Sunday, January 6, 2008

What is our True Nature?

When I was growing up I was taught that human nature was depraved and if left in its natural state would degenerate into total depravity. The only thing holding us from total chaos was the moral teachings of Christianity, going to church, accepting Jesus as my savior and the worship of the one true God in the form of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

As a child this created a fear in me of people who weren't Christians because supposedly they didn't have the restraints we Christians had and they could just degenerate into absolute evil at any moment. And even if they were Christians but didn't hold the specific beliefs of my particular denomination, they only had a tenuous hold on moral restraint at best.

This was explained in the doctrine of original sin. This doctrine solved the problem of why everyone on the planet needed salvation. Today some have even put a scientific spin on it and believe that original sin is within our DNA. Or you can take Eddie Izzard's approach when he talks about Original sin.

"Original sin! What a hellish idea that is. People have to go,

“Father, bless me for I have sinned, I – I did an original sin – I – I poked a badger with a spoon.”

“I’ve never heard of that one before! Five Hail Mary’s and two Hello, Dolly's.”

“Oh, all right…”

“Bless me, Father, for I have slept with my next door neighbor’s wife.”

“Heard it. I want an original sin.”

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry.”

In my observations of humanity I have suspected that the opposite is true. I find most people really want to be thought of as good people. In this short presentation by Daniel Goleman the author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, he presents evidence that we are hardwired to be helpful. We have this ability to empathize with other people through some type of common emotional connection. This is activated when we give our attention to the other person. Take a look at this presentation from him at TED.

There are a number of indications that we gain a lot of benefit from doing good deeds. This particular article called The Science of Good Deeds talks about 50 studies going on right now by The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, headed by Stephen G. Post, PhD, a professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

I think I prefer to see humanity as having great potential that is built in rather than see us set up to fail. There certainly is more and more evidence that we have some pretty wonderful things built in simply waiting to be awakened.

One example of this is the professional percussionist Evelyn Glennie. She is able to hear with her body. In fact she has to because she is deaf. I will close with this video of her presenting her motivational view of life to a very appreciative audience.

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