As a philosopher, I’m sometimes asked if I subsribe to John Locke’s version of humanity (which states, essentially, that human beings are born good and can become bad through their experiences in life) or Thomas Hobbes’ version of humanity (which, on the contrary, states that humans are born bad and usually remain so, but can, at times, become good through their experiences in life). In the past, my answer was always easy and offered without hesitation: Locke! Indeed, I have long believed that humans are, essentially, born as good and empty slates onto which reality often draws negative pictures. I’ve never been a fan of Hobbesian thought, though I’ve never discounted it completely.
These days, my answer isn’t as easy and it’s not given without hesitation. The thing is, I’ve been alive for almost 42 years. In that time, I have observed myself and those around me. I have watched the world evolve, and I’ve paid attention to everything I witness, from the birth of babies to the death of crones. And when the question of Locke vs. Hobbes comes up, lately I find myself thinking about moonflowers.
Moonflowers (Datura metel) are a plant indigenous to the Americas and parts of North Africa. They are, in this author’s opinion, uncommonly beautiful. Their shape, color, and scent are intoxicating to the eye, the nose, and, apparently, the sex drive. Moonflowers are not the most beautiful plant in the world, but in my opinion, they make the top 20 list. And… moonflowers are among the deadliest living things on Earth. To ingest any part of them will bring a horrific death in less than ten minutes.
These days, I tend to think of humanity as being like moonflowers. So inherently beautiful. So captivating and intrinsically imbibed with all things attractive. And lethal. Moonflowers didn’t ask to be lethal. Nor did they ask to be beautiful. They didn’t even ask to exist. But they do exist, are beautiful, and violently deadly.
I think we are like that. We are Locke and Hobbes rolled into one, like moonflowers.