Our old brain


Our old brain is leading to our extinction and to the destruction of our home, the Earth. Our old brains are the consequence of millions of years of evolution, an evolution that has also given us the possibility to see what the problem is, but scant intelligence to know how to solve it. Or rather, it has not given us the intelligence to learn that the problem cannot be solved by the brain, and only with that realization is it possible to get beyond the problem.

Our educational systems, particularly now in the USA, are designed to promote the worst characteristics of the old brain. We encourage the extinction of intelligence, the propagation of hatred, the division of peoples by race, ethnicity, sex, religion, class.

Unitarian-Universalists hold (their 7th Principle) “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”  This is essential. Unless one respects all of creation, all creatures, all persons, all life, and our planet Earth, unless one realizes and acts on that responsibility, then the old brain takes over, and we are plunged into the conflict and destruction that has plagued the human race throughout the course of its history. But respect, intellectual realization and commitment are not sufficient. At some point, a total change of heart and mind must come. And you and I can’t bring that about, or rather our egos cannot effect that. The realization that we are powerless to bring that about is the crucial step in bringing that about.

Unitarian-Universalists hold (their 1st Principle) “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” This is nonsense. However limited our intelligence, we are still conscious creatures, conscious enough to know that our old brains predispose us to the evil that has mostly governed our relations from the beginning. But because we are conscious we do have the possibility, the potentiality to become good, to become compassionate. William Blake asked in “The Tiger“, “Did he who made the Lamb make thee”.  The answer, as Blake well knew, is “Yes”. Conservatives acknowledge the Tiger in us, and proclaim that its destructive tendencies will always be with us, and they even celebrate those destructive tendencies. Liberals ignore or disavow the Tiger in us. By doing so, they ensure that the conservatives, in conjunction with the religious fundamentalists, will always dominate the planet until they succeed in destroying it and all of us.

The UU 7th Principle contradicts the UU 1st Principle. For if people by their actions throughout their history disrespect the interdependent web of existence, how can they be deemed to be inherently worthy? They can’t. The ill effects of the old brain must be overcome.

And we must realize (and act on the realization) that technology was made for man, not man for technology. This will allow us to address the problems of human-caused climate change, human-caused cancers caused by pollution and human-manufactured chemicals, human-caused murders in the millions enabled by weapons of mass destruction. But this alone does not overcome our problem.

We do have one capacity that gives us the possibility of overcoming the destructive effects of the old brain, and that is compassion. Not compassion restricted to my family, my nation, my race (for that is not compassion, that is still hatred), but compassion for all humans, all creatures, and for the Earth. Not merely an intellectual appreciation of these, but a total commitment to them with heart, mind, and body. (It is not a compassion that lets anyone off the hook for acting as if we weren’t interdependent. For instance, mass murderers like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their henchmen must be neutralized, i.e., confined. If you both have compassion for these men and insist that they be held accountable for their crimes, then you don’t need to read this short essay.) Totally committed compassion cannot be brought about by our egos. Our egos have been the servant of our old brain throughout history. This realization can give us pause. This realization is the crucial step in dissolving our all too human problem, and in enabling us to survive.