I should’ve wrote this down days ago, now the epiphany is less clear, but I’ll try (it’ll need refinement). It’s nothing sudden in truth, because I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now (you can tell, if you follow my writings and essays; which would help with understanding the references and ontological assumptions I am making).
Pain is part of life. An inalienable part of it. The world is necessarily composed of transformations, and transformative cycles— including cycles of predatory transformation. These transformations are characterized by change, and thus for those who grasp onto any one homeostasis of things, characterized by suffering. Buddhism identifies this as the three marks of existence (impermanence, non-self, and suffering).
Energy and matter constantly interchange, but no specific energy nor matter ever felt that they were suffering in this endless composition and dissolution of form. And why not? It is because they do not identify themselves as a self.
But we do (we as in animals and humans, and minds). We identify ourselves as a self, and thus delude ourselves into a sphere of experience seemingly separate from the ecosystem beyond our skin (as if we are not constantly cycling constituent matter into ourselves through air and water, and food— we become what we consume). For some of us, we fail to even understand that our mind and body are one organism.
If we examine our body or psycho-physical-organism (what Buddhism might call the “namarupa”), we would understand that we are an ecosystem unto ourselves, full of parasites, bacterias, and other organisms and systems. Our every cell is an organism unto itself. Our activities impact our own bodies and also the ecosystem around us. Our brain is a network of interdependent organisms. Altogether, everything themselves are composed of organelles, chemicals, and particles, and even more subtle things. Our mind is rooted in the body but not limited to it. Key parts on the physical side of things include the nervous system, and in the “second brain” of the gastro-intestinal tract’s nervous system (enteric nervous system). Our mind is also a complex system of interdependent parts. You are not just you; but numerous psychological organs and functions, including representations of self (the awareness of sight, the awareness of taste, the awareness of the awareness, etc), and cultural and genetic conditioning.
All things are alive because all things are part of the same ecosystem whose apex is a sentient being; but some things are more alive than others, or that is to say, more aware (as in, all phenomena inherently has a basic fundamental single point cognizance or awareness; if we accept panpsychism as true of course— which is more honest than ontological materialism at reconciling the material and the mental). On one end we have energy. On the other end, we have sentient beings (not necessarily animals of course; consciousness developed as part of predictive systems. All systems, be they energy or minds, want to minimize surprise, ie, the Free Energy Principle. The brain is a Bayesian inference engine, nothing more; but a biological brain and its ideological extensions need not be the only kind of system that can infer).
As living matter, war and violence and death (and the consumption of other living beings, be they plant or animal) is a part of the activity of the human animal. We do not need to do it, but if we do it, it is a natural expression of being a species with limitations to our behaviours and abilities. We are what we are, just as photons and electrons are what they are (this is not a justification however, whether for or against “human nature”, which has proven incredibly flexible and diverse).
What created mankind? Many things, but chiefly Self-Domestication. The animal that was Man became the human animal; through the murder of bad actors (those who do not cooperate). Through this long process, we shaped homo sapiens as a product representative of our world (our sphere of experience as human beings); it is through violence we are made. There has never been a “peaceful” human nature in some mystical past; but only the intrinsically pure process of the savage, bloody and wild Eden of the world prior to humanity.
But this is not a justification of course. In religions like Buddhism, the goal of attaining veridical awareness (Buddahood) does not depend upon nor require bodily justifications, because the inherent nature of awareness in phenomena is not limited to any specific condition, or form. Neither biology nor physics are obstacles; they are to be understood, but cast aside as irrelevant for the attainment of veridical awareness. Awareness inherent to all phenomena, but which is not a self, not a soul, not an ego-object nor any one thing.
It is not one awareness, or even many; but as many as there needs to be, and just as quickly to be gone (just as how there are as many phenomena as needed in this world to drive the process of reality, which endlessly transforms from one set to another; from beginnings to endings to beginnings again, changing the environment, and the constants of the cosmos and life and its limitations).
The attainment of veridical awareness is not your accomplishment, but the accomplishment of your sphere of experience (your localized ecosystem of phenomena; your field of experience; your sphere of experienced reality); which then becomes liberated from the identification of a self with any part of anything.
Practically, this realization is reflected in my acceptance of other’s mistakes as my own (and the acceptance of my genetic and causal inheritance; I am the culmination of the world around me, including my ancestors and my society). You can no longer simply toss aside others and other people as irrelevant to yourself. Ecosystems are not made of individuals. At the same time, because you are NOT other people (your eye is not your toe), you need not force yourself into unnatural action for others (I am part of, but am not solely responsible for, what is happening on the other side of the world, or even what is happening in my neighbour’s house. We do the best we can in our niche).
Ecosystems have many roles, and many niches. Though unlike an ecological ecosystem, the ecosystem of human experience is endlessly flexible and transformative. You need not be afraid that you’ll remain a predator, prey or parasite, or that others are stuck in their role. With insight, all people can transform and play any role as needed.