The Barometer

A New Human Instinct: Pointing a Finger at The Three Hundred Pound Gorilla

Posted In: Politics, Opinion,   From Issue 622   By: Lauren Davis

21st September, 2006     0

The serious problems in life. are never fully solved....
The meaning and purpose of a problem seem to lie not in its solution, but in our working at it incessantly.
C.G. Jung, "Stages of Life"

This may not be the smoothest way to start a new feature, but I'm just going to lay it right on the table.
The Jig is up.

It seems like nobody but Art Bell and that one guy who hangs out at the doughnut shop will say it, but I think I've seen enough circumstantial evidence to at least bring this one to the front of the line:  There is a three hundred pound Gorilla in the room, and everyone, everywhere, is ignoring it, hoping that it will go away.

To get to the point: I have more than a feeling that there is a sense of urgency in the world today.  It is wholly intangible, yet somehow palpable; like the scent of copper in a pool of blood.

Somewhere along the line, it feels like the mood of the entire world has just shiftedŠand not for the better.

When I first noticed, I supposed it to be a post 9-11 feeling of inadequacy. We'd been attacked on our own soil, the talk everywhere was on disaster, and the realization that we weren't invincible was finally hitting home. Not since the bomb shelter era of the 1950's and 60's has the feeling been so prevalent.

But now, five years later, I'm thinking that maybe it's more than that.

Churches and synagogues report that they are seeing people return to the fold in record numbers.

Studies attempting to gauge the spirituality of people all over the world have indicated an upsurge in the belief of higher life forms and guiding mentors (IE: guardian angels and nether-world spirits). People all over the world are aligning themselves with a variety of religious teachings.

Those unable to commit to a specific teaching report a sense of urgency in finding their spiritual foundation.

People are seeking treatment for depression and anxiety in record numbers. Rates of recidivism within the criminal justice system are at critical mass. Those who are radical in their beliefs feel compelled to impose them.
Behavioral scientists could tell you that these indices speak to a reaction to something. But, I ask, a reaction to what?

Before you write me off as crazy take a long, thoughtful look at the 300-pound Gorilla in the room. He's so imposing; even Anderson Cooper is looking the other way. And you know he's there too.

So, IS there a shift?

Prompted by the Presidential Address on the evening of 9-11, I hit the streets to pose the question.

I wanted to know if others looked into the eyes of the President on 9-11-06, and felt that there was something more significant going on than just a little political posturing and few well placed platitudes.

I asked people not to sort it out. I wanted only their gut feeling. The question was simple: Ignoring the media's penchant for "panic profit", what sense do you get that there is something significant about to happen on a big and scary scale?      In essence: What do your instincts tell you?

Though I was sure I would have to explain the question in depth, I was surprised that people immediately knew what I was talking about.

Turns out I'm not altogether alone in this millennium itch.

A retired senior research scientist with an IQ that would embarrass me to mention, Charles M. Davis is a man who has spent a lifetime building scenarios and modeling them on probabilities. His answer, in the blunt, is yes.

"I feel we're in trouble," he says thoughtfully.  "Our political parties aren't helping it. If it keeps up this way (and I'm sure it will), we're liable to end up with North Korea, IranŠarmed with nuclear weaponsŠeveryone who is just aching to die for their cause." 

Charlie reflects the practical predictions that have been made since WMD's were first introduced. "Somewhere along the line" he says, "someone is going to pull a trigger. And if it's nuclear, the result will be one hell of a mess."

He pauses, and then adds quietly "I guess you can call it the 3d World War the next holocaust."

"That" says Charlie "is my overwhelming instinct. And it's not at all intangible."

Given this scenario, what would his thoughts be on the end game? "It's certainly going to throw the world into chaos."

Since he's a scientist, you have to ask Charlie to elaborate on both his logical assumptions and his instinctive or spiritual leanings. Though he agrees that he senses something in the air, he clarifies that he doesn't respond to it in a religious way.

"I am not particularly spiritual or socially conscious. In that regard, you could call me a bit of a pariah. But this is what I see as the imminent danger. Perhaps people are becoming sensitive to that".

While theories abound on external civilizations that may come to destroy us, Charlie dismisses the alien theory immediately. Surprisingly, he does so for reasons other than those one might presume.

It's not Charlie's view that there is no extra terrestrial intelligence. Rather, it's his thought that any other civilization is likely to ensure its own demise in the same way we will.

"This (sort of scenario) may be exactly why we're not hearing intelligent radio signals (via SETI) from other solar systems." He says.

"When they reach the ability to transmit intelligent radio signals, they are simultaneously getting smart enough to begin killing each other on a massive scale.  Like us, any other intelligent life may not make it long enough to prevent itself from its own destruction."

But is that where we're really going? Is this what Jung's collective unconscious is warning us about?

Laura M. is a 43-year-old mother of 3. A devout Catholic, she is a homemaker who cares for a disabled teenager. In many ways, her thoughts are eerily parallel to those of the scientist who has no religious affiliation.
"My instinct is that things are going to get worse, and that we need to be prepared," she says.

I ask her to tell me what she senses could be happening.  "I believe that a spiritual awakening is really happening," she says. "And that people are hungry for a path to God. They just don't realize it yet."

I ask her to quantify the statement. She says it's clear to her that something is certainly in the air. "So many people know that they are looking for something, and yet they aren't quite sure what that is. They are afraid of letting things go and believing in something as abstract as a spiritual concept".

"People are looking for a purpose in life. Without a purposeŠ life is very depressing."

But hasn't that always been the case? Why the urgency now?

"In general" says Laura, "I believe it's not only the natural disasters, but the increase in violence everywhere. You can see it in your kids when they come home from school. It's in the way they talk. The tension level is on the rise. You see it in the moral decline of the people."

"It's true," she says "I believe that God is shaking things up. And I think people are sensing that."

When asked if she believes that the shake up is imminent, she responds yes, that she feels that sense of urgency at times.

I question if she is responding to a basic human/motherly instinct, or is this a result of a doctrinal upbringing?

"Of course, the church teaches us to be more spiritually aware, and as a result, we are more in tune with that message. Whether or not the source is an instinctive thing, I don't know. I know that we're taught to listen to it."

"But," she interjects thoughtfully, "that protective, motherly instinct is always there. If there is a sense of imminent danger, obviously a mother will feel compelled to do something about it. It's not like I'm panic stricken, but I sense something is going on here. So that side of me may be sensing a danger, yes."

"Of course" she adds, "I'm sure that these answers would be totally different if I were a mother living in sayŠIraq"
Interestingly, Carl Jung taught that "one's relatedness to the unconscious and its instinctive knowledge is considered necessary".

If this is so, and we have perceived some sort of danger through the collective unconscious (for lack of a better description), then what is it telling us right now?

How is this "collective" seeing to its survival?

If it is true that people are sensing an unknown threat, than why when we are encouraged to trust our instincts in all other scenarios, do we choose to ignore this one?

In the next issue, we will publish your thoughts on that very subject.

The Barometer is a new feature that looks at the way society responds to the issues it faces and is designed to get a gauge on how you feel about topics of interest.


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