Man as Creator, Sustainer, and Destroyer

Mainstream monotheists see God as the Creator. We on Man Plus see an impersonal cosmos in an eternal cycle of creation, sustainment, and destruction. As humanists, we find it useful to consider man’s role in this cycle. The creation-sustainment-destruction cycle is the nature of the cosmos and of human life. I will be addressing this idea in an essay on the main Man Plus site, but I’ll lay out a few basics here for the curious.

Man the creator: It’s easy to see building, whether building a physical structure like a Lego house or sand castle, or writing a story or poem, as a creative act. But many more acts fit under the creative category. Writing is obviously creative, but reading (especially of quality material) is also creative (or metacreative) because it creates new structures in the mind, and these structures provide the requisite mental content for more active creation.

Man the sustainer: Man is wired to crave new experiences, and while the acts of sustenance are often the most obviously cyclic and least inherently desirable actions for humans, nature has outfitted us with the instincts to act as sustainers. Human parents of young children, mothers in particular, spend most of their time engaged in sustaining life. The acts of caring for children and families, serving as a member of an organization, maintaining our bodies by feeding and exercising them, protecting our loved ones from danger … all these are examples of man acting as the sustainer. In the software field, where I work, I am fortunate to hold a position that involves a lot of creation, but I still spend much of my time maintaining code that others have written. Sustenance is most often a cyclical, repetitive activity and the cyclical nature of existence, human and otherwise, is most apparent in this mode.

Man the Destroyer: All humans have an instinct to destroy, and this instinct is particularly apparent in immature human males, who have not yet learned to redirect their destructive drive. Many young boys can hardly spend 5 minutes building something before the urge to destroy it overtakes them. I’ve often thought that the best indicator of a male’s maturity level is his ratio of creative to destructive acts. Acting as the sustainer for any length of time is often particularly difficult for men. Waging war, or at least starting wars, is almost exclusively done by men.

We are raising our boys with a view to mitigating their destructive tendencies and teaching them to redirect those energies. Of course we realize that destruction is an integral part of the cycle of existence and we don’t discourage them completely from destroying things. They play the usual shoot-em-up video games and our outside games involve quite a bit of squirt guns and ball throwing. Consider also that consumption is destruction and that man must consume to exist. He spends much of his life creating objects for consumption.

You will have noted that these modes of human action are overlapping rather than discrete. The picture of the Yin and Yang symbol is a great representation of the continuous (i.e. non-discrete) nature of human action. I will address this further in my essay on this topic.


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