I was listening to a physicist explaining that in nature the “individuals” participating in a thermodynamic system self-organise in such a way to eliminate any perturbation as soon as possible. If you put a rock in a river you force the deflected water molecules to run into the ones coming from behind, resulting in a sort of congested intersection, a turbulence of unfathomable complexity. But very quickly the molecules give way to order, and they generate the whirlpool where their collective movement harmonizes (river whirlpools appear to circle water in place, but in reality they suck up turbulence and allow for laminar flows to happen once again down stream).
However, at the intersection of humans it’s another thing altogether. In our case the disturbances tend to self-sustain, or inflame. The difference is given by the sole fact that molecules don’t have an “ego” to make them behave stupidly by adding further feed-back loops comprising biases and retributive action.
We think that our egos help us but i’m certain that future civilizations will look at us and say:
“Wow.. how much time, energy and other resources were those primitives wasting in that immense amount of grinding that took place at every level of interaction.. individuals, race groups, religions, firms, states“.
At this macro level of social interaction Nature hasn’t yet modulated its patterns (i.e. humans, and primarily their psychological structure called ego) so that they interact with a sufficient degree of fluency — which would be desirable due to its returns on the conscious landscape.
There was a point though where these patterns internalized the ability of being self-aware in the world, thus giving rise to “moral context”, “expertise” and “responsibility”. A point past which they should’ve been able to self-adjust, and not simply wait passively to be shaped by their outside environment.
How you parse the problem is a matter of which kind of “enlightenment” you pertain to, the eastern naturalistic type, or the western humanist type. My personal understanding is that both traditions are living traditions, and they are destined to shape and morph within the minds of their beholders, honing towards a common general direction that’s currently in between the two. Irrespective of your view, taoist or humanist, if you consider the wealth of cultural knowledge we acquired by now, there is a huge conundrum:
What are the forces opposing ego-evolution (or ego-transcendence) and humanity’s harmonious flow? How much obstruction is coming from a source of natural naivety, and how much from natural expertise?