Griffith (A Species in Denial, 2004, etc.) offers a treatise about the true nature of humanity and about overcoming anxieties about the world.
The author states at the outset that “this book liberates you…and all other humans from an underlying insecurity and resulting psychosis.” He goes on to explore a contradiction of human history: humanity has made incredible achievements, he says, while at the same time being “the most ferocious and malicious creatures to have ever lived on Earth!” He argues that living in such a state creates a rather bleak feeling for the average person and provides various examples of this feeling; for instance, he shows how J.D. Salinger’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield, goes through “Resignation.” Griffith’s overall question, though, is how anyone can manage to live in a world that’s so full of reflective despair: “How could we be good when all the evidence seems to unequivocally indicate that we are a deeply flawed, bad, even evil species?” Clearly, it’s not an easy question to answer, and the author succeeds in not treating the subject lightly. He includes a plethora of material for readers to absorb, including poetry, song lyrics, information on bonobos (“humans’ closest relatives”), and thoughts from thinkers from Plato to Søren Kierkegaard to E.O. Wilson. He also offers a crash course in various sociological trends, such as the environmental movement, which, he says, “removed all need to confront and think about the human state because all focus was diverted from self onto the environment.” The book does answer Griffith’s questions about the predicament of human existence, but getting to these answers is a time-consuming task. The author’s penchant for lengthy sentences can make absorbing the information difficult; in a discussion of symbols, for example, he says, “Another universally iconic symbol that can now be interpreted through the truthful lens that this explanation allows is the Statue of Liberty that stands so proudly in New York Harbor.” Allusions to Griffith’s own writings may also be speed bumps for those who haven’t read them. That said, the work as a whole provides an undeniably intriguing, well-organized investigation.
A dense but often illuminating book that provides a hopeful look at what it means to be human.