Unification News for October 2002
This is the third and final article in a series about human nature and interactions. As we’ve seen, chemistry alone cannot explain human nature; not our souls, or our minds, and maybe not even our bodies.
The most important human interaction is raising our young. If that doesn’t go right, there won’t be any humans left to worry about!
It’s common to regard the trials faced by today’s young people as worse than ever before. In some ways that’s true, especially if you don’t count areas (or historical periods) beset by wars, slavery, and famine.
Teenagers were, quite literally, invented in America. The word itself was first used in print in 1941. Before then, the very concept was unknown.
Historically, a boy went to work when he was ready, sometimes before the age of twelve. Whether as a pioneer, a soldier, or an apprentice, he was regarded by society as a man.
A girl reached puberty and married. Originally, the legal age of consent for American girls was twelve; in one state it was six! Only at the end of the 1800s did reformers, working alongside the anti-youth labor movement, get those ages changed.
Following the Great Depression, the advent of widespread, mandatory High School began to ‘concentrate’ young people. These students were exempted from the draft, even when World War Two erupted.
This nurtured a separate and distinct youth culture. Advertisers quickly perceived it as a vast new market for clothing, music, etc. Over the years, this phenomena has only increased.
At that time Child Psychology became an accepted field, and a Juvenile Justice system was established. Young people are regarded as having special rights, different than adults.
Now that legal trend is reversing, with "try them as an adult" laws coming back with a vengeance. (Thomas Hine’s book The Rise & Fall of the American Teenager explains much.)
The peaceful "good old days" recalled by our parents date from mid-century, as crime rates before the Depression were sometimes very high. American youth gangs go back more than 150 years. New York City has long been notorious for its wretched immigrants and brutal hooligans. (Read Caleb Carr’s excellent historical novel The Alienist.)
Humans appreciate beauty. We build museums and scenic overlooks, and enjoy butterfly wings at least as much as their wearers do.
For several decades, all this was assumed to be cultural, as standards of beauty can vary. The postscript was usually that this is oppressive to women, as it faced them with impossible standards, and made them "objects" for men.
Current research has modified this view. Tiny infants will rest their gaze upon a beautiful woman’s face longer than a plain or an ugly one, and nobody claims they’ve been influenced by popular culture. Also, it’s no coincidence that Santa Claus wears a beard.
Researchers such as Victor Johnson have used computer graphics to combine the most attractive women’s faces, ultimately resulting in ‘hyperfeminine’ visions of beauty. (No doubt of interest to plastic surgeons.)
This appreciation underlies much of our behavior. A beautiful woman is less likely to get blamed for a car accident, or to receive a harsh criminal penalty. Tall men get paid more, and have a better chance of being elected to office.
The next time a disaster happens, look carefully at the news photography. Usually the pictures will feature the most beautiful women among the victims and/or mourners.
In human societies, even small girls feel a certain pressure to look attractive. (School fairs offer books on makeup for teens.) This is usually a positive motivation, but it can lead to excesses such as bulimia.
Were this an ideal world, beauty would always be a pure thing. Unfortunately, human nature is tainted. Too often, beauty really is skin deep. Fashion photographer Marco Glaviano writes: "I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’m not interested in what’s behind the veneer or what it means. When it comes right down to it, I could make a murderer look like an angel, so it’s not the inside that interests me."
As a photographer myself, I’ve seen ‘out take’ pictures of supermodels (in between photo sessions) scowling, puffing on cigarettes, guzzling beer, and looking not very attractive….
On the other hand, a truly loving couple will grow old together, and hardly notice the slow changes wrought by time. As Paul Harvey loves to report, one now hears about 70th, and even 80th, wedding anniversaries.
Early in the 19th century, scientists codified a popular idea: that the races differ fundamentally. For example, that "wretched" Africans could never succeed without European rulers. At the extreme, that all Jews were incorrigible and had to be wiped out.
In revulsion, modern scientists embraced the opposite idea. Saying that culture is everything, and human nature entirely malleable. Scholars like Ashley Montague and Frank Boas claimed that babies are a ‘blank slate’ upon which parents and society imprint whatever abilities and character the child has.
Now the intellectual pendulum has swung halfway back. Scientists were (or claimed to be) shocked to learn that men and women are vastly different. Twin studies proved that much of our individual character springs from our genes.
Information theorists have looked beyond the physical genes. Richard Dawkins posited the existence of ‘memes.’ Otherwise known as information viruses, they’re like ‘mental building blocks’ made of learned facts and assumptions. (See www.memecentral.com)
In the March 2002 UNews, Mr. J. Hammond Robinson wrote an article giving them a role far beyond that usually assumed. Mr. Robinson says that memes are at the very root of human nature. That only extraordinary teachers (such as Jesus and the True Parents) can overcome bad, entrenched memes, and thus set humanity on a fresh new course.
Author Neal Stephenson presents a similar idea in his ‘cyberpunk’ novel Snow Crash. It’s meticulously researched, though I question many of his conclusions.
DNA is of the physical world, and memes are based upon personal understanding. In modern times, with resolute effort, both can be changed. If only human nature could be altered so easily!
In my opinion, human nature is rooted in something deeper still, a spiritual type of DNA. Our higher natures, and our sins and fallen nature, have their basis therein. It is passed along to each person at conception; thus the need for a Holy Wine Ceremony.
Our Family Church congregations have no shortage of physical beauty. We enjoy the positive effects of an optimistic attitude, of good relationships, and of a healthful and active lifestyle. Members of every physical type are loved by our children, and embraced for their good works.
All humans have some degree of spiritual awareness. People often appear shallow when first encountered, but if you get to know someone, this usually proves false.
Given time, people are able to perceive everyone’s goodness, or lack thereof. (Some folks, especially dependent women, may deny what they uncover.) We all hope to find a deeper beauty, the kind that shows in actions, and lasts eternally.
Unificationists have a special love of heartistic beauty, and for heroic deeds. Several recent Seung Hwa ceremonies have brought this out in profound detail.
Unique among the world’s creatures, humans recognize beauty, and value it. Due to the Fall this recognition has been dominated by the physical. You must get to know someone, in person, or by way of their deeds, to discern their inner beauty. (This is much more than a cliché!) Later on, as the restoration progresses, such things will be immediately clear to all.
It’s inspiring that there is so much beauty and goodness in the world, even though humankind remains far from God’s ideal. People know that love and beauty are real, and should be true and lasting.
Now everyone must understand the steps which lead to love and beauty, and have the courage to make the journey. True Parents have shown us the way.
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