It is difficult to argue with the suggestion that modern human beings are insane, as we trash the environment, poison our own air and water and our own food supplies, send countless species to extinction, indulge in numerous wars, even drive the global climate towards unpredictable extremes. Steve Taylor‘s 2012 book Back to Sanity addresses this issue. Yes we are insane, but we can get back onto a sane track.
Steve suggests that it was not always so, quoting a number of indigenous leaders and their perception of Europeans, who spread the madness across the globe, for example:
“Indian faith sought the harmony of man with his surroundings; the other sought the dominance of surroundings…”Chief Luther Standing Bear
Steve suggests that “we suffer from a basic psychological disorder that is the source of our dysfunctional behaviour, both as individuals and as a species.” He coins the term ‘humania’ or ‘ego-madness’ to describe the condition – a malfunctioning of the ego. The essential thesis is that humania is a surface condition, and within we always have access to harmony, sanity and connectedness.
The book is in two parts. Part I examines the psychological dissorder and its effects, how humania gives rise to pathological human behaviours. Part II examines how we can practically transcend this psychological discord, and attain a real state of sanity, which is of course a theme of sages across the ages.
Steve is a psychologist, and his practical suggestions are well founded; many of which you will have come across elsewhere, for example: learning the habit of resting in our own mental space without needing distraction, seeking help to resolve past trauma, learning to dis-identify with thoughts, challenging our own negative scripts, practising service and mindfulness, meditation or meditative activity, periods of quiet.
Steve suggests that our only way forward as a species is for enough people to transcend humania; the alternative is too grim to contemplate, but we see the first intimations in today’s increasingly common extreme climate events.
This is one of now-many books on similar themes, a sure indication that people are beginning to change. Will it be fast enough? Who knows, but that is no reason not to try.
Steve’s book provides good diagnosis and guidance on the most pressing issue of our times.
5 thoughts on “Are we insane?”
So true, Barry, and do scary. I hope the powers that be really do drink some sanity and courage juice and make the monumental changes needed before Mother Earth says, “Enough. I’m tired of waiting. You’re through.”
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Thanks Barry and although there is room for optimism I fear we are nearing a tipping point environmentally and I don’t envy my grandkids inheriting the world we have been negligent about protecting. However, I will have to get my hands on a copy of the book.
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Thanks Wayne. Yes the extreme weather warnings from all over the world are coming with ever increasing frequency. Still the urgency of action is not there…
At least we can do our bit.
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Actually, it is. It’s our institutions that will have none of that.
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Dear Barry and Wayne,
I concur with both of you! Thank you, Barry, for posting an excellent book review here.
My website/blog deals with a great deal of issues regarding the environment, but from a much more interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach to achieve consilience and comprehensiveness. I have come to the conclusion that environmental issues and our existential crisis cannot be solved without dealing with other very fundamental problems and outstanding crises. A number of my extensive posts attempt to analyze in great detail such problems and crises. One of these analytical posts is entitled “💬 Misquotation Pandemic and Disinformation Polemic: 🧠 Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity 🦠“, which you can easily locate from the Home page of my website/blog.
In this said post, I have attempted to unpack as much as I can the core issues and fundamental causes that have plagued many folks, whether or not they are victims or perpetrators. I would like to inform you that I am still expanding this extensive and highly analytical post, which now contains some new, complex and sophisticated analyses.
Thank you again for the book review. As for the simultaneous title and question “Are we insane?”, my answer here (as one of many provided in my said post) is that we must endeavour to preserve the common good by preventing the progressive weakening of (the social construction and integration of) sanity, stability and rationality, on which the advocacy and efficacy of empirical accuracy, ethical integrity, social justice and public morality depend.
Wishing you a happy weekend and a pleasant summer!