Following on from the previous post, I’ve become aware of the driving force leading to my experience of lacking many of the good things – a nomadic spirit. Note that is spirit with a small ‘s’: I’m referring specifically to unconscious drives rather than any notion of spirituality. From what I’ve recently heard, the nomadic instinct actually derives from our ancient ancestors who were forced to be on the move constantly for survival. My genetic inheritance most likely includes strong influence towards movement – my parents have moved house 11 times. Unfortunately, this has not translated into a life well lived. While most of my peers have married and had children, I have remained a bachelor for most of my life. I have a very limited social life, spending way too much time in my head, and have spent considerable money and time trying to change my instincts.
Given what I’m learning about evolution, such change efforts are largely futile. That’s why I like the analogy of taming. We all know that wild horses are tamed through a behavioural training process. This process is grounded in strict disciplinary routine, such that over time the wildness is shaped into tameness. Instinctually, given the right conditions, the wildness could still manifest; but within the bounds of the training and environment, the animal remains tame.
Our brains are plastic which means that they can be tamed. This is a very hopeful idea, for it suggests that I’m not merely stuck with what I’ve inherited. I’m not merely a machine with drives I can’t ultimately control. The real challenge though is maintaining self-discipline. A wild animal does not tame itself. An intelligent and conscious human being can do so, yet has the limitations of unconscious instinctual drives that interfere with the process. That’s where some form of structured discipline is essential, no matter what it might be, within the context of others. For instance, getting yourself to consistently meditate is akin to hiking Mount Everest; yet within a community of meditators, or with the encouragement of a partner, the process is made approachable.
One of the primary ways I will find structure and discipline in the new year is through some form of charitable service. In that I hope to find structure, routine, and community, such that I can tame my wild spirit and enter a more joyous life. Altruism is one of the highest values of humanity, and one I believe can be developed and nurtured even where it is mostly absent.