Darn, this human being thing …
It’s hard, hard, hard.
My deeply-held values meet my inherited reality.
I (proudly) have a bumper sticker affixed to my car, “Love Thy Neighbor — No Exceptions.” Uh-huh. Try this little experiment. Follow the bumper sticker’s suggestion of loving each friend and neighbor who comes to mind. I flame out with embarrassment, (good peace-loving Quaker that I am) usually in the first one to two minutes. Why you ask? Let’s just lay it on the line. My inherited neurological reality intrudes. Of course, since we’re all humans, it’s your inherited reality too. I’m spreading the blame around …
Inherited? Huh? What’s the nature of a reality that undermines “loving thy neighbor?” My reality is one who judges — others — a lot. (Cringe. It’s difficult to out myself. I really, really want to be perfect. Next life…)
Back to this judging “reality” thing which stampedes over my hoped-for values of loving my neighbors — and also showing off my sterling character to others.
First, there’s this teeny-tiny problem with my brain. I’m innately primed to judge others so I can move safely through the world. Safely? Kind of goes back millions of years when our survival was based on split-second judgments about predators — which ones I could eat and those that could eat me. Oh, no, get the heck out of here! I don’t like those sharp teeth! Our brains are still primed to protect us from predators. And making snap judgments about others (predator or not predator) is still a hard-wired part of our modern brains.
Getting down to brass tacks — no, no, please, please watch your step! — we’re primed to look for the negative (saber-toothed tigers or whatever the modern version might be) because quick judgments of “bad” are what kept us alive millions of years ago. It remains part of our brain’s mainframe today. Paying attention to “loving my neighbor,” but not the charging Tyrannosaurus rex, probably didn’t bolster my chances of survival eons ago. Big ouch.
In keeping an eye out for predators, we sometimes just slough off positive experiences because of our brain’s makeup, even these many millions of years later. So what’s a “Love Thy Neighbor — No Exceptions” bumper sticker-type person to do considering the above?
Start with accepting that my brain is still predator-challenged and be nicer to myself when I discern that I’m judging others. Evolution is a slow process.
Secondly, it has become clear to me that the bumper sticker “Love thy neighbor, No exceptions” is above my current neurological pay grade. Looking for something more in line with my present-day — but growing — evolutionary status. I could probably manage “Humankind — Be Both.” The bar isn’t set so high…
Jan Hutton is a retired hospice/hospital social worker who believes in living life with heart and humor. She has happily lived in Chatham for 20 years.
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