A Family Of Trees Wanted To Be Haunted

It is not by accident that my favorite animals are almost entirely small and non-aggressive woodland animals capable of self-defense, or that I should write somewhat often about the psychology of such small creatures [1]. It is also not by accident that many nations throughout history have adopted as their symbols ferocious predatory animals, considering the predatory nature of most governments and the people in charge of them. While it is not my intent to legitimize the speculation of many supposed scientists about the reasons, it is a noted and curious fact that human beings are nearly unique among large predators in having such well-developed prey instincts. We are beings who live our lives struggling against great fears, yet our power individually (and certainly in groups) is immense. What accounts for the disparity between the way we see ourselves and our fears and the power which we truly possess even without any special divine aid?

A large part of the reason why human beings do not behave as many other aggressive creatures do is the extent to which we prey so much on each other. We tend not to recognize the massive disparity between our strength and the little creatures around us, and tend to exaggerate the hostility of other beings whose strength is more nearly on our level, lions and bears and wolves and sharks, many of which are content to mind their own business and which are seldom aggressive towards human beings and who are far less dangerous to us than we are to them. This appears to be so largely because we as human beings prey on each other so thoroughly that our (not entirely incomprehensible) response is to view other beings as behaving according to the same principles that we do, for we are far more harsh against our own kind than any other physical creature is to us. I do not wish to speculate on the reasons for this, but merely to present it as a mystery to be teased at, to be investigated, and perhaps at some point, when sufficient information is available to provide more than the just-so stories of bogus evolutionary psychology, to be definitely solved.

When I was five years old, I made a friend of a bully named Jimmy who was at the time a classmate of mine. He, along with another friend of mine, Maria (whose family were sharecroppers of a sort and mostly spoke Spanish at home), did not pass kindergarten and so I only was a classmate of his for one year. At the beginning of the year, something about my naturally rather nervous and anxious nature made me an obvious target for his bullying and abuse. While only five years old, my classmate already had predatory instincts and had marked me as particularly easy prey. My response was perhaps somewhat surprising, in that I was somehow able to intuit that in showing I was worthy of respect the bullying and torment would cease. Being somewhat more competent at hand-to-hand fighting than most people would assume, I gained a great deal of respect in the rural Southern area I grew up by being willing and able to fight off numerous groups of people larger than I, and thus demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that my bookish ways and somewhat high voice and nervous disposition did not mean that I was cowardly or sissy. Jimmy was merely the first of a long line of boys and men who recognized that I was a man of an unusual nature, but still a man nonetheless.

Later on that year, as it turns out, I got myself in trouble (something that happened often when I was young) for going to his house ,which was earlier in the bus route than my own stop, without permission. It was fairly clear, before I was retrieved by my grandfather, who was not in a particularly happy mood to pick me up (and I do not know how badly I got beaten when I got home, but I’m pretty sure it was severely), that Jimmy knew predatory instincts because he had felt them. It is the natural and expected response of people who are made prey to want to be strong enough never to be preyed upon again, only to prey upon others in turn. Our default option in life if we are oppressed is to become our oppressors, unless God should intervene and we should learn another way to live. This was certainly the case with the most fateful bully I knew in life, a man who spent the first six vulnerable years of his own life sharing a bed with a widowed grandmother who molested him until her own death, and who grew up emotionally remote, a self-medicating alcoholic, and an abusive husband and father in turn. Far too often in life victims who bear the wounds of being preyed upon become the source of brokenness for others in turn. Far more difficult is the way of restraint, to bear the burden without using that burden as a justification of burdening others in turn.

It is not physical abuse that I tend to find the most difficult to deal with. I grew up around people who were not particularly intellectual by nature, but they respected strength and I was able to speak to them (albeit reluctantly) in a language that they understood. Far more threatening to me is dealing with the torment of girls, which has also been a consistent feature of my life. One of my worst moments in life occurred when I was in the sixth grade, where I dealt with a female bully who I felt constrained not to hit as a gentleman but with whom I could not reason, and who used my restraint as an attack upon my manhood. This comes to mind because yesterday I had to block someone from my Facebook (which I almost never do) because she had somehow found her way on to an old post of mine and began harassing. Previously I had been involved in some testy conversations with her, to which her reply was to threaten to make trouble as some kind of put-upon and defenseless old woman being harassed, despite the fact that she is a far more aggressive person at starting arguments and ugly conversation than I am. Being a person who is capable of self-defense but not aggressive, I have seldom had a great deal of trouble with male peers, even if I have seldom been very close to most of them. Far more troubling to me has been the difficulties I have found myself with females far more guileful than I am, where such modest attainments of strength as I possess can easily be viewed as threatening, and where my wit and friendliness can easily be viewed with malicious intent by those who so choose, and where there appears to be no language I can speak that will make my point clear or to cease the way they torment with seeming impunity.

The psalmist Asaph himself wrote of the seeming impunity that the wicked behaved with in Psalm 73:1-4, which reads (in the Jubilee Bible) as follows: “ Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet almost departed from the way; my steps had almost slipped. For I became angry against the foolish when I saw the peace of the wicked. Because there is no restraint that would bring about their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore they are crowned with pride; they cover themselves with violence as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness; they easily obtain the desires of their heart. They are lawless and speak wickedly of doing violence; they speak loftily. They set their mouth against heaven, and their tongue walks through the earth. Therefore his people shall return here; and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How does God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these ungodly men, without being troubled by the world obtain riches. Verily, in vain have I cleansed my heart and washed my hands in innocency and been plagued all day long and chastened every morning.”

Asaph, of course, learns the fate of the wicked, that their seeming life of ease comes with serious and eternal consequences unless they repent. In fact, it may be said that the easiest way to tell the difference between a predator and a prey is with regards to ease of life. The movie Avatar was not a great movie, but it was a very popular one, and in it the main character has the startling but accurate insight that the chief predator could be attacked from above because it would never bother to look up. Those who are used to being on top, and who consider everyone else as their prey, have no fear of any sort of judgment from above because they are gods in their own eyes. It is for this reason that psychopaths or narcissists lack any kind of remorse or reflection, because in their own black hole-like view of the universe they are the center of their own universe and are not accountable to anyone else besides themselves. To care about others would only be weakness. On the other hand, the recognition of someone’s deep and abiding concern for others would be evidence of the highest order that one was not predatory. The absence of predatory instincts does not mean that someone will not blunder, even seriously, but rather that someone will lack the malicious intent that is necessary to cause deliberate harm to someone else without any conscience.

When we look at the promise of millennial blessings of peace, one of the most noted changes will be the removal of aggression from animals. With no predators there will be no prey. It is not only the behavior of predators that will be curbed, but the nature of those who have been preyed upon that will also be changed. It is not only the aggression that will have to be changed, but also the response to aggression in the present or the past. I do not react particularly well to being hunted, even if that hunting is as mild as being circled over and over again by a young woman, or having children hug me from behind without warning. Of course, I know what it is like to be preyed upon, in particularly horrible ways, and that knowledge is deeply troubling, working its way in both my sleeping and waking moments. One thing I look forward to particularly fervently in the world to come is the change of my own nature, for it would be a miracle for me to feel safe and sound, and not like a hunted animal, this side of paradise.

[1] See, for example:












About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Musings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to A Family Of Trees Wanted To Be Haunted

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