4 out of 4 stars
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As our modern civilization advances rapidly in technology and knowledge, we need to take a breather from time to time to slow down. Or else, we might get caught up in this fast-paced life and forget the core purpose of human lives. What are we trying to achieve through consumerism, individualism, arms race, modernization, and unfair use of natural resources? Does this bring true happiness to humankind? We might be well off in material comforts than our ancestors from 6000 years ago. But, is our modern society equipped to fulfill the emotional needs of a human soul? Are we losing our true human nature? Did our ancestors enjoy overall satisfaction compared to us? Chet Shupe, in his book Rediscovering the Wisdom of Human Nature, answers all these questions.
Chet argues that human happiness and the development of civilization are inversely proportional. The more we grow as a society, the less satisfied we become. Our ancestors ‘lived in the moment.’ They lived in small groups that were interdependent. They didn’t have any rules or obligations; they were free to act according to their feelings. Whether the earth revolved around the sun or vice versa didn’t have any effect on them. Meanwhile, current humans are forced to suffocate under the civil code. Growing civilization means destroying human nature. We are never satisfied as we are constantly preparing for a distant future. Our living standards, materialistic life, and excessive knowledge is destroying our innate human nature. Our education system and family system are failing us. As our lives become more and more independent, we are losing ‘spiritual love.’
According to Chet spiritual love is the essence of humans. We are meant to live in a group interdependent. ‘Sisterhoods’ and ‘brotherhoods’ are what our soul craves. This ‘spiritual love’ is what separates us from our ancestors. This lack is the reason for modern human epidemics such as anxiety, drug abuse, dysfunctional relationships, and increasing suicide rate.
Although each chapter reads like a long essay, Chet’s ideas are put forth systematically. I could only find few minor errors. I do not share Chet’s extreme views but I do see some merit in his observations. Our education system, our everyday work, our interactions, and everything is lacking a humane factor. We are swarmed by knowledge, discoveries, financial inadequacy, and discrimination. Tribes like Pirahã show us happiness is attainable without any modern influence. The book establishes Chet’s POV strongly. These are the positives of the book.
The biggest demerit of this book is the ideas in this book are farfetched. There is no concrete path to achieve Chet’s aim. He thinks when enough people realize the negatives of our civilized society we will naturally go back to our ancestor’s life. Our ancestor life: a heavenly time which was destroyed by the invention of language. Chet has a far too romanticized view of our ancestors’ lives.
If I go on mentioning Chet’s extreme views that I disagree with, this review will turn into a long essay. He expects that humans should be left free to behave as their heart chooses like animals. But even animals have some rules, don’t they? A mother elephant will not let its child stray away from the herd just because the calf felt like it. It will guide the calf forcefully. I do not share Chet’s radical views, nor do I think our primitive ancestors had an extremely peaceful life that Chet dreams. Every civilization has its problems. Moreover, human brains are not equipped to be content, so a change in primitive lifestyle was inevitable, whether Chet agrees or not.
I think we can significantly improve our quality of life by achieving work and life balance, having better relationships with fellow human beings, and giving our children content and happy life devoid of any pressure with small changes in our mentality. This change won’t happen in a blink or as radically as this book hopes. I will rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I may not share Chet’s views but, this is a well-written and well-edited book. The errors I found did not affect my reading in any form. There is no profanity or vulgarity. I will not recommend this book to fiction readers or readers looking for entertaining non-fiction. This work is intense non-fiction that will lead to discussions and provoking thoughts. This book’s sole purpose is to establish how civilization affects human nature. If you are interested in this specific topic, then gladly pick this book.
Rediscovering the Wisdom of Human Nature
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