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Lesson 12- Territory And Identity

         At the end of my last program, I was discussing the reasons why animals are aggressive. The two reasons were, if you remember, first, to establish a ranking or pecking order and second, to establish and defend territory. I was demonstrating how these also are part of the reasons why we are aggressive. It is obvious that human societies throughout history have contain social classes which rank people according to their wealth, strength, heritage or some other mark of importance and, as I mentioned in my last program, Karl Marx built the whole theory of Communism as an attempt to eliminate "class oppression" which, he said, was the major theme of human history. His dream, like those who led the French Revolution, was to create a "classless society" by eliminating private property, which he considered to be the basis for social class. By creating a state based on communal property, in which everybody owned everything, he thought that he could put an end to class struggle. In short, the solution to "class oppression", according to Marx, is to eliminate "class."

         If however, we are born with an instinct for ranking and if ranking serves some important survival function, then obviously Marx is trying to overthrow something that is basic to our nature. Jesus, on the other hand, did not see the problem as "class" but rather as "oppression" and told His Apostles that those above should serve, rather than oppress, those below them. Perhaps, Jesus knew something that Marx didnt. Perhaps He knew our basic nature better than we do.

         It appears that the natural laws of the universe require that there should be some organizing principle or person around which things are organized. For example, astronomers say that it is the gravitation pull of the sun that keeps the earth and the other planets of our solar system in their orbital patterns. In like manner, the large proton in the center of an atom, keeps the smaller electrons in their orbital pattern. Chemists say that there are super molecules which, being larger than other molecules, have the ability to organize smaller molecules into more complex wholes. Without these molecules, the chemical world would never rise above simple atoms. Biologists tell us that every cell has a nucleus around which the other parts of the cell are organized. Since you and I are composites of the complex forms of these atoms, molecules, compounds and cells, then neither we nor any of the higher forms of life could exist if there were no super molecules capable of imposing order on smaller, disorganized atoms and molecules.

         From planets to atoms to cells up to the higher forms of life, we see the same principle being applied in different ways. Every planetary system has a sun at its center. Every atom has proton a its center; every cell has a nucleus, and every beehive has a queen around which the other bees are organized. Are these just coincidences or are we looking at some basic natural law that repeats itself over and over again in different settings. Does the universe use organizing agents whose purpose it is to pull together smaller units into larger and more complex operating units?

         It appears that it does and that territory, being one, serves the same purpose for herd or group animals that super molecules serves for chemicals. In his book, "African Genesis" Robert Ardsley, a naturalist, speaking about a baboon troop, writes:

         "The troop maintains a territory based on whatever advantages the area may have, and defends that territory against other baboon troops. As a society it shows all those hostilities that other owners show in protecting their property... Primates- BUILD THEIR SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS ON THE TERRITORIAL INSTINCT OR DRIVE. As members of a group they are separated from other baboons by territorial hatreds. At the same time, they are joined together by territorial defense. The stranger must be hated, the member of one's own group protected. For the foreigner there must be no measure of tolerance or charity or peace; for the country man one must feel at least basic loyalty and devotion. The individual must protect the group; the group the individual."

         It appears that we share in the same instinct because we also build our societies and social institutions on territory. I have mentioned in previous programs that I was born in an Irish Catholic working class area of Philadelphia known as the "Devil's Pocket," and, like other ethnic areas of Philadelphia, we were organized around the fact that we were from "The Pocket." Robert Ardsley could have just as well written about us that "they are joined together by territorial defense. The stranger must be hated, the member of one's own group protected. For the foreigner there must be no measure of tolerance or charity or peace; for the country man one must feel at least basic loyalty and devotion. The individual must protect the group; the group the individual."

         But we were not alone in this because surrounding "The Pocket" were other neighborhoods of Italians and Blacks and other ethnic groups, often hostile to our own that were equally organized around their territory. Graysferry Ave. was the territorial dividing line between the Black community and us and if we crossed the line they "kicked our butts" and if they crossed the line we kicked theirs. And God help the kid who got caught in someone elses territory.

         For example, during World War II, my brother and I went to live with my maternal grandparents who lived in a different neighborhood that was within walking distance of "The Pocket." One Saturday, I went to visit my aunt who still lived in the old neighborhood. On my way home, I had to go through another Irish Catholic neighborhood known as Schulykill because it was located where the SouthStreetBridge crossed the SchulykillRiver. As I crossed the bridge, I noticed that some of the guys from Schulykill were swimming off the pilings that supported the bridge. I stopped to watch them and before I knew it I was surrounded by five other kids from Schulykill whom I had not noticed. Panic struck my heart because I knew that they had a reputation for throwing strange kids off that bridge and, if the fall didnt kill me, that fact that I couldnt swim, would. Instinctively, I knew that my only hope was to find somebody that we both knew. "Do you know Jimmy Reilly?"... "No!"... "Well, how about Obie O'Brien?"... "Never heard of him!"... One by one, I searched my memory for anybody that we might know in common and each time I failed, I saw my young life ending. Finally, after about fifteen names, I hit upon one that they recognized. "Oh, you know him?" they said. "Yeah!" I responded with relief. "He's a good friend of mine."... "Oh, well if you're a friend of his, then you must be alright."

         Do you recognize the connection between this experience of mine and the one involving the primitive tribe in New Guinea that allowed members from another tribe who had relatives in their village to visit but then decided to kill the two men who accompanied them that didnt have relatives there? The veneer of civilization is very thin and you dont have to penetrate very far before you find the animal roots underlying much of our behavior.

         The gangs of New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and elsewhere have many things in common. First, for the most part, they involve young men and their girlfriends, who are united by a territory that they share. Second, being at the peak of their sexual drive, the young men are driven to display their dominance over other males, while the young females are attracted to the dominant males. Third, they often use symbols like jackets, tattoos, or scars to identify their connection to each other. Of course, as we mature and acquire civilization, we learn to disguise these features so that they are less obvious. Every nation is organized around a territory. Its young men are often involved in wars with other territories and it young women hold them in admiration. Flags, banner, insignias and other symbols are used to identify the group.

         This suggests another natural law that we might call the Law of Identity that states that every individual or group must protect its identity or they will lose it. Rats for example organize their packs based on smell. Each pack has it own particular odor and it is their way of identifying each other. If you take a rat out of its pack, smear it with the smell of a different pack, and return it to his group, they will attack him. If you take a rat from another pack, smear him with the smell of the new pack, they will accept him.

         We see the same phenomena in our own bodies which possess an immune system whose job it is to detect and attack any foreign body that invades them. Thus, when germs enter an open wound, the immune system sounds an alarm and white, warrior blood cells go rushing to the scene of invasion to beat back the invaders. By the millions, these white blood cells, like the bees that die when they use their stingers, give up their own lives to protect the body as they surround and release their chemical artillery on the invading army. Having sacrificed their own lives in the "Battle of the Infected Foot", their own dead bodies are often visible in the form of pus that surrounds the open wound. If, as in the case of people who have AIDS this immune system breaks down, then the body is defenseless and every foreign germ is able to invade it and multiply without any interference.

         This law of identity even applies to parts of our own bodies. For example, male sperm cells, which contain 23 chromosomes as compared to the 46 chromosomes found in the cells in the rest of our body, are strangers in a foreign land. Our immune systems see them as invader and would attack them. However, there are large cells, known as Nurse Cells, whose sole purpose is to protect the sperms cells from attack.

         The same is true of babies in their mothers womb. Pro-abortion groups argue that the baby is part of the mothers body but her immune system says different. The reason that the baby is contained in a sac and separated from its mothers blood by an umbilical cord is because her white blood cells would attack the child as a foreigner if their bloods were ever to mix. The child is a separate distinct individual and, like its mother, possesses its own sense of identity.

         It is this same Law of Identity that causes difficulties in organ transplants. Our immune systems operate on a non-conscious level and are not designed to distinguish between foreign objects which harm the body and those which benefit it. All foreigners are automatically considered to be a threat to the integrity of the body and are immediately attacked. Thus, doctors, when looking for organ donors, try to find ones whose own genetic identities are as close as possible to their patients. The best, of course, is an identical twin followed by a close relative. Even with a close relative, they have to use drugs to suppress the immune system so that the new organ is not attacked by the recipients body.

         Where do these laws come from? Who made them? Why do they exist? The answer for a Christian is "they come from God" who made them according to His Wisdom, Jesus Christ, and they exist because God is pro-life and these mechanisms are designed to protect and promote life in its never ending quest for higher and better forms. We humans may be pro-pleasure and comfort but God is pro-life and all the conditions that are necessary for its growth and development. And since all life is involved in a struggle for survival, then God must be pro-struggle.

         The philosopher, Schopenhauer, was not a friend of God. In fact, he hated God, the Author of Life, because He thought that life was a lie because it promised happiness, by which Schopenhauer meant the satisfaction of all his desires, but it failed to pay off. Instead, all it really offered was constant struggle and frustration. For every desire that is satisfied, he says, there are ten that are denied. But even when our desires are satisfied there is a "fly in the ointment" because, he says, "Life is a business that doesn't cover expenses." It is like a beggar who stands on a cold windy corner every day collecting just enough money to stay alive but never enough to be satisfied or comfortable. In other words, it is futile and hopeless because our wants will never be satisfied because the game is rigged so that even satisfaction doesnt bring satisfaction. Thus, the young foolishly believe that if their desires are satisfied that they will be happy but older people know that as soon as you get what you want, you no longer want it but something else. Thus, wanting is eternal and satisfaction is temporary and fleeting.

         Like Buddha, Schopenhauer concluded that wanting was a waste of time and the source of all suffering and that one should quit the "wanting game" by rejecting life and all of its attractions. Buddha rejected it by advising others to meditate themselves out of existence into a state called Nirvana, which means "Nothingness." and Schopenhauer by recommending suicide. In both case, their conclusion, based on their perceived futility of life, was pro-death and anti-life. What neither understood was that "wanting" was not made for satisfaction. Goals, which are the object of our wanting, are inducements for entering growth processes. Let me explain.

         Suppose my teenage son wants a certain car with all his heart. Like most young people, he is certain that if he gets this car, he will be totally fulfilled and never want another things again for the rest of his life. But, as Schopenhauer observed, he will soon discover that as soon as he gets what he wants, he will begin to want something else. Now, suppose that Im a rich father who hates to see my son frustrated and, out of what I believe to be love, I take $30,000 and buy him the car, only to discover that six month later he now wants a different car or a boat that, he swears, will be the last thing that he will ever desire. All he has to show for the experience is a car whose importance is already declining.

         However, what, if on the other hand, instead of buying him the car, I tell him that if he wants it that badly, he will have to get money and to get money, hell have to get a job. But to get a job, hell have to acquire training or education. And to do this, hell have to enroll in a program, learn to get up in the morning, attend instructions, prioritize his time, pass tests and write reports, save his money, and learn to replace instant gratification with delayed gratification. When the car is long gone and he has learned that it did not satisfy all of his desires, he still has all of the qualities that he had to master on the way to getting the car. He has grown and developed in so many important ways that the value of the car pales in comparison to it. For you see, there is a deeper Wisdom that knows that "goals are not meant to satisfy us but are really inducement which get us to enter growth processes in which our spirits and character are formed."

         St. Augustine had a better understanding of this than either Buddha or Schopenhauer when he wrote: "Our hearts were made for Thee Oh God and will not rest until they rest in Thee." In other words, only the Eternal can satisfy an eternal want and, since the finite, which is us, will never catch the infinite, which is God, then the pursuit must be what it is all about.

         Jesus says, "Seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened unto you" and St. Paul says to prepare yourself like an athlete to run a race. In other words, life was meant for struggle, not for idle comfort and ease and those who are not advancing are deteriorating and falling behind.

         But Schopenhauer never understood this. He thought that life was flawed, as most of us do, because it was full of challenges, difficulties and crosses. It never occurred to him, or to many of us, that the world, as it is, might be perfect.

         To us a perfect world is one with all the difficulties removed but to God it may be the difficulties that make it perfect. A thing is perfect according to what it is trying to accomplish. For example, suppose I have a puzzle that I want to perfect and I give it to my young daughter to finish. After fifteen minutes, I say "Carolyn, how is that puzzle coming?" and she replies, "I only have a few pieces together, Daddy. This is really hard but Im doing my best."... "Well, hurry up. I cant wait to see what it is." Fifteen minutes later I ask the same question and get the same answer. This goes on for another hour and finally, in total frustration, I take the puzzle away from her and start to put it together myself because, you see, my goal was to have a perfect puzzle. But what if my intention was to perfect Carolyn rather than the puzzle. Then when I asked her how it was coming and she replied, "I only have a few pieces together, Daddy. This is really a hard puzzle but Im doing my best," I would reply, "Keep seeking, honey, and you will find. Keep knocking, and it will be opened unto you." In this scenario, it is the very difficulty of the puzzle that makes it the perfect instrument for perfecting Carolyn and, if it were too easy, it would have been in imperfect instrument. And so it may be with our world. It is the difficulties that make it a perfect instrument for perfecting us. Schopenhauer didnt understand this, but St. Thomas Aquinas did. Listen to what he wrote:

         The road that stretches before the feet of a man is a challenge to his heart long before it tests the strength of his legs. Our destiny is to run to the edge of the world and beyond, off into the darkness: sure for all our blindness, secure for all our helplessness, strong for all our weakness, gaily in love for all the pressures on our heart. (In other words, we are to live by a faith that a loving God created the universe and wants to share all of its secrets with us.)

         In the Darkness (of ignorance, doubt, and uncertainty) beyond the world, we can begin to know the world and ourselves, though we see through the eyes of Another, (who is God). We begin to understand that Man was not made to pace out his life behind the prison walls of nature but to walk in the arms of God on a road that nature could never build.

         Life must be lived, even by those who cannot find the courage to face it. In the living of it, every mind must meet the problem of mystery, (which is our inability to know completely). To some men, this will be a joyous challenge, that so much can be known and truth not be exhausted; that so much is still to be known; that Truth is an ocean not to be contained in the pool of a human mind. To others, this is a humiliation hard to accept, for it shows the limits of our proud minds. In the living of life, every mind must face the unyielding rock of reality; of a Truth that does not bend to our whims or fancy; of the rule that measure the life and mind of Man.

         In the living of life, every human heart must face the day-to-day decisions, or rather moment-to-moment choices of heaven or hell. Before every human heart that has ever beat out its life, the dare of goals as high as God Himself was tossed down to be accepted or to be fled from in terror.

         God has said so little (through Scripture and Revelation) and yet what He has said has so much meaning for our living. To have said more would mean less of reverence by God for the splendor of His image in us. Our knowing and loving, He insists, must be our own: the Truth ours because we have accepted it; the love ours because we have given it. We are made in His image. Our Maker will be the last to smudge that image in the name of security, or by way of easing the hazards (or dangers) of the nobility of Man."

         In other words, God doesnt care about the puzzle, He cares about us and He is only using the puzzle to perfect us. Those who dont understand this end up like Schopenhauer who hated life so much that he advised everyone to refuse to reproduce and then to end their own life by committing suicide. Yet, even he had to admit that the basic drive of the Will behind the Universe, or God, behind the universe, was towards life in its fullest expression.

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        In Will Durants the History of Philosophy Schopenhauer demonstrated his conclusion by pointing out that in the organic kingdom dry seeds lie slumbering in barren soil for three thousand years just waiting for the favorable circumstances that allows them to spring into life. By the same token, living toads found in limestone in a state of suspended animation also spring into life when the conditions are favorable. The Will says Schopenhauer is the will to live and its eternal enemy is death.

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         In this sense, he was almost quoting Jesus who said, "Do you want life and want it fully?" Even Schopenhauer would have answered, "Yes!" to this question. It was the answer that he didnt like because Jesus then went on to say, "Then pick up your cross and follow Me." In other words, life is a struggle that involves many crucifixions but, dont worry, because they are always followed by a resurrection to a higher level of existence. Notice that the "Me" that we are asked to follow is, by His own admission, the Truth that will set us free. Set us free from what? From dull, meaningless, limited existence that causes us to say at the end of our life, "What was that all about?"

         As the Bible says, "Without a goal the people perish." And we might add that any life lacking a goal that is higher than its own entertainment, is a life that in the end perishes is a sea of meaninglessness.

         So what Jesus is really saying is " if you want life and want it to the fullest degree because your are tired and bored with a life that seems to be stagnated and going in a circle, then stop avoiding the challenges of life which I have put there for your own development. Put down that beer, get rid of that "joint", pull that crack needle out of your arm, stop distracting yourself with gambling casinos, sit-coms, and other types of amusement, and get deeply involved in the issues which are facing life. If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem and because you are neither "hot" nor "cold", I will vomit you out of my mouth.

         I know that this is shocking because we are more comfortable with the softer side of God, and there is a softer side because the Bible speaks of it. But we have to remember that, according to the same Bible, Wisdom begin with "the fear of the Lord." Therefore, we should not take God too lightly as though He were a kind old grandfather who looked upon everything that we did with a gentle tolerance. The stakes involved in our salvation are extremely high. So high, in fact, that Jesus said that if your eye got in the way, pluck it out and if your hand interfered with your salvation, cut it off. For it would be better to enter paradise missing an eye or a hand than to enter hell with both. This is the same Jesus, who, according to the Bible, will judge the world at the end of time. And, according to the Bible, He will separate the sheep from the goats; the saved from the damned. And, if as I have been suggesting, God is the author of the natural laws which involve the process of Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest, then we better take His warnings seriously. When we forget this, we go easy on ourselves and on our children, and we both come to believe in God, the Nice Person and salvation becomes the process of being nice. I have seen many modern day Catholic parents excuse and tolerate their childrens indifference to God and the Church as though it were something that really didnt matter as long as they were nice people.

         This is not the Christian Gospel but a distortion of it. Jesus said that if we really lived His message people would hate us and persecute us because we, like Jesus, would confront them with the Truth that would make them uncomfortable because it would challenge them to change.

         When I went to Catholic elementary school, we were taught that hell existed and that if we didnt use the grace providing aids that the Church provided through the sacraments, that we risked going there. Today, I am not so sure that our Catholic elementary students are being taught this. Everything is about "nice." I saw this in my grandson a few years ago when we were watching "Jesus of Nazareth." When we reached the scene where Jesus overturns the tables in the Temple and began to drive the moneychangers out, my grandson was shocked. He said, "I don't like Him. Hes not being nice." This is the new theology and, if it persists, it might be the new road to damnation.

         Often, when God wants to teach me something, He puts some incident before me that starts my mind churning and questioning. For example, there was a TV movie on the life of "Bear Bryant", a football coach known for his brutal training methods. The movie picked up his career when he became the new football coach at Texas A&M. His first move was to take his players to an abandoned complex in the desert, where, for the following weeks he drove them through brutal practices that almost killed several of them. He started off with 135 players but each night a few would grab their suitcases and disappear because they couldnt take the brutal treatment which involved players being denied waters in the blazing heat, being forced to play injured, and being pushed beyond their physical limits. When the camp ended, only 30 players remained.

         Both my wife and I were shocked by his treatment of his players, yet, at the end of the movie, 25 years later, his remaining players attended an event to honor him. With tears in their eye, each told him of their love and respect for him. I couldnt believe it and I asked God in my heart of hearts if this was how we were suppose to treat people.

         It then occurred to me that, at the opposite end of the spectrum, are people who, like parents that spoil their children, are always giving to other people but never asking anything of them. At first glance, it looks like the more loving thing to do but, as often happens, it sometimes debilitate the receiver so that they remain dependent on others for the rest of their lives.

         In a sense, this is what welfare does and it is the faulty premise upon which Secular Humanism is based. If the Humanist had their way, they would eliminate all the problems of the world by eliminating the people who had them. Miller S. Everett, professor of philosophy at Oklahoma A & M expressed their view when he suggested that "when public opinion is ready for it no child should be allowed to live who be certain to suffer social handicap." These intellectual humanists are pro-abortion because they are anti-crosses. To them, the only life worth living is a life of comfort and pleasure.

         As I mulled over these two extremes, my conclusion was that the truth lies somewhere in between. Real love knows when to give and when to demand and it takes great Wisdom and discernment to know this.

         Well, I see that my time is up. Heres Dom.