"... a warrior's life is not about imagined perfection or victory; it is about love. Love is a warrior's sword; wherever it cuts, it gives life, not death."
~ Dan Millman, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior
During some "highway philosophization" (my term for pondering everything and anything while driving) this afternoon, I eventually began to think rather deeply about human aggression, and specifically about how people hurt other people. Mainly, I was thinking about individual aggreession, although, as a group, humans are unfortunately rather prone to it.Wikipedia maintains a list of ongoing conflicts (i.e., wars), in fact. According to that page, there are seven major wars happenning right now and 15 additional significant ones. Of course, there are scores of unlisted ones ongoing as well, most of which the average person has never heard about.
I would invite you to read the Wikipedia article on aggression. In it, some fascinating information is revealed. For example, it seems that everyone is affected by aggression in some form, but it is usually expressed in different ways by different groups (e.g., by gender, by IQ level, by age, by culture, etc.) and by those experienceing various mindsets (e.g., those who are in pain, those who may be drunk or high, those who are frustrated in some way or facing emotional issues, and certainly those who suffer from a mental disorder). (Those lists are by no means comprehensive, btw. And, I'll cover additonal ones, below.)
There is a natural explanation for aggression, of course; it's basically built into us through evolution. I say "basically" because this is largely theoretical (although this makes a lot of sense to me). As an exercise, imagine yourself living in nature many thousands of years ago. Maybe you're a member of a tribe -- and, hopefully, a peaceful one!
Imagine you're with one of those rare, early vegetarian groups, 10-20,000 years ago. You live in the lush tropics and survive mostly on berries and nuts. It's a happy existence, highly connected with Mother Nature. For the most part, your life is in perfect harmony with peacefulness. Local animals do not fear you; rather, they're your joyful playmates.
Well, except for one ... the Saber-Toothed Tiger that visit every so often, after drought years when game is sparse. This animal is a born killing machine, 600+ pounds with lethal canines about 10" long. To that tiger, you're dinner!
While you understand that the tiger is part of nature, and do not fault the tiger for wanting to eat you, one thing is certainly clear: You do not want to be eaten!? And so when that fateful day befalls you, you fight back, you fight for your life! This is just one example of "healthy" aggression. Certainly, the fight for survival makes a lot of sense.
Other nearby tribes are hunters / meat eaters, and so they actively develop that aggression. In fact, over the centuries, all of the tribes formalize this human capacity in one way or another. Sometimes it's peacefully channeled -- for example through sporting events, athletics, and maybe even various feats of human control; that is to say a more noble and inspiring volition of remaining peaceful even while recognizing our predisposition toward aggression. Other times we give in to it, leading to violence and war.
Having been what many see as a fairly hard-core raw foodist for well over a year now, I note a significant change in mindset, as referenced above. I'm no longer physically unwell, and thus do not experience much physical pain. So, I am not lead to aggression via this well-established route. I do not drink or take drugs, and so am not prone to that type of aggression (not to imply that this is necessarily true for anyone who drinks or takes drugs, as much of that likely, in my opinion, also relates to overall individual consciousness). My physical health has also maintained my state of not suffering from any major mental diseases. As such, I do not have that avenue toward aggression available to me.
So, what's left, of what we covered ? On the mindset side: Frustration. Oh yes, I do experience this from time to time.(Who doesn't !) But, thankfully, we have wonderful tools to help with this perfectly normal behavioral trait. Meditation, love, spirituality, personal-development practices, ongoing learning, and of course our choices. We can conquer this one!
On the more physical side ...well, there's not too much you can do about your age or gender. You can, of course, understand it. That is, you can understand that, if you're male (especially a younger one), it means your chemistry is in general a little more prone to expressing aggression in a physical way. And understanding this and other physical factors may lead to better control.
I believe strongly, though, that the ways in which we're affected by our diets are many. In fact, this topic is hugely complex and absolutely fascinating!? It is a function of our genetics. It is a function of our current condition. It is a function of our age. It is a function of our gender. It is a function of our blood type. It is even a function of our mental state. And more (environment, pesticide exposure, pollutant exposure, water quality, radiation exposure, consumption of processed foods, sugars, franken-foods, etc.)!
On a purely physical level, we can surely agreee that optimal health in turn means healthy levels of all of the various hormones and neurotransmitters that factor into one's propensity toward aggression. And, for most people, I like to think that the default state is peacefulness.
On a personal note, I will add that veganism -- raw veganism in particular -- brought about major changes in me. What started as a purely physical quest for physical health transformed into a much more spiritual and compassionate awarenes. This was unexpected to me, as I've written here before. So, I not only do not eat animal flesh, I do not wish to harm any living beings. For the plants and fruits I consume, I'm quite literally thankful and appreciative. This is a personal note, of course, reflecting a personal choice. And, I do not mean to imply that those who eat meat are not spiritual and/or compassionate! :-)
The bottom line is this: I believe aggression and diet are correlated. Bigtime. It's hugely dynamic, of course (I'd mentioned gender, age, condition, blood type, and many other factors). The more you reduce those factors, the less I believe you'll feel aggression in its unhealthy state. So, I'm not espousing a weakened existence at all.That is to say, lack of aggression does not necessarily equate to physical weakness.For all of the compassion I can feel now, it's still wonderful to exercise and tap into those "aggressive" chemicals our bodies can produce. After all, if a saber-toothed tiger jumps out at you, you want to at least make him work for his dinner. But, if our genetics are programmed to produce warriors, we also have it within us to work on being peaceful ones. And this is done by striving for optimal health.
Below, we have included the original comments from this blog post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.
On January 13, 2010, wrote:
One related point that I'd meant to make was the proposition that, with all of the supposed good that cooking is said to have brought about in civilization, what if it also *corrupted* this notion of ?healthy? aggression -- our natural reaction to fight for survival? If we all stopped cooking, might all the violence in the world calm down into small-scale defensive actions only? Raw food for thought...
On January 13, 2010, wrote:
oh, my, jim, i TOTALLY agree with you on this. you have done some excellent philosophizing there. must be the capricorn in us... i too like to get to the bottom of things.
it's my personal view -- and i've heard it from a few others too -- that when an animal is killed, the adrenalin from his terror is in the meat. that's what adrenalin does -- it MOVES MUSCLES for the fight and flight responses or FREEZES them.
and, of course, there's more... i think early childhood abuse also figures in significantly. meat-eating and vegetarianism and child abuse might go hand in hand... the vegetarians i know treat their children very kindly... they have more access to patience and they think more clearly so they can think things out without lashing out. meat makes people impatient... it's the adrenalin, i think. and this culture is addicted to the adrenalin rush. adrenalin, caffeine, chocolate... whip up those adrenals...
i am writing a book, just finishing it up, on female genital mutilation and circumcision in the USA. i personally was a rageaholic until i found out about that and healed my trauma. circumcision is a hidden abuse that is socially acceptable and not discussed in polite company, but i think it's no coincidence that the ONLY three cultures that circumcise their young are at war in the middle east. and if you check those wars that are going on, they will usually involve at least one of the three circumcised cultures... a friend of mine did a study of the wars & who was involved.
our reaction to it is understandable, yet so unfortunate that we ever had to go through it. such a strong trauma is difficult to deal with when you are a baby or a child, so it gets buried and comes out in odd, sometimes awful ways. so many repercussions. my book is coming along well. the birth experience in the USA is one huge trauma for moms & babies. this book is covering it all. it began as just my story but then i heard about 'pit to distress' (overdosing moms on pitocin, the induction drug) and then i saw a photo of a baby's face... he had obviously been traumatized to the max and was angrier than i've ever seen a child, ever. if he could have killed, i suspect he would have. google chester + circumcision.
american birthing is SO harsh. and i hear that raw food people are much more flexible and give birth so much faster and easier and without tearing... alone at home, as it was always done... raw food can really be helpful... and then -- go all the way, moms -- let your baby remain whole. that's HEALTHY skin they tear off and cut... not diseased. they don't do it in most other countries and they are appalled that we do it here... absolutely appalled.
i am appalled too. that's why i wrote this book.
On January 14, 2010, wrote:
From my own personal experience in changing my diet I certainly have had that same experience, one of becoming more open, less impatient, less aggressive.
That said, I do know vegetarians who are very aggressive and impatient. However, they are not raw vegans and do eat processed foods as well as dairy, eggs, etc. Also, depending on my state, I can still be impatient and jerky. It just happens less often and I find I have more control over myself than I did before.
On January 14, 2010, wrote:
Jim, this was a pretty interesting read. After reading it, I thought back to when the last time was that I was really in a state of what I would call "angered aggression". It was the last time I drank, about 17 months ago. I do think drinking and the like can help bring out this kind of aggressiveness, but I do think it'd be naive to say that it was "just because of the drinking". I think that certain things taken into the body (like alcohol, drugs, cooked foods, etc.) can let one tap into negative aspects of one's personality or makeup that wouldn't be expressed otherwise. I do think that people are born with varying degrees of this "negative imprinting", so some people can be very peaceful, even if they are taking in all of the "wrong" things. On the other hand, some people can be taking in mostly all good stuff and still be susceptible to aggressive thought patterns. So yes, I think diet does matter (and quite a lot), but so does your actual makeup. Over time though, while being highly or mostly raw, I think that you do trend more towards the state of "peacefulness" you mentioned, and can even let go of a lot of the prior negative baggage that may have been present.
I am quite like you nowadays with regards to aggressiveness, as I am still susceptible to frustration. Even when that occurs though, I kind of step back and look over the situation...instead of doing what I did before, and just continuing to make things worse. Also like you, I like to have a healthy aggressiveness when working out...to an extent, anyways. :)
Thanks for this post, Jim!
On January 14, 2010, wrote:
Hey Auntie Patricia!
Thanks for the comment! Agree 100% on the adrenaline comments... And, w/ respect to *female* circumscision, I really didn't know that existed in America. I hope your book sheds light on this matter where it's needed and plays a role in facilitating the cultural changes that are so desperately needed. I'm tempted to go on a bit, but I think this discussion is a little too tangential for this particular blog, so I'll leave that for where ever it's discussed online. :-) Do keep us informed on your progress w/ the book, though. People with passion always make the best authors! -Jim
On January 14, 2010, wrote:
"It just happens less often and I find I have more control over myself than I did before."
Oh yeah... From a spiritual perspective, some might hypothesize that the purity experienced by a raw lifestyle causes your body to function more as an antenna. Thus, we naturally "tune in." We become more aligned with and filled with the energy that we're supposed to be aligned with and filled with, and move closer to the natural state we're supposed to be living, which is blissfully peaceful and happy. Raw may not be the ONLY path to this, but it's a powerful one. I do think, however, that our nature as humans is a balance in many ways -- a yin/yang kind of thing, if you will. So, a perfectly in-tune person would definiteely harbor the capability to become angry from time to time. They just, as you said, would have the wisdom to realize what's happenning and bring back the control quicker. Or, you know.. as I said yesterday, if a saber-toothed tiger is chasing you, you NEED that adrenaline. It doesn't make you a bad person to run your ass off as it's chasing you, right? lol...
On January 14, 2010, wrote:
Oh, I can definitely see people being born with negative imprints, especially considering that babies are formed from the genetic material of the parents and nourished by the chemistry of the mother. Right there you've got two huge strikes against you, in most cases. Add in, as Patricia was saying, a ton of drugs during childbirth, and you've got one screaming baby entering the world. Who's to say how deeply that initial aggression is stored. But what if you took two superlatively happy / healthy people, eating the best diet ever, in the most peaceful setting ever... And then they have and raise a child in the most natural, loving setting possible. Take a whole village like that... How many of those kids will harbor latent anger issues? Probably a lot lower than our society in general, don't you think? I think the imprinting comes from somewhere, in other words... I don't know if we can (or should ) transcend our nature as humans, but I do believe we can achieve something probably just this side of Utopia. Even if we can't, there's nobility in trying. :-)
I still sometimes probably indulge too deeply into frustration / anger. But, thankfully, it's usually short-lived, just as you described. And, I also usually learn something about myself and/or the world through the experience. So, in the end, it's also productive in a way.
On January 15, 2010, wrote:
Yeah, I do agree with you there. I kind of think it may take a few generations to get rid of all negative imprinting (since I think stuff like that is carried genetically, like instinct), but even the scenario you mentioned would probably be near-Utopia. I think environment itself plays a huge role, so even if there was some disposition in a child to have aggressive tendencies, those would most likely be mostly or completely suppressed in that scenario
So where do you think this Utopia exists? Oregon? ;)
On January 18, 2010, wrote:
Utopia ... Maybe it's nowhere. Maybe it's anywhere. Maybe it's everywhere. For Wendi, KDcaT and me, I guess we're just going to have to wait and see. The west coast feels right, though, given all of our individual desires all condensed into one at this moment. Soon Wendi and KDcaT will go on a month-long expedition to find this Utopic locale and, when they do, it'll be fun to tell everyone about it! Wendi's sense of intuition is incredibly strong. She knew we would be buying our current home the minute she stepped foot in the doorway -- and it's been an awesome home to live in. So, I'm sure something similar will happen while they're on their adventure.