I may be taking off a bigger bite than I can chew here! Nearly three million years of evolution have brought Homo sapiens to our current level of culture, awareness and technology. Who am I to try to make sense of it?
That becomes the point. I will not attempt to make any sense of it. Most days sense seems very low on the totem pole of human existence. I’m not always entirely sure what we are attempting to accomplish together, but it is apparent we are very busy doing it every day.
To my idealist mind, human priorities seem obvious. Take care of each other, ease suffering wherever possible, steward the planet, create beauty and endure with noble perseverance through all challenges. I did mention that I am an idealist.
Struggles over power and wealth continually confuse me. Sometimes so much so that I feel very much like R. A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. It becomes difficult to relate to others whose priorities are about accumulation and control. Those feelings are in direct conflict with the empirical facts – our DNA proves it! We are all one species, struggling in our billion unique ways to survive and thrive.
Here comes paradox – because the beauty of being human is that we are completely interrelated and connected, while at the same time each unique and alone in who we are. How are we supposed to handle that? Am I my brother’s keeper or not? And just who is my brother? Is it only other humans? Or is it all of the life forms that inhabit this rare and precious planet? And if I am a keeper, what does that mean?
I went to dictionary.com to find out, and here are some of the results:
A person who assumes responsibility for another’s behavior
Unless we are talking about dependent children, I don’t necessarily feel responsible for the behavior of others. After all, they are making their own choices, and don’t consult me before doing so. But, where I am responsible, is in contributing to a society that offers good choices to all people.
A person who is responsible for the maintenance of something
Well, yes. I do feel like a keeper in this way. There are lots of something’s we must maintain in order for life to “run” well.
A person charged with responsibility for the preservation and conservation of something valuable
Ah, this is a good one. This speaks to my absolute conviction that we are stewards of this planet. I especially like the “something valuable” part. I would definitely add this definition of keeper to my resume!
A person who conforms to or abides by a requirement
How could any of us possibly get away from this definition? It’s fundamental. It is a requirement that I eat food and breathe air to stay alive. It goes on up from there, all the way to obeying the laws of your society.
Something that lasts well
This one is simple, but perhaps my favorite. I want to be a “keeper” that lasts very well, indeed!
Now let’s get down to the Being part of Human.
There’s a cute little saying out there about a Human Being vs. a Human Doing. But what it represents is actually extremely important. Both are required in some sort of equal balance – yet there seems to be so much more “doing” than “being”. Doing is the active, accomplished part of people that gets the job done. The world moves faster all the time, and we have to keep up with it with lots and lots of doing. The downside of all this doing is the resultant lack of being creates terrible problems.
Being is the part of us that is reflective of our world and ourselves. Being notices dewdrops and sunsets. Being remembers history and doesn’t repeat the same mistakes over and over because being takes the time to integrate what happens in the field of doing. Being creates opportunities to nurture the self, giving it some time and space where new inspiration can arise. All the doing in the world is useless and can lead to big trouble if it isn’t supported by an equal amount of being.
The Great Mystery of human beings won’t be solved by one little essay, of course. The whole history of life is miniscule compared to the vast eons of the universe itself. Personally, I thrive best when I take on the Great Mystery with a sense of adventure and purpose. What’s my role in all this beautiful chaos and confusion?
Well, to be my idealist self, of course! This means holding the principles of Keats’s truth and beauty as much as possible. Most of the time “nobility of spirit” means to me not listening to the pessimists and nihilists that proclaim it is naïve and sophomoric to believe in the great potential of human beings to create our own heaven on earth.
Yes, we have great challenges ahead. No, we can’t control the outcomes completely. Of course not.
But what we can do is live with determined and joyful hearts, each moment of every day.
The rest we can figure out as we go along….
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