonds of trust and empathy are not only some of the most long lasting relationships, but also the most gratifying to our own well being. But clearly it can’t be so obvious, because there is a lot of the opposite going around.
I started to think that maybe there are two extremes of the type of person you can be. You can be one who thinks the least of us slow us down and prevent us from living in that wonderful future utopia, or you can one who thinks that it difficult to know who the least of us is. And that everybody, to a certain extent, has something to teach. Hopefully, that thing they have to teach isn’t what not to do. But even those are lessons well learned. Of course most of us are not those extremes. But we’re all hoping to be more like one than the other. I think the former can be measurable shown to be illusion, but if you think the latter is easy to achieve you’d be fooling yourself just as much. I can personally say that there are moments when the illusion seems simpler, and you find the appeal of the black and white view, even if you know that could never be you. The latter is the path of humility, a path that asks you to accept uncertainty as property of nature. Not only must you tolerate it, you must actually welcome it and embrace it. Such a path can be a painful journey, but the well-being you gain from prostrating yourself under the endless sky of uncertainty, baring your soul to the universe, is immense. Because it really is the best way to see the stars. It’s always just seemed apparent to me that humans were naturally kind creatures, because it always seemed to me the reason why we’ve survived until now. I hope I’m not wrong.