Who are we? I often think about what it means to be human. From a religious or faith perspective, we are created by God (or another deity) who bestowed on us gifts such as Reason and Consciousness. From a science perspective, we are an evolutionary success, a powerful species who, through several million years of drastic changes mechanized through natural selection, have attained a position of intelligence, self-awareness, and emotionality that has allowed us to ensure our survival and utilize our highly developed minds to open ourselves up to learning about the world around us. What does this mean?
Well, let us take this from the religious side. According to most religions, everything was created by a supreme being. I will use God as the example since I have most experience with Christianity having been raised in such a household. Many of us rest assured in our faith that God created us in His image and consequently we are instilled with the ability to make choices and think rationally. We are not merely animals, but we are special creations who have responsibilities to ourselves, one another, and the world. We are able to learn and live by morals given to us by God to protect us.
For religion, we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. This gives people a great sense of worth, and the truth is regardless of religion, we are each of immense worth. Reason and logic given to us by our Creator has in turn given us a concept of purpose. I personally hold onto the fact that one of our greatest purposes is to influence those around us in a way that builds one another up and improves ourselves and our environment through the application of our potential, allowing us the capacity for self-esteem and hope. We hold onto the hope of being united with our Creator when our time here comes to an end. It is these ideas that lead so many people to follow a life of morality, justice, and love.
Then we have the science or biological side along with studies in anthropology. Evolution worked in our favor and in order to survive (the driving factor of evolution) we had to develop characteristics biologically and psychologically that would ensure our success. We gradually began to recognize ourselves as a species and over long periods of time, those who possessed the greatest traits passed those on to their children, teaching each generation what they know and so on. In this way we figured out what was important to us and eventually, as we advanced, we sought to embrace knowledge and ask the questions “why” and “how.” With this we grew stronger and rose to the top.
With this we find our strength in our raw ability to survive the harsh world and recognize our consciousness and capacity to learn from our surroundings with more and more curiosity. We teach our children to do the same, and when we are intelligent, we are better able to survive. With the act of improving ourselves, our brains evolved the ability to reason as we progressed further. Our brains increased in complexity and we were better able to communicate and interact. We spread across the world and established ourselves. We have come far and if we continue to apply ourselves despite the odds, we can ensure our continued survival.
In both cases we see how morality works to our advantage. From one perspective it is about living a life that honors a Creator, in the other we learn to navigate one another and the world we live in so we can advance and continue to survive since natural selection is what drives our instincts. Whichever one we believe and use as a moral compass is our choice, but we have instituted laws and moral codes that have made us successful in either case. With stability and continued learning, expanding our mental capabilities, we are stronger and more reasonable. In both cases we have the power to make choices and reflect on ourselves introspectively.
I have been thinking about what it means to be human quite a bit lately. It is caring for one another, those with whom we have built an emotional connection and enjoyed companionship. It is societal changes that made us successful as a people. It is making sure our civilizations run smoothly and follow the order and reason that we are either gifted with or born with after millions of years of progress. It is holding onto love and compassion and seeing the worth and importance of not just ourselves individually, but also the values of others and our desire to see other people do well in their endeavors. It is choosing to help others who need it and it is taking chances with our lives that will improve us and prepare us for a better outcome. It is facing the difficulties of the world the way we were either created to with spiritual purpose, or with the survivalist instincts ingrained in all living species.
I am trying to think out loud, in writing, about our place in life. We are all valuable and have purpose, though each of our destinies are unique. Some will choose to do harm, but most of us will choose to do virtuous things and build up others in our society. We have art, science, literature, philosophy, music, mathematics, and all kinds of routes to choose from, some of which will not appeal to us, but we can find something that fulfills our lives and satisfies our reason for being.
Regardless of what you choose to put your faith in, let us not harm one another’s rights to life, liberty, and happiness, but instead let us use our morals and human compassion to continue loving each other and push forward together so we can find solutions to problems, gain new knowledge and experience, and succeed at bringing our purposes to fruition.
Just some thoughts from my perspective.
(I may have used the featured image before, but I think it is the one that illustrates this post the best).