After all, words used to describe human behaviour such as egocentric, arrogant, inspired, depressed, deluded, pessimistic, optimistic, hateful, cynical, immoral, brilliant, guilt-ridden, evil, psychotic or neurotic, all recognise the involvement of saying our behaviour results from having competitive and aggressive instincts like other animals is simply not true; as I say, it’s just a convenient excuse while we waited for the psychosis-acknowledging-and-solving, .
Yes, while we couldn’t defend ourselves with understanding all we could do was angrily defy the criticism, egocentrically try to prove we didn’t deserve it by winning as much power, fame, fortune and glory as we could, and block the criticism out of our mind.
Remarkably, while Schreiner wasn’t able to find understanding of all the wrongness in human behaviour, she did manage to achieve, through the inspiring beauty of nature, some peace of mind by realising that a greater meaning did lie behind all the apparent wrongness and suffering in human life.
For brevity’s sake, these are the main passages from Schreiner’s incredible essay: ‘When a child, not yet nine years old, I walked out one morning along the mountain tops on which my home stood. …The little sharp crystals seemed to cut deeper into my heart.…All the…flowers and grasses on it turned bright gold, and the dewdrops hanging from them were like diamonds; and the water in the stream glinted as it ran.
I said that to fully appreciate the agony of our human condition we need to immerse ourselves in the absolute horror of our predicamentbecause the question screaming out to be answered is, “Why on Earth would we have been so seemingly stupid to have departed from such a wonderfully gentle and peaceful way of living and become brutally aggressive warmongers, egomaniacal competitors and psychotic and neurotic mad people?
How were we to explain our species’ so-called ‘fall from grace’?
The sun had not yet risen, and the mountain grass was heavy with dew…I walked till I came to a place where a little stream ran…I had got up so early because I had been awake much in the night and could not sleep longer. And, as I looked at that almost intolerable beauty, a curious feeling came over me…I seemed to a world in which creatures no more hated and crushed, in which the strong helped the weak, and men understood each other, and forgave each other, and did not try to crush others, but to help…And there came to me, as I sat there, a joy such as never besides have I experienced…a joy without limit…In the long years which have passed, the adult has seen…the greed, the ambition, the cruelty and falsehood of the individual soul…in so hideously enlarged and wholly unrestrained a form that it might be forgiven to one who cried out to the powers that lie behind life: “Is it not possible to put out a sponge and wipe up humanity from the earth? ”…That which was for the young child only a vision…has, in the course of a long life’s experience, become a hope…which a growing knowledge of human nature and human life does endorse.
My heart was heavy; my physical heart seemed to have a pain in it, as if small, sharp crystals were cutting into it. Somewhere, some time, some place’ of there being meaning in all the suffering and apparent wrongness in human life, she then, in that state of complete openness to all the possibilities, saw the sparkle on a stream in the early morning sunlight and, through that beauty, was connected to the greater truth that there ‘How difficult it is for modern man to see life clearly and to see it whole.
Understanding is compassion, the truth sets us free from our psychosis.
So this is the fulfilment of Anne Frank’s awesome vision that , she was overcome with distress about all the selfishness, meanness and cruelty in the world.