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From Survival Instincts to Terrains of Meaning

How can we be courageous during foreboding challenges and fearful when good fortune comes our way? Ancestral adversity required instinctual courage for survival. Worthiness, however, is grounded on valuation informed by a discerning consciousness: progressing from survival to meaning.

Although our ancestral response for survival was innate courage, when we created consciousness, we advanced beyond basic existence, and shifted from instinctual behavior to valuation of our actions. Why? Because we were then confronted with lofty conditions requiring value-based decisions without having to engage in battle for survival. With this new evolutionary scenario we also had to assess self-valuation to gracefully accept auspicious conditions that transcended survival of the species.

But since we progressed beyond preservation instincts, the terrain of meaning for courage had to accommodate new conditions where value, rather than survival was at stake. Whereas ancestral courage was instinctual, now it depended on worthiness. For instance, defending honor, justice, love and other laudable humanity, is determined by the valuation of self and what will be defended. Consequently, courage became contextualized in a terrain of worthiness. Unworthiness, rather than cowardness, as the opposite of courage.

Let me clarify my treatise with examples. A mother and her son are sailing in a bay known for dangerous undercurrents. The mother accidentally drops her pen in the water and chooses not risk her safety, but if her child falls in the water, she immediately jumps in without concern for her own life. Why? Because unlike the pen, her child has great value. So, rather than courage vs cowardness, the terrain of meaning for courage is worthiness.

One might argue from a Neo-Darwinian perspective that the action from my example above is implicitly driven by the fittest genes principle. That is, the child needs to be given an opportunity to produce children to improve the species. Let's go back to the proverbial bay to defend the terrain of meaning. Now there's a young man on a boat, and sees an old man fall in the water from another boat. The young man jumps in and saves the old man. Where does the reductionist argument go here? In fact, although the young man is able to procreate and the old man is not, meaning from his terrain of courage determined his action based on valuation rather than primal evolution of the species.

Now we can return to how good fortune can be feared. Doing battle to survive served us well for millennia, but when worthiness became the terrain of courage, we had to learn how to value self and others. Deservingness entered the realm of consciousness. Prosperity was no longer won in battles. It had to be earned with noble deeds.

But just as we evolved from instinctual courage to valuing our actions, we must also progress from confusing deservingness with performance, so we can understand why good and bad fortune comes to good as well as bad people. If we replace the assumption of deservingness leading to positive outcome, with exploring our inherent potential for abundance of health, love, and wealth, our focus will shift from expecting rewards based on performance, to cultivating valuing self and others as strategy to strengthen the foundation of our worthiness.

And yes, in a world of intelligent design we can still explain why, at times, good and bad deeds lead to unexpected results. In order to have the gift of free will (agency), chaos must be included to account for random occurrences; because in a perfect world, there would be no option to decide imperfect action. Thus, no free will.

Finally, we can choose a journey where we welcome our good fortune with the same courage we draw from worthiness to express nobleness during staggering adversities. Then, as imperfect students of love, we can gracefully accept our triumphs and vicissitudes, find freedom from our internal punitive judge, and enter a life of existential elegance.

Such is the way of the Drift...

Terrains of Meaning

For more comprehensive details read The MindBody Code

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