Humans, known taxonomically as Homo sapiens (Latin: "wise man" or "knowing man"), are the only extant species in the Homo genus of bipedal primates in Hominidae, the great ape family.
The human brain is the center of the human nervous system and is a highly complex organ. Enclosed in the cranium, it has the same general structure as the brains of other mammals, but is over three times as large as the brain of a typical mammal with an equivalent body size. Most of the expansion comes from the cerebral cortex, a convoluted layer of neural tissue that covers the surface of the forebrain. Especially expanded are the frontal lobes, which are associated with executive functions such as self-control, planning, reasoning, and abstract thought. The portion of the brain devoted to vision is also greatly enlarged in human beings.
Humans are physiologically at a disadvantage compared to many other species, but use their brains (as a leverage), and the resultant technology, in order to win the war of resources over other species and over other groups of humans. (Inter-specific and Intra-specific competition)
This war for resources is the fundamental war. All other wars and conflicts result from this underlying state of competition. "Resource" can be defined as something which enhances the possibilities of one's genetic survival.
This war for resources has continued since the advent of history. There was no golden period when there was no threat to one's genetic survival.
This war takes various forms: an actual war involving killing, as well as politics, society, law, career, industry, etc.
To be engaged in a war for resources with other species or other humans is a situation of stress. Let up, and you lose. Fight, and you have a chance of winning.
Since mind is the foremost tool of humans, "psychological stress" is the most common side-effect of engaging in this fight. "Psychological stress" can also be called "Suffering". This "suffering" can result from either the very engagement in battle (fear, anxiety, insecurity, etc.), or from having lost (sorrow, discontentment, ego-hurt).
Living in the civilized world leads to a different kind of stress than that of the uncivilized world. While in the uncivilized world, there is threat of physical injury, in the civilized world, there is the apprehension of being a "nobody".
This new problem, the problem of the "self" instead of that of the body, has been created over centuries of creating structures where symbols have become increasingly more central to our life. As one's strength in the competitive arena has become more and more symbolic (status symbols, property rights, bank figures, fashion), achieving success has also become a pursuit of symbols, which in many cases is a misguided pursuit (genetically speaking). For example, getting into debt to buy fashionable clothes or a larger television.
The socioeconomic forces have emphasized symbolic success so much that it has become second-nature for humans to want it, to the exclusion of almost anything else. It is after all a success which is recognized by one's civilized peers, but which may be meaningless in a jungle or in a tribal region.
Instead of genetic survival, something else seems to be driving the most daring of the civilized humans these days. People are racing cars, injecting drugs, jumping from cliffs tied to a bungee, having umpteen affairs with a sheath between their bodies, creating art films, etc.
As soon as technology solves the most pressing problems of biological survival in a population, psychological problems seem to enter the picture.
While it is easy to say that these are "higher" needs (cf Maslow), or "surrogate" needs which fulfill the need for a "power process" in man (cf the Unabomber Manifesto), or an indulgence in memetic reproduction (cf Dawkins), or the result of boredom, the fact is that many civilized humans are in a state of crisis, perverting the pursuit of their own biological/genetic success with dangerous activities. Dangerous to themselves, to their genetic future, to the environment, etc.
Why? And is it possible to reverse this?
There are various "paths" for those who are unwilling to fight it out for status and symbols in the civilized world. Their unwillingness may be due to a genuine seeing of the hollow nature of the symbols and of the perversity of the fight, or due to introversion or due to psychological weakness.
In many cases, they can, for having a purpose in life, completely turn to "inward" goals (which are also surrogate goals which do zilch for one's biological/genetic survival) and which are therefore perverse in their own way.
In most cases, however, inner goals are mechanisms for coping with the stress and frustration in the outer world.
Most people in the civilized world strike a path of compromise: having a few symbols to win the respect of one's peers, living a personal life of genetic/biological propagation (the householder life), having a secondary inward goal (praying everyday, taking a pilgrimage once in a while) so that outer frustrations do not overwhelm oneself, ...
What is a man, who considers this fight as perverse and futile, and considers the very notion of a "compromise" degrading, to do? Living in a village does injustice to his developed brain (where most problems are simply solved with a little bit of technology, and art films are probably not appreciated), and he abhors living in the city because he considers the pursuit of status symbols as absurd. If you live in a city and do not value status symbols, you will inevitably get very severely isolated. The city is a city of symbols.
For the developed brain which has managed to de-condition itself from the influences of culture, the world is a place of empty living, not of fulfilling engagement.
(to be continued)