We can do better…

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Hi there,

My favourite author, the late and great Ursula Le Guin (I sometimes still can’t believe she is no longer with us), discovered blogging in her 80s. She found blogging a strange thing to do and so do I. I often have ideas rattling in my head, conversations with the world and with no one in particular about things that bother me. So today I decided to try to write down some of these thoughts and share them in the blog section of this new website. Welcome to my first blog post ever!

Today I have felt angry and restless. It’s not a new or unusual feeling for me. I find that I struggle a lot with how unfair and crazy the world we, humans, have created is. So many people live in horrible conditions. So many are limited in what they can do, where they can go or what they can achieve only because of where they happened to be born and where they happen to live. I was thinking of the people of Gaza today for example, and what it would have been like for me if I happened to be born there and live there. By accident of birth I wasn’t.

I remember how much I hated living in Israel and how oppressive, hot and grim I found it. Then when I moved to Sydney Australia in November 1991, my life changed overnight. I was exactly the same person but because I relocated to a place where the quality of life was better, the quality of my life transformed completely. All I did was change location and join the people who were living there. That’s all…!

I wasn’t wealthier. On the contrary. My ex-husband and I moved to Australia without jobs and with very little money and started from nothing. But still, life was better. I remember thinking about this a lot. How can it be that just changing location can make such a difference? Then I realised how unfair it was. Why should people have less opportunities or poorer conditions just because of where they happen to live?

We are all the same. We know what works for us, we know what is comfortable and nice physically and we know what we need in order to thrive. So why is it that this isn’t offered to everyone, everywhere? I understand that the climate and culture can be different in different places. But that’s not the issue here. The conditions we need to thrive go beyond culture, climate or location. They have more to do with how we treat each other and how we organise things for ourselves than with objective, natural conditions.

Then I realised that the world is still organised on the ancient limbic cave principle of competition, for food, shelter, mate… anything and everything really. Even resources  and comforts that are not scarce are artificially rationed.

Competition in nature leads to the survival of the fittest, but ‘fittest’ for what? Fittest for surviving the natural conditions for the continuation of existence. Nature is only interested in the survival of the species, any species. Nature doesn’t care if we are happy or not, if we are kind or if we are fulfilled. Nature only cares about species surviving and continuing to exist. We are mammals and like all mammals we have a part of us that is driven by this pressure to survive at all cost. But unlike other creatures on this planet, we also have something else that doesn’t quite fit with evolution. That’s what many well-respected neuroscientists who understand the brain tell us.

We have consciousness and we have a need for meaning and purpose. We have the capacity for unconditional love and for perceiving ourselves as connected to everything. We also have the ability to not be driven by fear of dying. That part of us, our executive brain, is driven more by fear of living without a purpose than of dying. In fact, it’s been long known that one of the main reasons behind suicide is people feeling that they have nothing to live for, no purpose, that their lives are meaningless. People who attempt suicide would rather die — going right against our very survival instinct — than live without a purpose!! I tried to commit suicide twice in my youth. I remember very well what it felt like to see nothing in the future but blankness, no purpose or direction, a nothingness. It was unbearably painful.

What’s interesting, but not surprising when you understand humans better is that when people talk to me about meaning and purpose in therapy, they always talk about making a difference to others. They want to make a positive difference to those around them, not just to their family or loved-ones, but to the world in general. This too is a part of what we are. We are a mammal with a capacity for consciousness that transcends our own need to survive and exist. So why are things the way they are? Why are we not living out of our executive functions? Well, that’s for next time.

Today I felt the pain of all those people who live in all kinds of conditions and places that stop them from fulfilling their potential. We can do so much better and we fall so far short than what we can achieve together to make life worth living for everyone, not just the lucky few.

(I might get the hang of this blog writing business and might start liking it. So if you are interested, stay tuned… xx)

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