“But beyond that [the normal daylight working of the intellect] there is a thinking in primordial images—in symbols that are older than historical man; which have been ingrained in him from earliest times, and, eternally living, outlasting all generations, still make up the groundwork of the human psyche. It is possible to live the fullest life only when we are in harmony with these symbols; wisdom is a return to them.” Italics mine—Carl Jung, quoted from Joseph Campbell’s Primitive Mythology
Innumerable, uncountable are the innate, instinctual responses to sign stimuli in the animal—and probably even plant—kingdom. A doe, sensing danger and too young to outrun a predator, freezes, its spotted markings helping to disguise it. It hasn’t been taught—it knows. Countless generations, thousands, if not millions of years have contributed to the hardwiring of its DNA.
Courting rituals the world over—insects, birds, reptiles, mammals—require an elaborate sequence of behavioral acts to achieve fruition. And how infinitely variable are the means and methods of conceiving and propagating the next generation! None, except for the very highest of the mammals and primates in particular, are actually taught. The rest, again, simply known. Instinctual.
But, in the case of the higher primates, and us, how much is taught and how much known? Or, if it is no longer ‘known’ in the same unyielding manner as say a bird or a bee, can it still be known in a lesser, looser manner? Known in a way that leaves plenty of leeway for adaptation to the local environment?
And that which is taught, is it not, at its most effective, simply an elaboration, an improvisation, on that which is already known, harmonizing individuals and the community with their local environment?
The known and the taught.
The first, an instinctual, hardwired, bred in the bone comprehension that predates language and learning.
Here we come face to face with the language barrier.
And I’m not talking English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, or any other language utilized for our day to day communication.
“It is possible to live the fullest life only when we are in harmony with these symbols; wisdom is a return to them.” Wrote Jung, as quoted above.
There’s a man at home on both sides of the barrier.
Beverly Penn said:
Great post Jeff! This is something I’ve thought about for a long time. I know that most of our actions and motivations stem from instincts and biological programmings of which we are not consciously cognizant — the urge to procreate, to succeed, even to appear attractive. When we strip away the labels and the connotations, these behaviours are analogous to the bird flaunting its brightest feathers, no grander or more noble. I think Jung is right that this kind of acceptance is imperative for a healthy, if not happy life. It certainly is humbling.
A very big thank-you to you, Bev, and you, Kris.
“…the urge to procreate, to succeed, even to appear attractive,” “stemming from instincts and biological programmings….” That, to me, is at the very heart of the whole Cafe thing. But why all the elaboration, I asked myself? Why the whole ‘Human Comedy?’ And then it came together. What is our biological advantage? Thumbs? Brains? Only peripherally. It’s community. Not community in the bee colony manner, hardwired and bound, but in a free, astonishingly adaptive group. However, it is that freedom which also leads to issues, which then may or may not lead to further developments.
And the bonds of community? Hardwired, the urge towards it anyways. The bonds? God, a shared spiritual outlook, belief. That which can never be fully put into words.
Ack, this is turning into a post.
Again, a big thanks for the comments.
A wonderful post!