As most of us have now realize, mismatch is a truly wicked problem. Our ancient, aboriginal bodies just don’t fit this frenzied, chaotic modern world. As a result, lifestyle disease is rampant. Fear, depression, anxiety, obesity, diabetes and other illnesses now afflict millions of people around the planet. Our minds, bodies and spirits are suffering.
Naturally, everyone seems to have their favorite explanation for our distress. For some, it’s simply a problem of sedentary living. For others, it’s a matter of sugar, gluten and glow-in-the-dark foods. For still others, it’s a failure of government, culture or institutions. We talk and discuss the problem as if we just discovered it, but in fact, much of our distress was anticipated nearly a century ago by the late, great Carl Jung.
Jung is well-known for his ideas about the collective unconscious, archetypes and dream interpretation, but he was also an astute observer of the human condition and our collision with the modern world. This view is vividly revealed in his book The Earth Has a Soul: C.G. Jung on Nature, Technology and Modern Life, edited by Meredith Sabini. If you only have time to read one book on mismatch and the human condition, this is the one.
The problem was obvious to Jung as far back as the early 20th century. As he saw it, humanity was suffering from a tyranny of civilization, rationality and logic. The deep, animal unconscious was being dominated by domesticated ideas and culture. Unable to move or express itself, the inner animal could only go in two directions: depression or violence. For some, the constraints of civilization would lead to a form of “learned helplessness” and despair. For others, it would lead to irrational outbursts, xenophobia and genocide. When the body is tyrannized by the head, disease in one form or another is a common result. Obviously, Jung understood the trajectory of his time, and ours as well.
There is much to chew on in this book, nuggets of wisdom that will challenge your beliefs about what is really going on with the modern human body. Here are some of my favorites:
“At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the seasons. There is nothing… with which I am not linked.”
“Are we not carriers of the entire history of mankind? When a man is fifty years old, only one part of his being has existed for half a century. The other half may be millions of years old.”
“Civilization is a most expensive process and its acquisitions have been paid for by enormous losses, the extent of which we have largely forgotten or have never appreciated.”
“For it is the body, the feeling, the instincts, which connect us with the soil.”
“Through scientific understanding, our world has become dehumanized. Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos. He is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional participation in natural events.”
“…every civilized human being, however high his conscious development, is still an archaic man at the deeper levels of his psyche.”
“Our intellect has created a new world that dominates nature, and has populated it with monstrous machines.”
“Body and soul have an intensely historical character and find no proper place in what is new, in things that have just come into being.”
“America does not see that it is in any danger. It does not understand that it is facing its most tragic moment: a moment in which it must make a choice to master its machines or to be devoured by them…We are being “strangled by our rational devices.”
“My self is not confined to my body. It extends into all the things I have made and all the things around me…Everything surrounding me is part of me.”
“I am fully committed to the idea that human existence should be rooted in the earth.”
Read this book and reflect. Your prescription for humanity will never be the same.