By PAT WATSON
On a Spadina streetcar one recent rainy afternoon the cover of a book in the hands of a young man who had that college student look raises the interest of fellow passengers. The title – The Lucifer Principle – was intriguing and raised in the minds of a few what a book with such a title could be about.
As if to be the voice of all the curious, a passenger bursting with inquisitiveness, one of those characters usually seen on Toronto street corners holding out a Timmie’s coffee cup with a few coins in the bottom, asked the man holding the book what it was about.
He replied that it was a discourse on human behavior and human nature.
“I’ll tell you what human nature is,” the questioner shot back. “Human beings are lazy and greedy, and the only thing we’ve got going for us is a strong survival instinct.”
As a human being, should one feel insulted by his characterization, or at least satisfied that someone had enough curiosity to ask?
The questioner had reduced the human race to two unkind adjectives. And why had he left off the other five Deadly Sins of envy, pride, lust, anger and gluttony?
In any case, the man with the book concurred that the book did have as its underlying theme the ‘evil’ nature of man. Who wouldn’t want to know more?
Because answers to any question on Earth can now be found just by turning to the Internet (remember when a primary source used to be the Encyclopedia Britannia?) it was just a matter of going online to get more information on the book with the attention-grabbing title. By the way, kudos to the editor or author for the provocative title.
As it turns out, the book, The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History written by Howard Bloom, came out in 1995, but Toronto Public Library only has one reference copy. So it will be a challenge to get a hold of it to find out what Bloom has to say about culture, evolution, modern civilization and the nature of good and evil.
In any case, it is easy to understand why the questioning passenger would quickly make such a damning summary of human beings. We do have a way of making trouble for ourselves to a much greater extent than even the awesome forces of nature with its earthquakes, hurricanes and floods.
The old comic strip, Pogo, states succinctly: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
But it is understandable that a person who appears down and out could see his fellow humans in a negative light. Negative thinking has a decided way of dragging a human into the abyss. It is also a disservice to all that humans are. For along with the deadly sins there are also seven virtues of prudence, self-control, fairness, faith, hope, love and charity. And there are many more positive human qualities that manifest in our world. There is patience and creativity in the best sense of the word, for instance.
There is no shortage of information, especially through the news media about the countless bad thing people do, so it does not take much searching for evidence of the negative. But if we are to consciously evolve as a species we are challenged to nurture and give our energies to the virtues.
As the questioner pointed out after condemning us all as lazy and greedy, we are as a species driven to survive. The question going forward is how much of our energy we are willing to continue to cede to ‘sins’ as opposed to ‘virtues’.
A note on the beauty of spring…
The extended precipitation Toronto and environs have received in recent days, created a wonderful environment for those who love rain. Although such people are apparently in the minority. Yet as we take a look around we are blessed with the sights and scents of spring blossoms. Summer is great, fall has its colours, but spring with its spirit of renewal, it’s soft greens, pinks, yellows and whites and its milder, more comfortable temperatures is an awe-inspiring gift of nature. A walk among the cherry blossoms of High Park can truly become a religious experience.