Like most human beings, I've been known to indulge in more than a few self-destructive tendencies.
Whether it's getting lost in anxious thinking or smoking and drinking to relieve temporary stress,
At a logical level, I know these habits are not good for me. I know, big picture, they're "bad" for me. So why do I keep doing them?
In the moment, my egoic mind--stuck in it's suffering--can only see the benefit of "relief". I cannot see yet the effect or adverse impacts. The future--that thing which we tend to entirely obsessed with all the other times--in this moment, simply does not matter; at least not as much as relief does.
I share my own tendencies, not because I am proud or ashamed of them, but because they are human tendencies. They are coping mechanisms we turn to when we can't turn toward the truth.
And if we wish to understand human behavior, then we cannot expect to solve the problems of our society from a systemic top-down approach. We must understand ourselves first and foremost.
Even now, as I write to you I understand, on a certain level, that this work has an element of futility to it. I can shout what I believe to be important and true, but ultimately you must decide for yourself. And you must seek the truth of it yourself.
Said more simply, the mind perceives the present through the filter of the past. Now if we're at all curious why human beings continue to stay stuck in self-destructive habits or conflicts with one another, you really need look no further than this.
Understanding that we can't cope without something to numb our senses is proof that we are simultaneously overwhelmed by our experience (inner or outer) and unable to meaningfully approach our the true source of our problems.
If we look at the source of our private self-destructive patterns
and that of the world, they are ultimately one and the same. They both emanate from a deep lack of love. A lack of love for ourselves and one another creates animosity, hostility, and pain.
I look at my own habits and acknowledge that, rather than recreations, they have been forms of escapism. Tools for hiding from responsibility. Denying my own capacity. But rather than fully embrace growth, I often ignore challenges that seem too big to tackle. I fall into countless diversions and consumer distractions.
Speaking for myself, the only way I'm about to justify my self-destructive tendencies is that they don't kill me on the spot. When the urge comes over me, the voices in my mind insist it's worth the benefits. In fact, the short term benefits are ALL I can see. All I can see is the nice cognitive vacation (or adventure) which is about to ensue.
all I can see--far outweigh the long term consequences the weight of which I cannot fully imagine.
Logic and basically all modern science confirm that lungs and smoke are not a good combination. And the same thing goes for pollution in the air we breathe. Same thing goes for a culture of hatred and deceit. These are not good for us.
So what allows me to keep going?
It's an inconvenient truth for all the well-intentioned teachers out there, but Self-destructive tendencies is that they often make us feel more alive. Living at the proverbial edge, gets our blood pumping.
Is humanity's failure to move quickly in the face of ecological disaster simply part of our need to flirt with disaster to feel something?
Writing that, it feels like an overstatement. And yet I can't tell you how many times I've spoken to individuals who seem eager to tear the whole thing down. Post-apocalyptic anarchy sounds exciting to them. They seem ready to press their foot down on the gas and bring the civilization to its boiling point.
They say cooler heads prevail. But we live in a time where a lot of hot hands near the levers and triggers.
The doomsday prognosticators tell us that something very bad must happen for there ever to be change. Something big must "shake up" the order from the outside to wake us from slumber.
But could not there not also be some way to wake ourselves from within? Right now, it feels like most of us are waiting for some large, resounding gong-crash of a moment to make our big move.