Posted by Tom Kershaw in on -
-Thomas Hobbes, Laviathan
In a sense, these are powerful, motivating words. There is a Spartan in all of us; there is a warrior, a violent individualist. Hobbes speaks to a deep, latent beast inside of us. And while he is condemning this unavoidable aspect of man, one can’t help but sense an alignment with something old, dark and natural that we all share.
Our most basic instincts are animalistic—we must survive. If we didn’t, well, then everything else is pointless.
This penchant for violence and brutality got us through some tough times as a species. The classic scene is the primordial wilderness; a night sky filled with stars, dense, steamy jungle and a small band of near-primates gathered around a fire. The dreaded saber-toothed tiger leaps out of the brush and the men, sinewy and strong, fight back, stabbing at him with their sharpened, fire-hardened sticks until they kill the beast.
Our violent nature was not only directed toward other species. The current manifestation of mankind is the distant progeny of the most deadly and heartless our species could produce. Murder was not a moral issue for early man; it was an accepted way of life. Tribal wars killed off a significant portion of the would-be gene pool no doubt. The ancient Assyrians would slaughter entire cities in a day, killing tens of thousands in a matter of hours.
The darkened annals of history hold untold scores of genocides.
One mustn’t even look to the ancients. We all know about the Nazis, you might have heard about the Kurds or the attempt to kill off Bosnian Muslims in former Yugoslavia. But have you heard of the Cathars? They were a fringe Christian sect in Southern France. The Vatican and the Parisian kings considered them a thorn in their side and over several years during the 14th Century, killed them off to the man. Perhaps a few drops of Cathar blood flow through the veins of a handful of villagers in Languedoc, but they are effectively gone without a trace. How many more races, creeds and ethnic groups that we’ve never heard of have been wiped out?
And who does that leave? The killers.
This is partially why it is so difficult for us, as a race, to actively pursue producing Goodness, to enable peace, harmony and communal existence. We must fight a raging battle within ourselves. This paradox is our Achilles Heel. It is our impediment to progress and evolution and it must be overcome.
What’s required is a conscious, active, aware use of another part of us. I believe and see evidence of something ethereal within humanity; there is goodwill. It is often brushed aside in today’s spiritual climate, where mechanistic materialists—the scientific determinists who populate much of neuroscience and evolutionary biology—and militant atheists seem to hold the floor of our society’s discussion in some great, echoing filibuster.
But it’s that part of us that film studios try to tickle with cutesy Christmas movies. It’s the part of us that awakens in even the most hardened, jaded person when they happen across a child or animal in danger. It’s the part of us that enables the existence of organizations like Amnesty International or The Red Cross. It’s the part of us that tingles when we hear one of Martin Luther King or Gandhi’s speeches, when they powerfully assert ultimate values like freedom, truth, justice and beauty.
The pain and suffering that grabs headlines and our collective attention is a web as fine as spiders silk. In between the threads is not a void, but a great many tiny successes that together, are much greater and more powerful than the darkness. If this were not the case, we probably wouldn’t exist anymore—or the fight for goodness would be long dead. And it’s not. It has survived millennia of attempts to destroy it.
What sustains us are our dreams, great dreams that, as THEE puts it, consists of “having a personal vision of a good world and believing that any goodness that comes into the world can start as easily from you as from anyone else.”
This is the answer to Hobbes’ Laviathan. And I think he tried to show us that—and succeeded to some extent.
I have great dreams, you have great dreams. We all do. Let’s hear yours.
- Tom Kershaw
- Hi! I'm Tom and I am a full-time writer, musician, and father to a firecracker of a four year-old. My wife and I lease our house and cars from her in hopes that her considerable talents of mess-making, princess-impersonation, and stuffed animal-whispering will pay off and fund our eventual retirement in the south of France.
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