Tuesday, September 21, 2010

To Be Human

I have a feeling that describing what it is to be human is as difficult as thinking about higher dimensions. It may be beyond our imagination.

Maybe it makes more sense to speak of when we are human. When are we doing higher level activites that animals don't do? And who knows if that is really being human. Are we human when we love but not when we hate? Are we human when we resolve our differences peacefully rather than with war? Somehow I think of love/hate and peace/war as human characteristics, for they have prevailed throughout our history.

We behave like other animals much of the time. We are hard-wired, it seems, to fulfill certain instinctual needs. But we do a couple of things that other animals may not do: understand and create.

A dog hears a noise outside and runs to the window to investigate. He sees a cat and scares it out of the yard. So the dog did gain understanding and created change (the cat leaving) in its environment? Is this what we do when we tackle the challenges of our lives. Do we ever move to high levels? How about when we do art? Or are we just a different model of computer with a different processor and operating system?

I don't know? Can anyone help here?


Kate Freeman said...

What does it mean to be human? Humans build.

Big deal. So do bees, birds, and beavers.

Humans create art.

Have you not gazed upon a spider’s web?

Humans have language.

Just because you have not yet learned to speak to the other beings, do not believe they cannot speak to one another. Such arrogance.

Humans are arrogant.

So are cats. Try again.

Humans can learn to sit in stillness.

Ha. Tell it to a tree.

Humans think abstractly.

You don’t know what is in the head of other beings. Do not assume that they do not have abstract thought. Again arrogance.

Humans have compassion.

Lioness licks her cubs clean with love.

Humans have war.

So do ‘troops’ of monkeys.

Humans are aware of their inevitable death.

All beings are aware they will die.

Humans know their maker.

Are you joking? Some of you are the most disconnected beings ever.

Humans are detached.

So are many other beings. You are not unique in this way.

So what is it then? What makes us different?

Why is there a need to be different? Why do you have to be separate from everything else? Why do you want to be special?

Well there has to be a meaning? Does there have to be meaning? We exist for a reason, no?

Well human, now you are thinking. Humans try to put meaning to their existence. Humans idealize their existence. They give their existence some italic meaning so as to give themselves something great for which they can aim. Then even when they fall short, they have become as good human as they can be. Which is a better human than they would have been without a search for meaning.

Then other beings don’t searcher for meaning?

They do seek meaning.

But then searching for meaning isn’t uniquely human.

Yes. Humans are quite diluted in thinking they have some kind of property uniquely theirs.

And what are you voice who is arguing with me? Are you human?

You never know for sure, do you?

Anonymous said...

Kate raises some interesting and intelligent challenges. H.


to be here

Gee, it must be great riding with him.
Is he picking you up after school today? Uh-Uh
By the way, where'd you meet him?
I met him at the candy store, he turned around and smiled at me.

"Leader of the Pack"


Eric said...

I think Ray's comment, a quote from leader of the pack is very funny especially after that meandering stream of conscious comment. More interesting questions and musing are in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Human is different. We are all relatives, but we do not think the same as animals. I have always loved animals and I grew up with them more than with people, but to impose human thinking on them is not respecting who they are. I think the book "Life of Pi" is a good one to read and think of our differences.

Who's in the world?

Xiushan said, "What can you do about the world?" Dizang said, "What do you call the world?"