MANN TALK: Nature's Stamp and Its Clues to Happiness

by Perry Mann
Perry Mann
Perry Mann
We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities,…still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.” Charles Darwin, 1809-1882.   

          “All happy families resemble each other, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910.

Were Darwin alive today he would learn just how widespread is the indelible stamp of nature on the bodily frame and the mental frame of humans. The discovery and reading of humankind’s genome have revealed that what people become is to a large extent determined at conception. That is, humans are children of nature and nature has written into the genes both noble and lowly qualities and has also written prescriptions for and clues to a happy life; that is, a life in harmony with nature’s laws and environment. For one to ignore the instructions and teachings of his progenitor is to become unhappy in the many ways that one can become so.  

he noble qualities among others are reason, knowledge, empathy, imagination, love, sacrifice, industry, endurance, perseverance and humility. These qualities if implemented, more often than not, lead to a happy and successful life if done so in an environment that is at least a facsimile of the natural one.  

The lowly qualities among others are prejudice, ignorance, indifference, fear, lust, prodigality, sloth, all the appetites, indulged to excess, and the other Seven Deadly Sins. These characteristics if implemented, more often than not, lead to an unhappy, if not to a short and miserable life, regardless of the environment.  

Capitalism has created an environment in which humans are aliens and in which they are bombarded daily with enticements, seductions and propaganda designed to appeal to, capture and profit from the desires and tastes of their lowly qualities. A teacher in a classroom advising students that drinking pop is not only a waste of their money but is detrimental to their health is a voice in the wilderness during a hurricane. And her message that fast foods are unhealthy is drowned by media voices appealing to the lowly qualities of children and adults. There is little profit to capitalists and to the media from producing and trying to sell that which appeals to the noble qualities of people.  Christ taught the noble concept of turning the other cheek and doing good for evil. His reward was the Cross.  

Leo Tolstoy reduced the Sermon on the Mount to five noble commandments: “And so: (1) Do not be angry but live at peace with all men. (2) Do not indulge yourself in sexual gratification. (3) Do not promise anything on oath to anyone. (4) Do not resist evil, do not judge and do not go to law. (5) Make no distinction of nationality, but love foreigners as your own people.”  

The evangelists insist that this is a Christian country and our president claims to be a Christian. How are the nation and the president Christians when the nation and the president ignore or violate daily Christ’s commandments?  The church declares that truth and morals come to man through a prophet’s colloquy with God. Seculars say that truth and morals evolved and are nature’s way of perpetuating its creation and that they are clues to happiness.  

Tolstoy considered happiness and conceived five conditions of earthly happiness. (1) Man’s union with nature should not be infringed. He should live under the open sky, in the light of the sun and in fresh air, in contact with earth, with vegetation and with animals. (2)  Another undoubted condition is work; in the first place voluntary work which one is fond of, and secondly physical work which gives one an appetite and sound, restful sleep. (3) An indubitable condition is a family. (4) The fourth is free, amicable intercourse with all the different people in the world. (5) The fifth is a healthy and painless death; that is, death from working the body and not death from indulging it.  

At the turn of the century, 19th to 20th, ten percent of America’s population was living in cities and ninety percent on the land. Now that has been more than reversed. Few live near nature; few work at employments they are fond of and that are physical; fewer and fewer men and women know the condition of traditional family; few have amicable intercourse with all the peoples of the world;  and few die deaths other than painful ones.  

The environment created by people and their migration to it preclude, except for a few, their living in nature and within Tolstoy’s conditions. The result is that many live a life of unhappiness and often of misery. The disintegration and decadence of this society since it moved to the cities and abandoned nature are obvious to anyone who looks at it with a critical eye.  

Arnold Toynbee observed that nations don’t die from foreign conquest but from suicide. This nation is dying by its own hand. It has exploited, desecrated and wasted its natural legacy. Its work is mostly indoors, sedentary and piecemeal. Wealth, urbanization and contraception have tended to unglue family life. Nationalism and xenophobia have generated an us-versa-them mentality. And the old have been warehoused and kept breathing at great cost when death would be merciful.  

Darwin discovered nature’s stamp on all life, a stamp that mandated the looks and acts of species. Humans are born, mature, procreate, work, bear the vicissitudes of life and die. So it is with all species. Tolstoy’s happy family is so by virtue of its living in harmony with his five conditions, which conditions nature would applaud. His unhappy families are so by reason of waywardness with regard to nature’s way. 

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Perry Earl Mann was born on the 12th day of March 1921, in a cottage on Russell Street in Charleston, West Virginia, to a young couple who had left the country for the city after World War I. He lived there during the "Roaring Twenties," that time when men gambled recklessly on the market and women cut their hair, shortened their skirts and took to cigarettes.
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