Friday, 3 February 2017

The Great Leveller

I watched a great documentary a few years back called: The Great Leveller. It was an exploration of Death and Life. It focused on the two most studied primates in the world: the Baboon and the Civil Servant. It drew fascinating parallels between the lives of the two: both lived in a hierarchical civil structure, with a Dominant Alpha at the top. Interestingly, your value in the food chain extended from the Top - [the highest in perceived value] the Alpha and his immediate family [the royal court] - on down to the lowly peasant at the bottom of the food chain [the lowest in perceived value]. The Alpha of the Baboons was echoed in the Secretary General of the Civil Service but this hierarchical structure is found throughout our culture – indicating the profound influence our genetics on our social structures.

In the Baboon clan the Alpha decided who ate. The close bond of family guaranteed easy access to food but the further out from the royal family you were the lower your perceived standing in the community and the greater the difficulty in securing the necessities of life; with some enduring profound humiliation in order to acquire food.

There was a ceaseless struggle to get further up the ladder, to get higher up the tree – to establish some security for oneself.

As part of the study, the Baboon diet consisted in a daily dose of burgers and fries and so the health of the clan members was regularly checked. Curiously, while one might expect their poor diet to have adversely impacted health across the clan this did not turn out to be the case. In fact, health levels were more accurately correlated with the individual’s position on the social ladder than could have been corroborated based on diet alone. It was noted that the cell walls of the Alpha’s heart were the thickest and strongest, with the communities getting progressively thinner and weaker the further down the social ladder the individual stood; until we came at last to the bottom of the food chain and the heart of this poor soul was treacherously weak to the extent that a bad fright could cost them their lives. Interestingly, these elements were found to be reflected in the lives of the civil servants; with the rates of heart attacks and quadruple by-passes significantly higher among the lower clerks than among the highest levels in management. Among the lower clerks life was a relentless shit-eating contest; respect was at a minimum while demands were at a maximum – remarkably similar to the lives of the baboons.

Stress then, it seems, was the deciding factor in good physical [even mental] health.

Near the end of the study it was noted that there was one baboon that had escaped the attention of the researchers. This baboon didn’t play the games the others did; possessed no obvious inclination to climb the ladder; seemed to socialise for its intrinsic worth and value rather than as a manipulative play in a game for social advancement and seemed, generally, to just act as a sort of observer of events. Intrigued, the researchers ordered this individual to be assessed and, against all odds, it was discovered that the cell walls of the heart of this baboon were every bit the equal of the Alpha’s – just as strong and healthy, despite the diet.

What conclusions did they draw from this? That pulling out of the Rat Race and living a quite life in the country would be better for you than engaging in this relentless and poisonous game of social advancement; which is exactly what one civil servant had to do before life in the city killed him.

As I reflected on this over the years, the term Alpha struck my imagination. I thought about the Almighty being referred to as the Alpha and Omega and reflected on the significance of the thought that Deity is the Prime Alpha. The gospel teaches that we are the children of God – the Prime Alpha. That this Prime Alpha is motivated by profound love; who hears the prayers of the humble and who declare “before you have asked, behold, I have answered”, “who knows what you are in need of even before you do.” I thought about the emotional and spiritual value of internalising the experience of being a child of the Prime Alpha – of realising that you exist under the loving watch care of the God of all resources and how this sense of cosmic/spiritual belonging could impact your health and decisions; how it could free you from the ‘Game’, free you of the need to engage in the degrading game of jockeying for social advancement. That you could place all your real needs before your Almighty Father and rest in confident assurance that they would not go unmet; no more would you need to humiliate yourself or ‘sell your soul’ to those who wish to ‘push you down’ just to get by.

I found it intriguing to reflect on the thought that the price of remaining a child of the Prime Alpha [God] is to live as a child of God, to bear the fruits of the divine that dwells within us, to manifest our potential for God-likeness, – that we “Love one another as I [Jesus] have loved you.”

While Baboons are perfectly obedient to their animal natures, the free will children of the God of Free Will have a true choice: we can give in to the inclinations of our material and animalistic nature and abide by the brutal ethics of the jungle; where cruelty is the norm and pitiless competition the rule, where Might makes Right, and where the strong are free to prey upon the weak and the vulnerable; or we can aspire to live as the children of the Prime Alpha – to live without fear and inspired by love, where kindness is the norm, Brotherhood the foundation, and co-operation the rule, where Right makes Might, and where strength is wedded to compassion and tenderness of heart leads us to enfold the vulnerable and weak in our arms that we might nurture, strengthen, protect, and ennoble them. By so choosing we can make our animal natures subservient to our spiritual natures and thereby begin the process of removing the ‘mark of the beast’ from our characters and thus will the Kin-dom be established on Earth.

I know my choice.

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