humanity

Why 2018 (And Every Year Forward) Will Just Get Better And Better For Humanity

I was speaking to Yale scientist Daniel Cordaro recently and he shared with me a surprising insight about a leading scientist from the 19th century whom we all know.

Read the text below and try to guess:

  1. The scientist who wrote this quote
  2. The year it was written

(But note that I changed ONE word in the text).

Here’s the original text written over 100 years ago:

As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and compassion to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him.

This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his compassion extending to the men of all nations and races.

If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shows us how long it is before we look at them as our fellow-creatures.

Compassion beyond the confines of man, that is humanity to the lower animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions.

This virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our compassions becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings.

As soon as this virtue is honoured and practised by some few men, it spreads through instruction and example to the young, and eventually through public opinion.”

The text sounds new-agey. Somewhat Buddhist. Reminiscent of Alan Watts or Ken Wilber?

But it’s not.

The original text is over 100 years old so let me first explain what it says in simple English.

It implies that as mankind unites into tribes, it makes sense for us to be compassionate to strangers who are part of our same tribe or nation.

But that soon enough, we find that it makes sense to be compassionate to strangers of others nations. But then as we get here, it makes sense for us to be compassionate to animals too. And so on in an ever widening circle of compassion, until we are compassionate to ALL sentient beings.

Did you guess right on who wrote it?

First, know that I changed one word. The original text was written in 1871 and the word “Sympathy” was used in a way that we today use “Compassion”.

(I changed it to compassion to add modern context but the meaning is the same.)

Now here’s what blew my mind.

These words were written by Charles Darwin in his book The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, first published all the way back in 1871.

Yes. That Darwin.

That absolute badass who came up with the Theory of Evolution and changed the course of human history.

There’s more to Darwin than you Think

Daniel Cordaro reminded me. “Darwin used the word sympathy (meaning compassion) much more than he used phrases like ‘survival of the fittest’”.

Sympathy, Compassion, Kindness — are in the future evolution of man.

Darwin suggested this.

This virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our compassions becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings.

We’ve seen this wide diffusion in compassion before.

In 1851, even among the Brits, certain ethnicities like the Irish were viewed with disdain. But the British extended their ‘compassion’ past it’s ‘artificial barrier’ (in Darwin’s words) and came to see ALL Brits as equal. Later it diffused further and caused the British Empire to eventually give up all its colonies.

But the diffusion marched on.

And Britain merged with the European Union. Now extending its borders of compassion to once sworn enemy nations like France, Spain and Germany.

(Don’t be fooled by Brexit. That’s an economic decision- albeit in my opinion a dumb one. The average Brit is still compassionate and caring about all Europeans.)

So think about the fact that humanity has been civilised for 20,000 years. But that the British circle of compassion came this far in a mere 150 years.

How far will that circle extend in coming generations?

Think about Brexit. 75% of British millennials were against it. This is Darwin’s circle of compassion extending it’s influence as predicted. It expands with every generation.

As soon as this virtue is honoured and practised by some few men, it spreads through instruction and example to the young, and eventually through public opinion.

Every song by John Lennon that speaks about peace, every Harry Potter book by JK Rowling that shows its classic appreciation for diversity, every Facebook friend request by someone from a foreign country — helped extend and diffuse this circle.

These were the “few men” Darwin referred to.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Pushing Humanity Forward by bridging cultures.

Thus millennials have larger circles of compassion. And their children will have still larger circles.

Today many Europeans fear Syrian refugees. I don’t blame them. As Darwin said :

If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shows us how long it is before we look at them as our fellow-creatures.

These Syrians are perceived as different. So the barriers will take longer.

But a single generation from now the children of today’s millennials will look back in wonder at HOW their grandparents in Europe even debated NOT letting these refugees in.

It will be in the same way, my generation looks at our grandparents and WWII and thinks WTF???

The avalanche of compassion though, will begin (again in Darwin’s words) when we can extend our compassions to “all sentient beings”. There has been five great extinctions in Earth’s history and this century we may experience a sixth great extinction due to man’s negative influence on the planet.

Except that I predict it WON’T happen.

Because I believe TWO generations from now the circle of compassion will widen so much, our grand-children will be far more concerned and focused on environmentalism than our crazy generation and will have the technology to do something about it.

So a mere 200 years after Darwin wrote these words:

Compassion beyond the confines of man, that is humanity to the lower animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions.

The last “moral acquisition” will come true.

And there won’t be any going back.

Compassion is far more contagious (and practical) than fear or hate.

This is why I worry little about Trump in America. Or Brexit. These are momentary downswings in a rapid acceleration towards a unified humanity and a world-centric populace.

That makes me feel much better about 2017. And the future planet my kids will inhabit.

So it helps to ask yourself, in every decision you make (such as voting for or against things like Brexit, or for or against politicians who try to gain votes by making you fear other groups).

Am I marching with where the human race is heading? Am I flowing with humanity’s diffusion of compassion? Or clinging to ideas that are bound for evolutionary extinction?

Our future is not about the survival of the fittest.

But the survival of a unified compassionate planet.


Do you see the world progressing or moving backwards? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

Vishen Lakhiani

Vishen Lakhiani

Vishen Lakhiani is the founder of Mindvalley, the education company behind many of the world's top apps, festivals, events, courses and more in the field of human transformation and personal growth.

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