Disgust and the Evolutionary Impulse

Wrestler Sitting on a Couch

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by Bruce Sanguin

This posting originally appeared on Bruce Sanguin’s blog IfDarwinPrayed.com. Visit his blog for more postings, webinars, and podcasts on Evolutionary Christianity.

I was working out at the gym today. The television was set to pro-wrestling. A ridiculous drama was being staged between a three hundred pound wrestler and his fiance who were being married in the ring. Uber-cheesy. Usually I would just shake my head and laugh it off. But I felt a surge of disgust. At the human condition.

Everybody needs to make a living. I get that. But the arena was filled with fellow human beings, willingly suspending disbelief and choosing to spend an afternoon of their precious life cheering on this circus. While Rome, or rather, the planet burns. People are starving and starved for love. In America, over-the-counter sub-machine guns are sold to the public. I heard the NRA suggest that the solution for the spike in the mass killings would be for everybody who goes to the Batman film to pack heat. GAWD, help us.

The sensitive postmodernist in me doesn’t want to be judgmental, but really? This is where we’re at at the beginning of the 21st century? Daily, I see examples, not just of stupidity and ignorance, but of mean-spiritedness. People hurting other people because they refuse to feel their own pain. Refusing the path of vulnerability. They blame, and shame, and lash out. And then confabulate all kinds of stories to justify their behaviour. I hate to admit it but I felt, well, disgust.

I am fond of pointing out that to be human is to know what evolution feels like from the inside. I’m always wondering what the best catalyst might be to help us collectively step into this path of conscious evolution. Before today, I can honestly say that disgust was never a candidate. But I actually feel a bit sick to my stomach by how we fritter away divine potential as North Americans. And I wonder if it’s such a bad thing—allowing disgust that is, at least in small doses. I admit, in spiritual circles compassion is the preferred sentiment. But c’mon. Never before in the history of humanity have we enjoyed so much freedom, and we are using it for what exactly?

Yes, it is sad. But allow me to just stay with disgust for a bit. It really does sicken the soul what we’re up to as a species. And the Bible is full of stories about G_d being disgusted and fed up with the stiff-necked people. You gotta believe that Jesus had his moments too. So, I get to be disgusted for at least 24 hours. Or 24 minutes.

I’m not a misanthrope, don’t get me wrong. I have felt the sacred pull of a deep and persistent intuition that a new human is possible. In fact, a partial explanation of what we’re going through is that we’re experiencing birth pangs. The crisis is the birth and all that. I believe it. I believe that this world of matter is charged with the glory of G_d and that the evolutionary process represents the slow and patient emergence of Spirit. But the wrestling scene completely knocked the crap out of me. Kind of funny actually that something so inconsequential was the trigger. But there it is.

I’m pretty sure that disgust won’t be a permanent condition because it morphs into rage in a flash. Sometimes I just want to shake somebody. Dude, wake the f**k up!  We’re killing each other here. We’re killing other species. You want a future for your children? Turn off the wrestling match, get up off the couch and do something nice for someone. Change the channel at least. Ask for what your soul needs instead of drinking that fourth beer and polishing off those Doritos. Send out a posse, Sheriff Obama, and round up all the freakin’ guns. They do it in Westerns all the time.

In the end, the presence of disgust that arose during my workout probably means a couple of things within an evolutionary theology. First, the world is too much with me, and I need a holiday. Enlightenment, as great spiritual teachers have always taught and embodied, means gaining the capacity to lighten up. We need freedom from the world, as well as freedom for the world. Freedom from is picked up in the Judeo-Christian tradition in the practice of Sabbath—simply resting in G_d. In Eastern traditions, this is an awakening to the Unborn Self, the uncreated Ground, before time, space, form, and in which there are no problems to be solved.

I am reminded that I need to get back to my meditation practice. And second, in evolutionary theology, we are liberated, not just from, but also for the world. We harness the power of the intelligence, creativity, and heart that brought forth a universe and assume the burden of this impulse to bring forth a better world.

Part of consciously bearing that burden means paying attention to the emotion of disgust and using it as a catalyst—not to judge humanity as congenitally deficient, which is too easy—but to realize an urgency that I use my one precious life to create the conditions in which Spirit may gloriously and eternally continue to arise and shine.

Bruce Sanguin is a minister serving Canadian Memorial United Church in Vancouver, BC. Bruce is passionate about raising public awareness that there is a form of Christianity beyond the belief-based, biblical literalism that is associated with traditional “church.” In 2011, If Darwin Prayed: Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics, won an IPPY gold medal for best spiritual and inspirational book. His most recent book is The Advance of Love: Reading the Bible with an Evolutionary Heart.


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Categories: Bruce Sanguin, Ethics, Featured, World


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