Tuesday, August 26, 2014

There are Two Edens

We have two Edens, neither exist.

The first Eden is the obvious one, the low hanging fruit of hedonism one. Where you only eat cake, have sex all the time and are drunk everyday. (or whatever your preferences are) Everyone can describe this place all you have to do is ask them "What would you do, if you could do anything without consequences?"

The other Eden is more complicated to describe. It is the lifestyle that would optimize your physical and psychological health. It is the world where you slept just enough, ate exactly what your body needed, spent enough time connected with loved ones. You'd wake up happy, healthy, body buzzing with natural endorphin's. A perfect balance of stress and relaxation, fulfilling activities during the day. But all the simple pleasures in the first one would be denied you.

Look at how different these two places are. One is easily described by anyone in an instant, the other would be a matter of some great debate among all kinds of health professionals. Not to mention all the spiritual and psychological opinions you could collect on the subject on the perfect life balance and proper kinds of relationships. But there is in principle an accurate description of that second Eden. Its just that we don't know what it would be like, or how to get there.

Furthermore both are impossible in their own ways. The simple Eden leads to immediate trouble. Embracing your Id's demands like that would be a disaster. You'd all but instantly have ruined health and relationships, even in a magical world where you could do anything you wanted the physical and emotional reality would crush you. And the enlightened Eden would be ruined by the constant temptation of small deviations from the ideal. Surely one drink, or beer couldn't pull you away from the idea, but that you could not longer stay up late or eat badly would drive you crazy.

But consider the purpose of each ideal, from an evolutionary perspective. The easy Eden is a collection of drives and desires that is available to introspection. This collection of instincts got us from our evolutionary home to where we are now. There is a context in which these desires mesh with our ideal state. The second Eden isn't knowable to each person, because it wouldn't have been necessary to our forebears. In a world with no technology, processed food and mass media, all those desires that we currently count as unhealthy, or prurient, or sinful, would have lead (and in fact did lead) to evolutionary success.

Your Id isn't an insane force for destruction, it is a compass on the wrong map. These two Edens were the same place in our evolutionary past, it is only the contemporary context that has split them. We still have the drives and instincts that made sense 40,000 years ago.

The story that we are fallen and sinful is a destructive and misleading myth. We are not bad, or weak or morally corrupted, we simply are no longer where we grew up. Cut yourself some slack and know that you are not mislead by some inner darkness, but guided by instincts that are out of date.

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