Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Inspiration: Bonobos

So recently I have been ruminating on hate crime and divisive politics and the more mundane question of how do you react in everyday life when somebody spouts something so disagreeably shocking it makes you hiccup as the breath catches in the back of your throat? (You know, the usual.)  It was the "how do you react" question that initially drew me in.  We live in a snarky society.  Snarky media, snarky humor, snarky one-liners to be shared on Facebook to make political points.  What's the best way to react when the snark devolves into downright meanness?  I admit it: all snark and no love can get tiring.  This was originally a post on picking your struggles, analyzing when is it worth it to speak up, and when constructive dialog possible. It included a snarky picture to make a relevant point about snark.  There's nothing like formulating a good old fashioned action plan to help you feel prepared for the next time.

As I composed the post I found that forming an action plan wasn't what was bothering me. I feel comfortable that I know (most of the time) when to speak up and when to just move forward, that I (most of the time) have the courage to do so.  small, everyday conflict I'm okay with.  It's the tolerance bit I (and society, apparently) find tricky.

What was baffling me was why is it so hard to accept another person's worldview that is different than your own. I'm not even talking about accepting the troublesome worldview AS your own, but accepting that it EXISTS and not being hateful or resentful about that fact.  I turn the problem over and over in my head, and mostly what I think of is bonobos.

Bonobos, the a little known great ape that provides science a ripe opportunity to study the biological basis for tolerance.  For more information, read this book, because the author explains it far better than I can:

The passages that fascinated me the most illustrated basic differences in the society of two great apes, chimps and bonobos.  Chimps tend towards violence.  When confronted with a stranger chimp, there is a distinct divide between "them" and "us."  "Them" is bad, meant to be destroyed.  Bonobos do not see "them" and "us."   Bonobos simply see "us" and welcome the strange bonobo.  They share and cooperate and the whole tribe is cared for.  Bonobos are amazing practitioners of tolerance.  Instead of using violence to resolve tension they use consensual sex which is pleasurable to both parties.  Humans fall somewhere in the middle with the potential for behaviors from either side of the tolerance/hate spectrum.  But we must make the effort to remember, and choose the bonobo.


I am also reminded of this little story:

“An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life…..He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil – he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth,compassion and faith. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”

His grandchildren thought about this for a minute, and then one child asked, “Which wolf will win, Grandfather?“

The old Cherokee replied softly, “The one you feed.”

1 comment:

Dean said...

This is so perfect. It was something I really needed to think about. The way the two stories matched each other and strengthened the other's point was absolute brilliance. Well done!