Instinct is a funny thing. Each species has its own unique version. Even us, whether we recognize it as such or not.
And then we ask ourselves: is it instinct or is it training? The debate between nature and culture has probably been going on for longer than we realize.
When I was younger, before having children, I was convinced that everything was in the way we were brought up. But now, after raising my own kids, I think the scales are tipping more towards nature.
I have to laugh when I remember how sure I was about this question, before realizing how little I knew then – and still now. In our children, we can easily see the inherited physical characteristics, but what also stands out are those annoying and sometimes not so annoying traits when they raise their unexpected faces. I think we’ve seen them all.
But back to the instincts of the species. Zelda, our eight and a half month old Australian Shepherd / Border Collie is by breed definition a herding dog. And with that trait, she’s almost constantly on the move – watching, stalking her eyes, and patrolling The area. She loves circling around us, or the grandchildren, or me pushing the wheelbarrow. So, in addition to the regular obedience classes, we tried a few sheep breeding classes.
On our second visit with the sheep, as she circled around them, one of them escaped from the group. Although we haven’t learned how to give and understand commands yet, she ran away and brought her back to the group. It was instinctive. His training had nothing to do with it.
So what about us? What are our instincts as part of the human species? I would like to think we have a few positive ones. And I believe we do.
We seem to revolve around the community. As long as we “play well and try to get along” it can work well. Perhaps this is where the “education” part comes into play during our education. But so often, as a group, we can become myopic and forget to make concessions that might encourage broader viewpoints.
A large group often breaks up into smaller segments where like-minded people find their tribe and their views narrow further. And that maybe also instinctive. But aren’t we supposed to be smarter than that? You know, a big brain and all? But we put these brain cells to work to find ways to keep we better than them.
I read something recently about it. I’ll tell you what I remember.
Stories, such as “Star Wars”, based on the good guys / bad guys theme, encourage taking sides. Joining a cause can seem like a moral obligation, which can make it seem legitimate, even if it is often anchored in a political vision.
Therefore, it no longer seems necessary to deliberate or think deeply about the ramifications of our actions. A person is either on the right team or on the wrong team. This simple position makes it much easier for us to rationalize bad behavior.
Is there a way out? It has lasted throughout history. We may be smart and smarter than that, but not enough. Not yet anyway. But I really hope we will be soon enough.
Chi Varnado has four recently published books, available at www.amazon.com. His collection of essays, Quail Mutterings, can be viewed at www.chivarnado.com or www.dancecentrepresents.com. You can follow her on Instagram or at www.Facebook.com/dancecentrepresents