Human nature, a mystery!

Free as the wind
Tall as a tree
Wide as a mind
Deep as a sea

Human nature is a bundle of fundamental characteristics—including ways of thinking, feeling, and acting—which humans have in them, naturally. I have used a few lines from a Michael Jackson song, released in 1983, which appealed to me very much the way the lines tell us about the nature.

The question of whether there are truly fixed characteristics, what these natural characteristics are, and what causes them, are among the oldest and most important questions in philosophy and science. The science that examines human nature is psychology and more recently also neuroscience. These questions have particularly important implications in economics, ethics, politics, and theology. This is partly because human nature can be regarded as both a source of norms of conduct or ways of life, as well as presenting obstacles or constraints on living a good life.

How much do we know each other? It is a million-dollar question and I am not sure if we have an answer to this question. Let me assure you that this is not a rhetorical question. Yesterday, we had chat session, over a cup of coffee, with an old friend of ours. His wife has travelled to the US to help their daughter with the baby. He is from the same engineering college as Jaya and I went. He is a couple of years senior to me and we have done some professional work together.

We met, maybe, once a year or so, for a cup of tea, generally in my office; he would leave his home early to come to my office for updates and tea. We always had terrific interactions both professionally and personally. Jaya also knew him from college days as his sister was a year senior to her in school. Somehow in all these years, we had never met personally. I would always tell Jaya that he is a terrific person, with a lot of clarity on everything, a great sense of humour and the person to have as a friend! Yesterday’s chat reconfirmed all our views about him. We reluctantly ended our session, with a promise to meet regularly and asap!

When can we say that we know someone well? When we have a few meals together, or when we meet someone over a drink, once a while? Or when we meet someone over a cup of tea once in a while? In Hindi, someone may say, पहेचानता हूँ पर जानता नही हूँ ! This means I know of him but I don’t know him! Our friend told us a story. He said that a few years back, he and couple of his friends went for stag holiday out of Pune, for 2/3 days. On the first night, they chatted a lot, had a few drinks, and in general, enjoyed. By the time they felt sleepy, it was well past midnight. One of their friends insisted that the next day they all must go for a walk on the beach, early morning. Except for this person, others felt that they should laze around, instead. This friend was insisting so much that there was a minor disagreement. Ultimately only that person went to the beach. My friend said they all knew each other for 55 years plus, they were aware that this friend had a few strong views but on that day it was almost like “My way or the high way”! My friend said that though we knew each other for so many years, have met reasonably frequently but they came to know about this aspect of his personality only after they stayed together. Does it mean that you know someone only when you live together at least for a small duration?

I am sure one would start knowing someone well during life and death situation like war, or when you live together in hostels or dormitories. This living together for studies, doing small and big things together daily, borrowing small money for tea during month end money shortage, helping each other with studies, playing together and most importantly living together, brings that bond, a closeness which otherwise can never be there.

This brings me to another question. What forms your nature? What forms your persona? Is it in your genes? Is it in your DNA? When we say that something has come from genes or DNA what does it really mean? Children from the business community become business minded because from childhood they listen to various aspects of business being discussed at home. Children from doctor families tend to join medical courses because they always hear medical stories or discussions at home.

Consider this example. Two siblings one a lady and the other a man, not much of age difference. Born and brought up in an orthodox modern family. Their path in life has been, outwardly, exactly the same. High intelligence,high IQ, same education engineering plus post-graduation in management, started as trainees, reached the top of their respective organizations, extensively travelled, with long stays abroad for various professional reasons! The lady is a leader with excellent management skills, equally involved in family life, excellent human relationships! The gentleman obviously a good professional but as human being very difficult to deal with, sometimes too aggressive in personal things too! What has made that change mentioned in the last sentence? Only thing I visualize is the vast difference in EQ or Emotional Quotient! Do you pick up EQ on your way? Similarly you can pick up Empathy on the way! In simple language, the lady has become a cosmopolitan and the man has never reached there, missed his bus! The man missed out on picking up stuff from EQ & Empathy shops!

Considering complexities of human nature, I am just going to comment on a couple of important characteristics of humans as there are are too many to discuss!

What is the difference in introverts and extroverts?

One major difference between the brains of introverts and extroverts is the way they respond to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical released in the brain that provides the motivation to seek external rewards like earning money, climbing the social ladder, attracting a mate, or getting selected for a high-profile project at work. When dopamine floods the brain, both introverts and extroverts become more talkative, alert to their surroundings, and motivated to take risks and explore the environment. But this dopamine is higher, in general, in extroverts!

Why people become aggressive?

There are many psychologists who believe that our aggression is mostly due to a biological input such as hormones, genes or our amygdala. Experts feel that our aggression is more nature than nurture, suggests that aggression can be found in the structure of the limbic system of our brain and this is where the amygdala can be found. The Amygdala controls one’s ability to perceive emotions towards others. This idea first started as it is believed the amygdala triggers our aggression. There is the other side of the argument, in which people believe that our aggression is a learned behaviour due to our experiences and the people around us. Jury is still out why we are aggressive?

Friends, the concept of human nature is traditionally contrasted not only with unusual human characteristics, but also with characteristics which are derived from specific cultures, and upbringings. The “nature versus nurture” debate is a discussion about human nature in the natural science that will always go on. The type of human nature I prefer is expressed the lines below, which are also from the same song by Michael Jackson.

And do just what comes natural
The first thing on your mind
Do just what comes natural
I prefer your kind of human nature

Only problem is that the natural in some people is not good enough to make you a good person in the society where we live!

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Home Alone !

The other day while chatting with some friends, a friend used a term Home Alone or something similar! The reference was about someone, whose all three children live in US, Germany and Australia. He used a phrase that was contradictory. “You two must be alone here as all your children live in foreign countries”! How can two people be alone is the question that came to mind. A person is called alone when he has no one! But can any person be without anyone? 

The fact that a person was born means at least two people were involved in the process. My theory is that no one is alone. Alone, loneliness is a state of mind and not physical. When the friend made the statement mentioned above, it was contradictory. When husband and wife are together they cannot be alone! They are a couple who have spent their life together. As against this, a person lives with spouse, children, their family and relatives but still can be alone. But this may be better described by word lonely! When we are born, we come in this world alone and when we pass, we go alone! These are probably only events when one is alone.  

At birth, every child is alone in this world as the child does not know anything, understands nothing. This happens in all the species. Some nurture their babies, bring them to a stage where they are slowly able to manage and handle  the world. Time required to achieve this independence varies from species to species. Only in human race, because the child has to pick up a lot of skills, we look after our progeny almost for first 19/20 years of life. During this period, we learn a lot of social skills, we develop a lot of friends and acquaintances. This obviously gets developed into every person’s ecosystem. Of course, there is a possibility that the ecosystem may shrink over a period if one lives way beyond normal life expectancy and this can happen in late phase of golden age.  

Some are born extroverts and some are born introverts. Those who are introverts can have lesser company of people over their life-time. I am confident that they are definitely not lonely, it is the way they are made. Introverts may be happy to have less people around whereas extroverts will be happier with more people around. The so called lonely exist because of certain health issues like depression or major illness. These issues need medical treatment. Another reason the loneliness can arise is because of certain different traits in one’s nature. Some are very uncomfortable meeting new people whereas some are looking forward to meeting new people; it is their elixir! Some have inferiority complex because of the way they look, the family where they are born and so on. But generally people look for good traits in an individual rather than their physical side. Those with such trait can become lonely.

Loneliness is a state of mind created due to some event or an illness. This state of mind creates a poison within you! It is like bile generated within you. You feel better only when the bile is vomited out. Similarly, we must make an attempt to throw the poison of loneliness out of the system.  Most of the time, the state of mind is created due to misunderstanding; this can also happen due to not understanding or knowing the right circumstances.  

I found a beautiful poem, about loneliness,  on the net. 

If tonight you feel alone wondering 

If anywhere anyone 

Could possibly be missing you 

Just know that if they do not miss you 

It is because they do not know you 

And have not seen the incredible beauty in you 

This poem correctly depicts the situation which arises by not knowing the facts! 

Friends, I veered from a casual remark made by someone, “You two will be alone, is it not?” The technology which is available now is the greatest boon to mankind. How it has brought people closer and together? How family living in different parts of the world can be close to each other due to technology? Alumni Associations, different WhatsApp groups, Facebook have done miracles in the lives of people! But will all this really help if your mind is not open? This technology has created some funny situations of loneliness where someone with 1000 FB friends does not know his neighbours.  

So, keep yourself and your mind open; even after trying this if you still feel lonely go and see a doctor and get yourself treated! After all one can take horse to the water, he will remain thirsty if he does not drink it. You can still be lonely in Sea of People!