What really is survival?

Survival stereotypes

We often picture Survival as a situation where someone has to face danger or death in the wilderness, eating raw scavenged items, building stuff out of random other stuff in a bare environment.

Modern survival skills include

  • How to dress for job interviews
  • How to defeat the next layoff
  • How to hack one's way through the corporate ladder

and the like.

Survival has a broader definition

  • Anything alive has survival as a priority.
  • Anything organized has survival as a priority.

Survival is the universal law of life, a biological truth observed by modern science.

Survival is the essence of being

— Spinoza

Any organism, any microbe, any bacteria, any animal will do what it takes to achieve two very basic things:

  1. Protect itself from destruction.
  2. Increase its vital power.

You could stop reading right now to mull over this statement for the rest of your life and reach enlightenment

What follows is for illustration purposes only and to help you see Life with more clarity.

A life of its own

We often say that something took a life of its own.
And that is true, anything organized becomes alive to some extent.

Motion is a main characteristic of Life. Motion necessitates parts.

  • Rocks have only one part, the stone part, and are not considered alive.
  • Animals have several parts (muscles, bones, etc.) and are considered alive.
  • Plants are in between, they have parts (stems, roots, etc.) but limited locomotion,
    their motion is in their growth. They are alive because they grow.

Life is born out of organization

Dr. Frankenstein, in its first steps of creating Life, gathered parts and assembled them.

There is no cult or religion that describes the Gods doing otherwise.
Life is made out rib bones, clay, wood, or various mix and match of locally sourced items.

Anything put together out of parts has the potential of taking life.

As soon as you have Life, Survival (protection and growth) becomes the primary objective.

The cost of Survival is no object

We glorify the stories of animals and men who cut off their own trapped limbs to escape larger harm.

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Many animals and plants have for survival strategy the sacrifice of many of their kind to survive as a species.
The cost has no bearing on the decision.
Cut your losses as they say.

On the other hand, we resent the urge of survival of a company.

Many of the ills of Life can find their origin in the need for survival.

When a big company lays off employees so to stay in business, we call it corporate greed.

Yet, a big company is nothing than a giant organism. Organisms are alive. Alive things want to survive.

And the first rule of Survival is not to be killed or harmed, which for a company is keep a positive balance sheet.

Its members are not human beings but parts of the organism.
Other parts are inventory, office buildings, tangible or intangible assets.

For a company, there is no human component, people are numbers on a balance sheet.
Founders getting kicked out of their own companies are not uncommon. Sacrificing employees is a no-brainer.

Other strategies involve selling real estate, swallowing another company or defaulting mortgage.
Whatever brings the numbers out of the red can be done.
Survival of the company is a priority.

How human beings end up sacrificing other human beings without a flinch?

They simply are disconnected from each other. The limbic system -Brain 2- has unlimited compassion but a limited memory.

Only a dozen individuals can be part of its close-knit circle. One has neural pathways to be sympathetic to about 140 individuals but beyond this number, acquaintances are maintained by artificial constructs managed by Brain 3 -the Neocortex.

Unfortunately, Brain 3 is also in charge of the spreadsheets and has zero compassion.

Survival of the group - 1

Organisms can be established at any level, at any size, for any length of time.

Any two living things can combine their energy to form a new entity and then vie for survival against other entities who try to do the exact same thing.
Because Survival involves Growth -this means to expand its territory- conflict for the same resources is inevitable.

Conflict is essential to the development and growth of man and society.

— Sun Tzu - The Art of War

Have you ever had an argument with someone?

Did you notice how fast his/her peers can band against you? That is survival of the group in action.

But become too much of a threat and the same person's head will be served to you on a platter with a compensation package. That is also the survival of the group in action.

As soon as anything takes shape as an entity, survival becomes its priority. And it can quickly become so for the sheer sake of Survival.

Survival of the group - 2

Take any group of people, a church, club, association, company, nonprofit or for profit, it does not matter.

As soon as that entity becomes one, its priority is to stay that way. And rightly so.

  • How can a church carry its message if it does not exist?
  • How can a Union protect its members if it is dissolved?
  • How can a charity serve its community if it dies off?
  • How can a school educate its students if it has to close?

They have to survive.

The drawback of that survival attitude is that the institution may seek to survive even if the original purpose has vanished.
Often, because some of its members rely on it for their own survival, namely the leaders who are compensated or the followers who have no better purpose in life.

Hence the existence of obsolete government agencies or Unions fighting any management decisions just for the sake of justifying their existence.

Obscurantism is motivated by the need to survive in a position of power by hiding knowledge

Political survival

Being an elected official has its sets of incentives. The priority on the candidates is to get elected, then to remain in office once elected. Survival instinct will command what needs to be said and done to achieve these objectives, often at the expense of the original purpose for which the candidates wanted to be elected.

Survival of thoughts

More interestingly, not admitting to being wrong or getting caught in a web of lies is an example of a set of thoughts, ideas, beliefs, concepts that took a form of its own and is now in need for status quo and growth.

The harm here takes the form of Criticism, Shame, and other social punishments and needs to be avoided.

Thoughts are nothing more than neurons being fired in sequence.
A thought, a belief, a memory is just that: a set of connected neurons. A Group! an Entity!

Thoughts can take a life of their own and fight for survival inside the brain.

Brain 3 vies for Survival

The Neocortex is itself an organ created to generate thoughts, originally producing solutions to survival problems for the entire human body hosting it.

But it is now more often than not trying to justify its high energy cost by pondering needless chatter and demanding constant stimulation, hence the restless waking life most humans live.

The Neocortex resists Meditation with all its might for fear of being sidestepped (which is the goal of Meditation) and keeps firing thoughts and grabs any stimulating object to remain active.

Survival is everyone's priority.