Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ain't misbehavin'

I thought about bad behavior yesterday as I walked around. It's an appropriate train of thought on Yom Kippur, after all.

One thing I often wonder about is whether animals have within them an urge to be better - whatever that means - like we do. Do dogs reflect, for instance, on how they could have peed higher on the tree or think to themselves they should have barked more loudly at the mailman? Dogs do feel remorse, but it seems more like they're unhappy that we're unhappy. Dogs appear miraculously unashamed of their behaviors.

They say horses are psychologically a lot like us. Do they think about standing tall, running fast, or are they more zen in the moment of their behavior? It's obvious that some animals have very complicated psyches. From what I hear about elephants, they might be into self help like we are.

We humans are way into the idea of striving to be better - smarter, more accomplished, famous, rich, beautiful, etc. Is this instinctual, too? Is it a form of pack hierarchy behavior?

Clearly I've done a lot of thinking about our striving to be good. Likewise I am always entertained by thoughts about what we consider to be bad behavior. I'm not talking about the extremes of evil. That is a pathology of imbalance. Sometimes I think we look to Hitler, et. al. in an attempt to diminish the shame we feel about our relatively mild misbehaviors. Compared to Hitler, most people are angels!

Everyone lies, steals, kills (the food chain is a bitch no matter how refined your diet might be). Everyone cheats, manipulates, gossips, argues. As with everything else we humans believe somehow, if we just try hard enough, we can escape normal human behavior. Or maybe we just think we should try.

I think we have to try to be kind, compassionate. We have to try to acquire wisdom. I don't hold out for shining perfection from any of us, but that should never stop us from trying. I am not a cynic. I like it that humans are complicated, that we struggle and try so hard to be good. I love our pangs of conscience when we've behaved badly. We are a noble species, by and large.

One thing that came to me yesterday is that almost all of my bad behavior, through my sixty years, has been the result of fear and/or a stomach ache. The one major exception is the soul loss period when I was bound up by doing way too much magic. It's interesting to think about.

A glorious Sunday to you complicated humans. Shalom.


SG said...

Accepting that we're not perfect, yet trying to be better - I think that is the key to a life that intends to better itself by the day. It is also easier said than done.. with all my self-righteousness, I can be so unkind, hurtful, scheming, jealous and insecure.. that I feel ashamed of myself! And yet, I can actually justify such behaviour! Sigh...

Pam said...

I think any bad behavior I've felt or exhibited comes from self-defence. Guess countries feel that way also, but some aggressors bring out the worst.
At 60, I'm still trying to learn to 'turn the other cheek' but its what aggresors thrive on, and if you're an animal in those circumstances you end up on the menu of the food chain you mentioned!
I'd like to think that as a species we are noble and try to do better but environmentally and on an animal welfare scale there is still a long way to go.
"...and in the end, only kindness matters". I think every day in and in every way we should strive to be more kind.

junkthief said...

Synchronicity, perhaps, of the power of Yom Kippur that I just posted something on aspects of this same train of thought. Not quite the same, but my mind seemed to be in the neighborhood. In the movies Downfall and Blind Spot, it was revelatory that it showed "the human side" of Hitler amongst his evil and madness. He could show a version of compassion who served him.

Over the past few years, I have found a deeper fascination with fellow great apes, their social order, cooperation, and building of community. There are parallels to humans but also things unique to them. I don't know that we'll ever know how much other animals live in their head or if they have reached a state of zen and mindfulness that we can only dream of since they can live in the moment.

Reya Mellicker said...

We're learning a lot about animals. The more we learn, the more alike we realize we are. We are rejoining the animal kingdom, I think - a step forward in evolution.

A long way to go - well - yes and also what we envision, a world of peace and shalom, where are who are hungry are fed, all who are sick are healed, all prisoners are released - the dreams of Isaiah, I think, is a wonderful dream. I'm not saying it can't happen - who knows about that? And yes we should try. We must try with all our might.

SG I loved your thoughts - so interesting the way we justify bad behavior while simultaneously feeling regret and shame. I've been there, done that. Oh yeah.

Pam said...

God Reya - we have just heard over here in Australia about the shootings in Washington - still the insanity of shootings goes on.
My thoughts are with the families in their loss.