Ego, for the common good

Humans have some innate need to congregate. We long for community and family. We seek to have our ideas heard, understood and spread.

All animals have some sense of self preservation.  Some, like ant and bee workers, even value certain members of the species more than their own lives. We are similar, in that we can value the lives of others over own own, but for us it is when we recognize that their value to our community group is great enough to warrant self-sacrifice. The safety of the next generation or of the group frequently trumps that of the self.

We don’t need to protect the queen or the hive to insure the survival of our genes; we are not drones who are sterile physically and mentally. In fact, even without reproduction, we can each nurture the next generation and contribute to the whole of human knowledge and experience. We value the propagation thoughts and principles over our genetic legacy.  That’s a defining trait in human development; the group, the idea, or the dream can be bigger than the self. That seems unique  in the world that we live in.

I think this is also the root of so many problems. We have some need to find ideas and cling to them. We define ourselves by them, sometimes with out having a firm grasp of what the basis or the history of the idea is. We need to label things, including ourselves and other people; and then we start thinking in terms of “us” and “them”.

I find it sad that this amazing ability to weigh the intellectual legacy against the genetic is at once one of the great advances in evolution yet also such a handicap to the race that seems closest to its mastery.


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