Monday, December 28, 2009

humans are social

humans group themselves into social units. even within a medium sized town in a homogenized state, you have the westside team in competition with the eastside. tribes everywhere, overlapping memberships, family units, national groups, race, religion, political persuasion. otherwise, without the ability to form working social groups, how would you build roads, municipal buildings, sewers, run airports, pass law.

two million years ago, pre-humans came out of the trees. so say the anthropologist. where did these slow small creatures sleep that they were not dragged off in the night by the tigers? by the fire. at this same time, the size of the jaw and the stomach grew smaller, in time measured by evolutionary units, and the size of the brain grew larger. the large brain required protein. people were not chewing fibrous plants hours a day, like cattle. they were cooking meat by the fire. how did these slow small creatures hunt and kill?

in australia, the aborigines hunt in the heat of the day. animals do not sweat, they want to sleep and rest in the shade in the middle of the day. hairless humans sweat. they run down their prey, even antelopes. the native australians run after their prey hour after hour, when the sun is highest, until they can kill a heat exhausted animal with a spear from 10 feet away.

the fire becomes the center of the tribe, necessary for warmth, safety, food. the ritual of keeping the fire, the work of tending the fire, the tribe must cooperate, it must both specialize and work together to live together.

whatever the facts regarding the life of jesus, the story of jesus evolved as the churches formed. christianity succeeded because the story of jesus that evolved supported or allowed a social group to come together and form a social unit that became integral to everyday life. the church became an institution of the community. the church members held fast to each other and considered one another to be brothers and sisters, in the same family, bound by ties real and everlasting. christianity was a social success. it built a community, a civilization. it did it because thats what people needed it to do. the story was molded until it was suitable to form a society.

fracturing occurs as naturally as cohesiveness. the environment constantly changes. a hunting society faces different challenges from an agrarian one. there are natural size limits to groups. everybody has a consummate ability to be part of more than one group at a time. i am an american, a member of my state, of my family, of my corporation, a fan of certain sports teams, my church, my race, a citizen even of earth. i have allegiances to all these.

the genius of christianity, and of any religion that inspires true service, is that it allows those who build it to be part of an eternal family, that transcends any other limits to membership. the founder, jesus, was a man who did not profit from his position. he never had sex, he never had possessions. he did not live like a king, he lived like the least of men. the popes lived like a king, but that is to be expected. the story built a civilization the likes of which the world has never seen. its a tough act to follow.

the golden rule is in some form probably in every religion, has been mouthed by countless prophets, and ignored universally. jesus, who lives the golden rule, institutionalized it, because his power comes from the one true god. christianity has the authority of the only almighty god.

greed is an irrational self interest, like a parasite which fills it stomach and kills its host. christianity and religions like it have kept greed in check. in so doing, they not only provided for the greater good, they kept the greedy from killing themselves. regardless of the literal truth or mythological character of the founding story of christianity, its built on a greater truth, or at least, it has served humanity.

when thinking of the next socializing myth of society, it has to have integrity, like a work of art, not assembled from a checklist by a committee. people need society to persevere. society needs organizing principles. even though the story of christianity seemed improbable, it was the vehicle for a greater truth. that did not happen by accident or design.

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