No matter how well defined or strongly supported, our civilized veneer remains thin and tentative. Hidden within each of us is an animal driven by uncivilized impulses that activate instinctual patterns of mating, fighting, playing, and seeking power.
Usually we’d much rather view our interactions as expressions of higher sentiments and noble principles, but at times our behavior is a display of territorial imperatives and other unwitting biological patterns, and aggressive animal instincts. Often we act like the animals we are. In many instances, our only significantly “higher” human expressions consist of the ways we hide or explain away our base urges.
Like the tentative encounters of animals in the forest, our meetings with other people are highly sensitized interactions that are often uneasy. The mere entering and leaving of each other’s space always involves some instinctive territorial response of invading or being invaded, of abandoning or being abandoned. Many of our ritual conversations express good will to ease these tensions.
The beast within us can be held in check, but we can never tame it completely.