“A beginning and an end” | Photo by kinseyhubbard via Flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
There are two facts of life that I consider pillars of human society: love and work. We see the early beginnings of these qualities in primate societies though not as pronounced and well-developed as among humans’. Our species ruled the planet because we did not only evolve highly adaptive procreative abilities but also the necessary social and psychological mechanisms for forming an emotional attachment. The ability to find a suitable partner to perpetuate ourselves successfully is only half of the script of our biological imperative. There needs to be a compelling reason not to abandon an impregnated partner and the prospective offspring. The natural binding force that keeps a couple together during the lengthy process of childrearing, from conception, gestation, childbirth, and until the offspring can fend for himself, must be strong enough to withstand the challenges of time.
Among most animals, where the timeline for procreation and rearing of offspring is shorter, this bonding force is relegated to “instincts,” although primates can maintain long-term bonds. Even among lower forms of animals, a natural nurturing behavior by the mother manifests itself in order to care for newborns and continues until the offspring is capable of feeding itself. Early experiences of adequate physical and emotional nurturance are vital for normal development. Primates who did not receive nurturance from their mothers at birth often suffer from serious developmental setbacks. A mechanism called attachment underlies this nurturing behavior.
In humans, this complex mechanism is highly evolved. Attachment permeates all variants and shades of love – amorous, filial, or brotherly. It is the element that cements lasting relationships. We fall in love and form a family, for the purpose of raising children, as an expression of emotional attachment. It binds us to our objects of love. However, we don’t live by love alone.
Intertwined with love as equally important for human survival is work. A beautiful verse by the poet Khalil Gibran is a concise expression of the integral link between love and work when he writes: “Work is love made visible.” Not only is work necessary for biological sustenance, but it is also often done out of love — to give nourishment to our loved ones.
Foraging behaviors by our ancient ancestors evolved to look for and obtain food supplies for physical survival. Work plays a key role not only for physical sustenance but for promoting the feeling of self-efficacy. It contributes to the social perception of self-worth and how we evaluate our identity as part of a social group. From these, we derive our self-esteem. Work is the creative outlet of our inner selves and the expression of our higher faculties and sentiments. Many facets of our civilizations are stamped with our ability to love and the expression of it in concrete and abstract forms.
Finally, pray. Why pray? Procreative and feeding or foraging behaviors are biologically determined. They developed for physical survival and often can instigate humans to brutish behaviors when necessary to meet these survival needs. We indulge in our sexual cravings, fall in love, and develop attachments as part of the human imperative. However, humans are gifted with higher faculties and transcendental sentiments which remind us that we are not mere biological entities — forever a slave to the cravings of our physical bodies and programmed to perpetuate our kind.
We are more than the beautifully and efficiently evolved biological machine that we have become. Beneath the thick biological and psychological layers, where we derive our ability to survive and function in our environment, is an innate drive to understand ourselves, actualize our potentials, and find our place in the universe. For that, we manifest our spirituality, and we heed calls for prayer and discernment.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at email@example.com.