In the course of societal development, many countries throughout the world have ascribed to an economic model where acquisition is the measure of personal success and happiness and the immediate gratification of the individual has come to have greater value than the long term survival of the species. This set of intrinsic beliefs is irrational. From a biological perspective, our collective purpose is the continuation of the species and the maintenance of life requires a stable, long lasting and healthy biosphere. Individually, we are transient creatures; the material makeup of our bodies along with our memories, accumulated knowledge and intellect is effectively broken down into its essential elements upon our demise. Our legacy lies in the genes we may have contributed to progeny, all that we may have inspired in others and memories others may hold regarding those who have departed. This is the essence of what I regard as the reality principle. Many who find the intrinsic limitations of this reality unacceptable often find solace in religions that embrace the idea of the perpetuation of the individual after death. Although this is conceivable if one posits the existence of a mysterious, invisible and supernatural world, it is exceedingly unlikely.
The individual cannot trump reality no matter how zealous the beliefs might be. In my mind, the belief in the self above all other considerations is the essence of human arrogance. Arrogance, by its nature, runs counter to human progress, for it attempts to negate the reality principle – an essentially useless, vain and counter-productive endeavor. It is from an arrogant worldview that humans devolve into greed, hatred and ultimately violence and war.
On the other hand, the acceptance of our personal limitations and the recognition of the greater role of nature and the wondrous natural world that we are intrinsically a part of is the basis of humility. Humility fosters self awareness – an essential ingredient for the acceptance of the limitations of others. Humility is a powerful force, for it can reshape thinking and, as a natural consequence of its recognition, modify individual behavior for the greater good.