Yuval Noah Harari is modern day thinker. I saw one of his youtube video in which he discussed the challenges the new generation of humankind would face in the coming Age (https://youtu.be/x6tMLAjPVyo) and how to tackle them.
I decided to read his much raved book
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and indeed the book does not disappoint in any way. One who has studied little bit of human evolution know that we are biologically known as Homo Sapiens and hence the author has titled the book Sapiens means related to us. I loved the book and it really changed my perspective about human evolution.
The words of wisdom from the book are:
- Three important revolutions shaped the course of history:
the Cognitive Revolution kick-started history about 70,000 years ago.
The Agricultural Revolution sped it up about 12,000 years ago. The Scientific Revolution, which got under way only 500 years ago, may well end history and start something completely different. This book tells the story of how these three revolutions have affected humans and their fellow organisms.
- Cultivating wheat provided much more food per unit of territory, and thereby enabled Homo sapiens to multiply exponentially.
- Humanity’s search for an easier life released immense forces of change that transformed the world in ways nobody envisioned or wanted.
- Voltaire said about God that ‘there is no God, but don’t tell that to my servant, lest he murder me at night’.
- Money is the only trust system created by humans that can bridge almost any cultural gap, and that does not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, race, age or sexual orientation. Thanks to money, even people who don’t know each other and don’t trust each other can nevertheless cooperate effectively.
- Yet, in fact, religion has been the third great unifier of humankind, alongside money and empires.
- Monotheism explains order, but is mystified by evil.
- Dualism explains evil, but is puzzled by order. There is one logical way of solving the riddle: to argue that there is a single omnipotent God who created the entire universe – and He’s evil. But nobody in history has had the stomach for such a belief.
- Humans have a wonderful capacity to believe in contradictions. So it should not come as a surprise that millions of pious Christians, Muslims and Jews manage to believe at one and the same time in an omnipotent God and an independent Devil.
- Buddha encapsulated his teachings in a single law: suffering arises from craving; the only way to be fully liberated from suffering is to be fully liberated from craving; and the only way to be liberated from craving is to train the mind to experience reality as it is. This law, known as dharma or dhamma, is seen by Buddhists as a universal law of nature.
- That ‘suffering arises from craving’ is always and everywhere true, just as in modern physics E always equals mc2.
- Buddhists are people who believe in this law and make it the fulcrum of all their activities. Belief in gods, on the other hand, is of minor importance to them.
- We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine.
- As far as we can tell, from a purely scientific viewpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning. Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose. Our actions are not part of some divine cosmic plan, and if planet Earth were to blow up tomorrow morning, the universe would probably keep going about its business as usual.
- As far as we can tell at this point, human subjectivity would not be missed. Hence any meaning that people ascribe to their lives is just a delusion. The other-worldly meanings medieval people found in their lives were no more deluded than the modern humanist, nationalist and capitalist meanings modern people find. The scientist who says her life is meaningful because she increases the store of human knowledge, the soldier who declares that his life is meaningful because he fights to defend his homeland, and the entrepreneur who finds meaning in building a new company are no less delusional than their medieval counterparts who found meaning in reading scriptures, going on a crusade or building a new cathedral.
- According to the selfish gene theory, natural selection makes people, like other organisms, choose what is good for the reproduction of their genes, even if it is bad for them as individuals.
- According to Buddhism, the root of suffering is neither the feeling of pain nor of sadness nor even of meaninglessness. Rather, the real root of suffering is this never-ending and pointless pursuit of ephemeral feelings, which causes us to be in a constant state of tension, restlessness and dissatisfaction. Due to this pursuit, the mind is never satisfied.
The book is thought provoking and ends with following critical question we must all contemplate:
Since we might soon be able to engineer our desires too, perhaps the real question facing us is not ‘What do we want to become?’, but ‘What do we want to want?’ Those who are not spooked by this question probably haven’t given it enough thought.
Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods (We Homo Sapiens) who don’t know what they want?
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book as the author took me on an very interesting narrative of human evolution and kept me hooked till the end of the book so I highly recommend reading this book.