October 3rd, 2018

It’s Only Natural…Or Is It?

When I see claims about what is “natural” in contexts using natural as an argument for adhering to a particular behavior, I tend to wrinkle my brow. The argument—what is “natural”—seems a dubious one to me in that numerous things in which we have engaged historically and currently don’t necessarily seem natural.

I’m not sure what’s natural, for example, about inventing and building a cell phone and using it. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done, just that I’m not sure what seems “natural” about it. To go even further, medical interventions, especially in contexts involving modern medical discoveries and technology, seem to me they could be deemed “unnatural.”

So if the postulation is that we shouldn’t be doing things that aren’t “natural” (I have seen non-heterosexual behavior or attractions, for example, labeled as such) or should stick to engaging in what is, I wonder exactly what those parameters would entail. And in wondering that, I question further that if one does not postulate that everything “unnatural” should be eradicated from our existence and pursuits, then why should some things considered not natural be? How are these chosen, and why is this criterion applied selectively?

Everything we have done historically and contemporarily as a species does not seem ideally supportive of either our species or the world in which it lives and thrives. So the idea that we possess and exercise an objective recognition of all the ways we’re “natural” seems highly suspect to me. If we do, we haven’t seemed to utilize this information very usefully.

The subject of evolution is, to me, in a similar vein. I see evolution as having little to do with our latest technical developments or capacity to build bigger buildings and faster methods of transportation. Those may certainly be viewed as technological advancements that appear to make aspects of our lives easier or more efficient, but they are not true evolution.

Evolution is a truly “natural” process that, it seems to me, a species (including ours) does not and will not recognize before or as it occurs—at least not fully. As I see it, evolution’s being beyond our capacity to conceive of seems intrinsic in its definition/concept. We do not and cannot predict it because it involves phenomena beyond our current capacity to observe or comprehend. It does not seem likely to me that fish slid up onto shores thinking, “Hey, maybe if we sit here long enough in outrageously and indeed life-threateningly uncomfortable circumstances, we’ll form a way to breathe in air and not water and start to live on land.” Despite our egoic way of thinking that unconsciously insists that we can know and control almost everything, that isn’t how evolution works.

I will note that it does seem to me there are ways we may develop enough awareness to sense aspects/degrees/directions of evolution and feel inclined to participate in it as best we can. The more we do this, in my observation, the more humility we develop about the subject so that recognizing that we don’t know what true evolution encompasses and choosing to participate in it anyway feels more forthcoming and becomes more likely due to increased attunement to the intrinsic desire to support what serves life.

An unconventional notion, unsolicited in my consciousness, occurred to me some time back. It was that perhaps attraction to the same sex is neither, as I have heard it asserted/maintained, “unnatural,” nor even simply a neutral phenomenon existing alongside heterosexual attraction—but rather, actually related to evolution of the human species.

It is arguable that we have overpopulated this planet. It is further arguable that if we continue to do so, our access to and ability to create and maintain the resources requisite to human life will be threatened. Perhaps same-sex attraction is a facet of evolution of the human species to naturally curb the species’ procreation. This could be a short-term support of our species’ longevity or a long-term or permanent inclusion that allows our population to tend to reproduce less.

This could additionally apply to gender perceptions. I would guess that the collective attachment to a gender binary and correlative gender identification that seems evident in the human species at this time has to do with deep-seated reproductive instincts. We have historically in fact (relatively new technologies notwithstanding) reproduced via biological male and female mating. That said, it seems to me we don’t really need to feel strongly about what sex someone is or whether or how we identify that unless we are interested in biologically conceiving a child with that person. Despite the seemingly strong feelings some seem to exhibit that “male” and “female” are unequivocal and exclusively the only two sexes in humanity, perhaps evolution/nature is guiding the human species more toward gender nuance in addition to same-sex attraction to naturally decrease the proclivity to procreate in order to protect our species and perhaps surrounding ecosystems/planet.

Whether this is manifesting in an actual increase of same-sex attraction and gender blending or just an increased awareness, understanding, and acceptance of the same is not even necessarily relevant to the question; either phenomenon (or a combination of the two) could be a form of evolution in this way.

Or maybe not. But what struck me about this entire notion when it occurred to me is, how would we know? How would we know what nature is doing or what true evolution might look like for humanity? The idea that human beings are to do what is “natural” seems to imply that we know what is natural and how to act accordingly—and further, that we know the Universal intent and purpose of nature and humanity and how we fit into it.

I offer that we don’t. Can’t, even. Mystery is an inherent aspect of life. It seems to me nature and evolution are, ultimately, squarely within it.

American spiritual teacher Adyashanti has said,

“Personally, I find great comfort in the fact that if nature deems [that] the experiment called humanity hasn’t worked out well, it’ll do away with it. I’m not hoping that happens, but […] if we become that damaging, nature will just go, ‘Well, that didn’t work’ as it has done with almost every other species that has ever walked on the globe. […] Life will exterminate human beings if they no longer serve it.”

This seems a profound realization. Yes, to the egoic consciousness, it’s terrifying, and everyone should start frantically trying to do everything we can to prevent it. Except in recognition of how Adyashanti seems to be offering it, that’s not the point. Nature knows more than we do. Yes, we ideally want to support life as best we can. But if we don’t succeed in doing that, we simply will not be able to somehow overcome or “trick” nature.

None of this means we should stop attending to the practical implications of how we live, interact with each other, exercise choices, or engage with consciousness and existence. Indeed, Adyashanti goes on to say,

“[Simultaneously, to say], ‘Oh, well, we’ll just turn on our TV and see how it all ends up’ is a ridiculous, unconscious response to life also. It’s just that if we realize [the former quote], it can provide a certain lack of fear. And maybe [we] can respond to something in some way other than fear.”

In the midst of the harrowing events on the national stage of the United States over the past week and the practical and social implications of Brett Kavanaugh’s being confirmed to the US Supreme Court, I have said in a few conversations that it seems to me something bigger than what we see may be unfolding. I still feel that way, and the term “evolution” has occurred to me in this context. As would sensibly follow from what I’ve said here, I have no idea what the implications as such may be or how what is occurring now may be a part of a larger evolutionary picture, but that is part of the point…I truly do not feel we are privy to fully knowing what evolution is doing or how it is happening as it does.

That doesn’t mean I don’t care what’s happening on a practical level. I do. I recognize practical implications of Kavanaugh’s confirmation (which I do suspect will happen) that are searingly disturbing, just as I did when Donald Trump was declared the victor in the 2016 presidential election. (To be clear, while some of those certainly have to do with Kavanaugh’s actually being on the court, they also relate to the societal implications of a woman’s accusing a man of sexual misconduct and its very publicly resulting in the man’s experiencing no repercussions—quite the contrary.) I have wailed incoherently at times in the face of abominable actions on the part of the current United States administration, and all of that is only within this country and on a national level.

As I commented on social media recently in a conversation briefly touching upon these things, “I just feel desire beyond words to support all who experience pain during the process.” Incidentally, according to one of my favorite quotes, “All negative behavior is a result of unprocessed pain,” found in The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, that of course includes Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, Lindsay Graham et. al., all of whom are indeed in considerable unconscious—and almost certainly sometimes conscious—pain.

Being with and contemplating this unknowing, the recognition that the Universe is bigger than we are and knows so much more, tends to be vastly challenging. It can seem especially challenging to navigate a human life in this form simultaneous with that understanding. All that emerges in me to say right now is that I hold all in love as we do the best we know how. Even when some people’s “best” appears to me horrendously out of touch with what serves life, the recognition of unconditional love has come to seem in me a steadfast way to support what serves.


“This is not the way we wanted this to be, and I can feel your doubt inside of me, we’re standing on the edge of everything we’ve ever seen…”
-Rob Thomas “Natural”

Submit a Comment
All Fields Are Optional