Hunter Reprogrammed: Rabbit to Rolex
In previous posts this year I have spoken a lot about the notion that our society’s tendency toward hyper-reductionist reality, which takes us away from the truth and grace of the mystical unity of things, is a construct that serves an agenda. Namely, an agenda to fuel consumption-driven economic growth (and a heaping side-order of compliant obedience and indentured servitude).
The result of this agenda and the reductionist reality it employs has been the psycho-social evolution of the notion of the distinct self and the enterprise of, what I like to call identity-construction becoming the raison d’être of modern life and good citizenry.
Revisiting this diagram yet again reminds us that our obsession with who we will be, and who we have been is a function of our fervent almost single-minded obsession with cultivation and augmentation of the self-construct: or as I have called it before — the coats of paint upon coats of paint (country, religion, race, alma mater, job, political party affiliation, preferred sports team franchises, brand of car you drive, brand of phone you use, types of books you read, types of music you listen to, bla, blas, and bla — and also, bla).
Humans now spend almost every waking minute of their day and every modicum of conscious thought in the process of procuring identity.
As I — in accordance with my social contractual obligations at this time of year — found myself Christmas shopping recently, I explored a notion.
For hundreds of thousands of years, we were hunters. Always on the lookout, not just for game — but for more game than we needed, for we were also intelligent enough to know that bad things happen and one could never know when food might end up in short supply. We were always trying to be ahead of the curve: a few bashed rabbits ahead of potential starvation.
It is likely that this inclination to be a one step ahead of god only knows what’s gonna go down today persists in our psychology, and as I circled the mall on a quest for the most just right useless thing, I began to wonder if this wasn’t exactly the instinct that is exploited in the modern age.
Have you ever had the feeling that shopping, not grocery shopping, but shit-you-don’t-really-need shopping, feels a lot like what hunting might feel like?
And so this lead to another thought.
Rather than hunting for food to survive, we now hunt for items we think will enhance how favourably others will perceive us. We are hunting for accessories and accoutrements that will raise out standing. We want to be ‘in’,’hip’, ‘phat’, ‘cool’. And even if we are in debt to our eyeballs — putting our ability to eat and therefore survive in question — we hunger for others to view us as successful.
Our instinct to hunt to survive has been reprogrammed into a hunt to ‘arrive’.
But this is problematic, for survival is a thing that is possible. Arrival (as in the getting there — wherever or whatever ‘there’ is) is not. It is an entirely arbitrary concept. A perpetually receding phantasm forever beyond our reach.
Further, where the instinct to hunt for food was necessary — the instinct to hunt for just the right hair product or the phone that is one version more recent than your workplace nemesis’s phone, is not.
But in the hunt for the next cool fashion accessory, degree, car, watch, or haircut that will demonstrate our having ‘arrived’, we put even our very survival in jeopardy. And even if we aren’t starving to death because of our financial commitment to cool, it is still a safe bet that — as study after study has shown — our happiness is suffering. This is because, unlike the full belly that comes from chomping on the bashed-in rabbit, there is no identifiable endgame in the hunt for the thing, title, or idea that will finally, unequivocally make your specific self-construct cooler, richer, or more awesome than everyone else’s specific self-construct. Indeed, the only rewards for our effort are momentary respite in a never-ending sense of inadequacy that perpetually requires just one ‘last’ acquisition or accomplishment to put us over the top.
To my point.
Because the delusional obsession with identity-construction is derived from the same instinct that for millennia drove our inclination to acquire the means for survival, it is a deeply rooted function that is difficult to overcome.
But it should be overcome. Indeed, in a world where we can now fairly easily acquire the items we need to survive, it seems logical that undermining the hijacked hunt instinct that drives the trinket-and-bauble quest of futility just may be the key to finding lasting happiness.
But how would one sever a deep-rooted instinct that has somehow been re-directed from an unrelated and futile purpose?
You know the answer to that as well as I do.
It is not a coincidence that meditation, which reveals the ultimate falsehood of the self-construct, has been proposed and practiced for generations by exactly the same groups of people who suggest that the hunt for satisfaction by way of riches and status and approval is ultimately an exercise in futility.
The way to disconnect the instinct to hunt for survival from the delusion of the hunt for ‘arrival’ is through meditation.
To cease to exist to oneself, is to become a window into grace.
And with that…
… Have a Happy New Year, unless you’ve made other plans.