On exploring human nature

Nature is like this: everything changes it shape according to your nature. It is what lurks beneath our actions and our intentions.

It is also a perfect self-preserving system. If I have a choice, I wouldn’t choose to be anything other than myself.

It is one of those things that assigns values and meanings. It is the lens that you use to look at the world. A lens that fits you so perfectly that it may as well be a biological part of you.

You can’t reason with nature trying to change it, because nature doesn’t wish to change, and logic is meaningful insofar that it’s congruent with your nature. If a chain of reasoning arrives at a conclusion that my nature doesn’t accept, it can be understood but impossible to be incorporated.

I believe that human behaviors are subjected to change. Even our ways of thinking are subjected to change as new information and knowledge reveal themselves. Even the things we value change over the years, although much more slowly and not as easily.

But nature is not those things. Nature is not a collection of behaviors or ways of thinking. It’s the underlying function from which these things are generated. Nature is also not what we value, although that is its manifestation. It’s the underlying function that constrains and directs our values.

I do not think that nature can be changed. It can only be discovered. If we flip it around, we can say that “nature” is what we call the parts of us that remain invariant throughout life. Indeed, nature comes from natura – a Latin word that means course of things, constitution, natural character, quality, the universe.

Over the years, I’ve come to discover my nature. That itself is a result of many things. Family crisis. Existential crisis. Countless self-induced existential crises. Experimenting with people’s lives. Nights that essentially spent cornering myself intellectually and emotionally.

If nature is the underlying function for many things, how do we understand it? I think the answer lies in experience. To explore and understand nature, we have to expose ourselves to experience with the upmost quality.

This is the same way that we understand a black box system: exposing the object under study to as many qualitatively different inputs as possible and observe how it behaves. With nature, we have the fortune of it being an integral part of our existence and therefore, strictly speaking, is not a black box. We can understand our nature by a combination of inquisition and reflection.

The defining characteristic of experience is the level at which we’re willing to explore them. For me, experience is more characterized by depth, and less characterized by breadth. Not that one matters and the others don’t, but they have different weights.

Not all experience have depths, some will only be shallow. But I think there are three levels of depth that reflect how far we’re willing to explore a particular experience.

We can stay in the shallow sea where we look at experience with little or no investigation. This is where I tend to avoid staying in the most. I don’t like to follow things that cannot be investigated or doing so would be systematically discouraged. One practical example would be Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. But perhaps more subtly, this would be people who chase the highs, adopt the trends or follow customs and traditions without any question. It’s a shallow sea because there are points that can be ostensibly deep but they turn out to be shallow all the same.

Once we dive a little deeper, we find ourselves in the black mud. Here, things seem very dark and morbid. That’s because they are. But that’s also because these impressions are a defense mechanism that prevents us from digging further. Taboo topics, things that we have implicitly or explicitly sealed away, any trauma or unresolved tensions belong here. The things in the black mud are still peripheral to our nature. Trauma does not define us, but the roles that we play in trauma do.

Once we dive past the black mud, we arrive at place that’s essentially our own custom-made bloody hell. Everything hurts. The process of separating the particular details of our specific catastrophe from the intolerable general condition of being is very hurtful. But only by separating ourselves from those trauma that we discover ourselves. We either re-emerge from this place as someone who understand our nature a little bit better, or we drown.

This is why I don’t shy away from dark, morbid, taboo or personal topics. Although I’ve come to understand my nature, these topics are still the best tools out there to understand other people’s nature. For me, meaningful relationships can only be built and maintained if each party is willing to expose their own nature.

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