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What is Human Nature?

Updated on June 25, 2022
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People are always interested in the origins of the esoteric, and all that is part of human nature is one.

Human nature is celebrated extensively. It gets used as a good excuse to cause inconvenience to others, or to tolerate excesses, or for something else, if it pleases one. However, a hard look reveals that all the failures of human race is due to it. And what about the instances of success? Well, suffice to say, all those who have achieved great success, other than the instances where brute superiority did the trick, did deviate from the paths that would have been the natural ones, then. Hence it won’t be incorrect to say, one needs to go beyond the limits set by one’s nature, to achieve success. If so, doesn’t this call for a rethink about human nature.

What is human nature?

I feel, currently we think humans differ greatly from all the other forms of life. But, do they? As far as the functions essential for the maintenance and progression of life is concerned, there is no great difference. Both are well equipped to perform all such functions, each following its own style and extent. But there is a difference. One’s nature, for all other species of life, support unfettered growth. For humans, unless they keep their nature in check, they will be meeting their doom. And humans perpetually are busy doing something, which ultimately keeps a check on their natural propensities, and lets the race bloom.

All this points to a big difference. And this difference is the one, which has come to be known by the term human nature. This I think needs some explanation, since a few questions arise instantly. What is it? How did humans acquire it? What effect does its have on human race? And, What is the optimum way of handling it?

Machines Acquiring a Nature

Let me start with inanimate objects. I think mainly owing to its environmental particularities of use and the personal priorities of the user, one can say, things acqire a sort of personality. To mention an example, think of a kitchen, a workshop, or some such place having many knives of the same type. For a particular use, one will be relying more on a specific one. And, because of this, it could get used more often, fortifying its position as an apt knife. In some time, each piece of implement shall acquire a personality’of its own, which incidently can be noticed in its rate of wear or replacement.

Things are a little more clear when we deal with more complex objects. Think about putting to use, a machine, an instrument, or some other expedient. Say, a mechanism to pump water.

As we install it, we shall be learning of many requirements necessary to put the particular pumping system to work satisfactorily. Like appropriate fittings, joints, and connectors to fabricate various elements of installation, provision of electrical power, incorporation of safety devices, or protection from weather. As a result of which, quite a few devices, systems or equipment shall form a part of this installation. And to this, some more will get added up, as and when we face bottlenecks, both while installing it and during the run-in-period thereafter.

Thinking in a similar manner, each and every living being acquire its nature while growing up in its environment, which, over many generations, and the environment being more or less the same, becomes attached permanently. However it is susceptible to changes, domestication, for example. Thus we can say, it is not difficult for a living being to be freed of its nature.

How the Machines are Freed of its Nature

Over a period of time, these issues shall be getting sorted out, which shall be rendering many of the elements that have become a part of the installation, redundant. What normally happens in a well run case is that we would strive to utilize some of these redundancies, sometimes as spares, sometimes for improvisation, or for selling as scrap. However, when the machine undergoes a planned overhaul, we discard all these and bring the machine to its specified consistency. This in fact is the main purpose behind an overhaul, which is an essential part of all such systems.

How do Humans Acquire a Nature

Something similar is true, in the case of human race too. In our long journey, which we now imagine as one from the state of a primate-like being to the relatively civilized ones of today, human race must have added quite a few particularities, whether of lifestyle, of behaviour, of ambition, or of outlook. (Even if it began with an intelligent design, situation need not be much different) We continue to cling on to these, though none are relevant, and quite a few are rather dangerous, as far as the needs, desirables, and living style in our current environment goes. But, quite non-intuitively we have been hanging on to these. Labelling these as the unquestionable elements of human nature, we make it rather everlasting.

In fact each of these elements are snippets of whatever was the current events of significance, some time in the past. These would have been serving an actual purpose then. And later, even after getting replaced, these continue to remain with the human society, joining a vast kitty of abstractions. And does not leave us, even when situation demands so.

Why we are Never Freed of our Nature

As mentioned, many of these would be the ones that got discarded at opportune moments in the past, when external or internal forces made our forefathers view some part of the current living style as superfluous, inconvenient or dangerous. And remained with the human society, though redundant. But, unlike the way mechanical elements got treated, there was never a planned attempt to identify and eliminate the redundancies of life. In fact it is worth noting here, how, while dealing with machines, the full range and power of human intelligence always come to fore. We very well know, everywhere, some form of de-weeding is necessary, at intervals based on the conditions and circumstances of use. Note also, how we take pride in our ability for identifying the cardinal as well as for overlooking the insignificant. But all these are missing, when we deal with our own fortune!

The result is: we have successfully added another abstraction called ‘fond memories’, which made it all the more attractive to hoard these for no reason. Not only that there is no gainful use, but also the time and effort spent on these, effectively put a brake to the forward momentum, the human race would have acquired. Consequentially, there is a delay in identifying, receiving and responding to fresh input. In short, we are in a vicious circle. Because of the hoarded memory, fresh input gets coloured before we react itself. Hence our reaction turns out to be incorrect, at least in most of the cases. This will be leading to unsavoury results, and we go back to our memory with added vigour.

And the Way Ahead..

I think what is happening is, unlike all other species of life, humans are in a continuous process of learning their response to inputs. Memory, in fact the past responses stored therein, makes it easier to form a fresh response by providing a guide, a reference, or a standard. The same becomes rather difficult, when the input, and consequently, the desired response, are changing fast. Or, in a fast changing world, it adds to the constraints, one is already in. Therefore, the race needs to undergo a planned overhaul at certain intervals and shed much of the stored responses, such that human nature always is in sync with the current realities.

I find it rather amusing that we haven’t thought about this earlier. By now we know. Unlike other forms of life, humans have to inculcate and develop necessary routines, patterns and other requirements, and changes in habits, for the very need of staying alive. But why is that, here we overlooked the need to de-inculcate the old ones? When we know that clearing the unwanted or the excess is an essential need to maintain the health of machines, or of the domesticated animals, why didn’t we institute a regime to discard old and unwanted experiences. Which would have resulted in a lifestyle that also would have released mankind from the influence of the past?
I think we are just following whatever we have come to observe among other forms of life. But all the elements that are unique to humans have so far not received the attention it deserves. Therefore the current understanding of human nature is grossly inadequate, to say the least. Though many of the behavioral patterns we proudly brandish may happen to be helpful to us, it is limited to functions and activities we share with other forms of life. (Even then, one cannot be sure that there isn’t a better way, unless one makes an attempt to find one!)
Human race needs to go back to the plotting table, and come up with fresh ideas about how to live, and originate human nature.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 ROY T JAMES


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