Friday, February 19, 2016

fundamental nature

Bald Rock, Tenterfield, NSW, Australia:
The largest granite monolith in Australia.
Photo by me, July 22, 1992.
I had a rather heated, animated discussion last night about fundamental nature. My arguments were probably more fueled by wine rather than logic, yet I pressed my companion into answering my questions, maybe even baiting him at times. What is fundamental nature?  Is one's fundamental nature made up of character traits? Can it change over time? Can our thoughts and experiences inform our fundamental nature so deeply that it evolves into something new, with new characteristics?

From the book Visions of Compassion: Western Scientists and Tibetan Buddhists Examine Human Nature (edited by Richard J. Davidson and Anne Harrington), this is what His Holiness the Dalai Lama has to say about fundamental nature:

"The very nature of a person is predetermined in part by what location and culture he was born into. Every culture and society already has a preset of values, rules, and characteristics that shape an individual during his growth and development. This chapter introduces an ethical system such as democracy, responsibility, and individuality, attuned to what one perceives as what is good in human nature. What then, is the basic form of a human nature, one that is free from influences and external factors, one that is present when one has just been born? In addition to this, the way one looks at oneself, in terms of status, gender, and race affects how one acts in the society. It is an intricate web of both inherent and environmental factors that shape a person's individuality."

I put a shout-out on Facebook to see what everyone else thinks. I'm not sure if we really reached any sort of conclusion on this, but it did get me thinking. So much so that I had an awful time sleeping last night. (Or that could have been the wine.) I tend to agree mostly with what the Dalai Lama says, that it's a combination of nurture and nature. 

I can think of a handful of times I was forever changed by an experience. Some incidents that occurred when I was kid, that I'm not ready to talk about publicly yet. My first "epiphany" in therapy. The day I realised I don't ever need to rely on anyone and can completely take care of myself. My first true spiritual experience in nature, captured above.  

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