Ashley Montagu 02
Ashley Montagu

We’re all born with physical needs, like the need for oxygen, for liquid, for rest, activity, sleep, and so on. These must be satisfied if we are to survive physically. The extraordinary thing is that we’re also born with basic behavioral needs. These are the need for love, about which we know very little, the need for creativity, the need for sensitivity, the need for learning, the need for the acquisition of knowledge, the need for play, for song, for dance, for curiosity, for imagination. All these are basic behavior needs, which are as much a part of our genetic system as the physical needs. Yet, we haven’t recognized them. Look at any textbook on the nature of human nature and you won’t find any mention of them.

The species characteristic of homo-sapiens, which by the way is the most officiously arrogant and primitive definition ever self-bestowed by a species. “Homo-Sap” is the appropriate definition at the present time, because he has become so confused as a creature, at the same time being the most intelligent. When you put intelligence and confusion together you really don’t get intelligence, you get a terrible mess.

To be born human is to be in great danger because you are free of the instincts which largely determine the behavior of other animals. We have to learn everything we come to know as human beings. We share a great many traits with other animals, yes, but those, which are exclusively human, we have to learn from others.

We know that we’re all born with physical needs, like the need for oxygen, for liquid, for rest, activity, sleep, and so on. These must be satisfied if we are to survive physically. The extraordinary thing is that we’re also born with basic behavioral needs. These are the need for love, about which we know very little, the need for creativity, the need for sensitivity, the need for learning, the need for the acquisition of knowledge, the need for play, for song, for dance, for curiosity, for imagination. All these are basic behavior needs, which are as much a part of our genetic system as the physical needs. Yet, we haven’t recognized them. Look at any textbook on the nature of human nature and you won’t find any mention of them.

If you would understand what human beings are born for, you first must understand what they’re born as, and this is what I have dedicated myself to, to attempt to show that we are borne with the capacity to love. But we will never know how to love unless we are taught to love, unless we learn to love others who know how to love. Not that it is impossible to correct this at any age, because we remain educateable all the days of our lives. It’s never too late. Love: what is love? Well, to spell it out briefly, it is the ability to communicate to others your profound involvement in their welfare, such that you will never commit the supreme treason of letting them down, whenever they most stand in need of you, and that you will minister to and encourage the growth and development of their potentialities. That’s love.

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