Choosing to be Human

We must decide how we are going to talk about ourselves as humans. We have to define humanity as something more than simply those factors that determine our status as one of many animals on the planet. Human is human; Homo-Sapiens, Homo-Sapiens. Where do the twain meet, if they do–how? The Homo-sapiens on its own, alone as Homo-sapiens, cannot be human or become human without humane choices. This is clear enough to me and for you to understand. It is the act of choosing that makes us human, for better or for worse, for Good or for Evil. Evil is the result of human choices in an anti-humane way, thus the person acting accordingly becomes an anti-human. This anti-human is absent of light, that light we have understood as a metaphor for the higher elections necessary for becoming human, and yes, it is a becoming that happens to the Homo-Sapiens when his or her choices are humane, as we have already said. Light remains a valid metaphor for good, for what we might consider in another religious context, divine.  We do not, though, have to enter a discussion of the existence of divinity, or the supernatural. I refuse to get all religiously fanatical or crazy filled with what fills most religious nuts when they talk about humanity and divinity, the former never being too far from being the Ape of God. I am simply taking about the distinctions between human and homo-spaiens, what they stand for and how each of us has this duality in our nature. We are always one-hundred per cent Homo-Sapiens; we are always becoming one or another kind of human.

Now, this fore mentioned anti-human is absent of those attributes we call humane: compassionate, kind and considerate;  sympathetic, tolerant and understanding; forgiving, merciful and benevolent; generous, charitable . . . we could go on, but not indefinitely. Acting contrary to these principals is inhumane. Inhumanity is not a sum total; it is always in a context between two human beings, one of them putting that humanity in jeopardy when choices are contrary to humane ones. We are always in conflict with being humane, always one step from being beyond good and evil. The next step can be purely Homo-Sapiens.

What is our prime condition?  What is the first and the last of our being?  We question and respond to our questions with more questions, other questions, all of them extended as if we could not know, as if there were no answers and only an endless stream of responses. We all of us look to our media to glean facts and present them as knowledge, as if the two were inter-changeble in meaning. Many of us look to television to find out how we should think, what we should do, when we should act and what we are feeling about events that happen to us and around us. We are confused.

Facts, facts and more facts are heaped on us. We are buried under an avalanche of information only intended to keep us weighted down, in position, a way to form us by informing us.  We cannot hear ourselves think with all the buzz and chatter around us. We do have the ability to overhear ourselves. Yes, we are able to overhear ourselves. Each of us stands as one–sometimes less than one, fragmented, fractured inn our Selves. Alone, in isolation, an island in a sea of humanity, each of us. And yet we possess the potential to stand in macrocosmic relationships to the many pluralities of our associations. I am macrocosm to men, to being American and to America, to nation and nationality, to religion and to Catholicism, to gender, sex, sexuality, to job, to place in the cosmos, to my position in any supposedly larger context than my singularity, my simple separateness, allows. I am even macrocosm as a Homo Sapiens to the larger context of the species Homo Sapiens. I must act accordingly with responsibility–obligations ensue.

How could something as common as our species, something as broadly derivative as our kingdom, mammals, be the determining factor in our humanity? I have asked this question before. I always come to the resounding, It cannot! I am human not because I am Homo-sapiens, although it is only because I am Homo-sapiens and not a Chimpanzee that I can become human–God’s finger to Adam, you know. God touches the Homo Sapiens and in this way transforms the ape into Adam. I am pursuing allegory, here. Do you remember the Sistine Chapel, the pane with God reaching his finger out to Adam who reaches to receive the touch by God, and in having received this touch by God, becomes human, no longer simply Homo-Sapiens. Creation is an interruption in evolution. Creation is a mediation. But then to be touched by God is to be wounded; we have to recall the French origin of the English word blessed. Blessed comes from the French word blesser, which translates, to wound. Yes, to be blessed is to be wounded. Remember Francis. Humanity is then a stigma, the stigma of having been touched by God, bearing the responsibility of that mark of divinity. Again, I am speaking allegorically, metaphorically.

Being human could  be simplified thus. . .  but how then can you simplify humanity? I do not ask, thinking that this question has too many potential essays inquiring, inquiring and inquiring. I think we must reexamine our rhetorical strategies–and they are strategies we adopt whether we are aware they are strategies or not . . . what then must we say about this thing we call humanity, this thing we call being human, and all gerund phrases are things. Loving is a thing we do, a thing we receive, a thing we engage . . . to include anything and all things directly relevant with the species homo-sapiens in our definition of humanity lessens the notion? Am I certain that this kind of addition is in effect a subtraction? I am still acutely aware that I believe in hierarchies. Being human is . . .  all humans, we must remember, would include Nazis, sadists, sociopaths and pedophiles, as a limited set of examples showing who or what is human if the simple and only way to determine our humanity orbiting human was to point to our having been born a Homo-sapiens. Murderers too, if we were to broaden the notion of what it means to be human in the fore mentioned way. I was born; I now must live and choose to be human.  Having humanity in this sense of having it at birth would be a simple thing to possess; one would qualify by living any way he chose and in our current culture’s love affair with solipsism, I’m not so sure we are not far from entrenching this way of thinking. Having been born should guarantee we deserve respect, thus encouraging humanity to grow; but I still must choose to be human, to have humanity, to act humanely–only this way does it grow in me. If I were human by just having been born, then I would have only biology as my chief, if not my exclusive reference for my humanity. Ethics would not exclude appetite; thus, the ethics of male sexual appetite and how for centuries it has devoured female sexuality, or how it has directly motivated how women and their sexuality are defined by male sexuality, would have persistence, endurance, and be justifiably considered humane, worthy of the human and not something sole reserved for a special speciesism.

Male sexual appetite and the male’s appetite for territory or property as an extension of pituitary sense of territoriality can be justified in this kind of ethics in spite of how strongly contemporary feminists lean toward legislating morality. You know what that means, don’t you? You know what it has meant historically for women, don’t you? Try to take food away from a hungry dog; try to take away the control men have had over the definitions of women.  But then contemporary feminists have been equally repressive of themselves. Many of them bear their weight, often in a circumscribed collectivity, on the simple separate woman. Many of them come at the simple separate woman complete with slings and arrows; every overarching definition of who woman is, when she is, where, why and how she is; validating one set of determinisms after another: who she is, what she is, what she should be, must be, would be if not for . . .  every woman becomes her own Saint Sebastian.

We have spent a great deal of energy perpetuating one kind of grotesque romanticism set diametrically in counterpoint to each Enlightenment humanism; and there is more than one of everything.  Can humanity be framed by the many humanisms we conclude? What is prima facie about our humanity?  There is the humanity I have, the humanity I show, yet this must be humane, the only way to be human. In this way then, humanity can only be in those who have this humanity we have here inferred: it exists only in those who show humanity to other human beings; that is, only in those who are humane in their actions toward, and their interactions with, other persons. Whether a person has chosen to be human or remain purely Homo Sapiens is the crux.

I do not have to watch the ball I drop out the window fall to know that it has indeed fallen. But then much of this humanity I am talking about has a lot to do with traditional notions of a pan human experience or experiences–and there are pan human experiences, many rooted in the common Homo Sapiens experiences we can easily delineate. But everything Homo Sapiens has human accoutrements, may or may not be humanized, we could say. So then, how much of what kind of humanism has become part of my idea of humanity, part of the definition of what humanity is? Is there a when for humanity? I do not wish to exhaust this notion, nor am I trying to develop and ethical evolutionary theory of the human. We do, though, have to categorize the Homo-Sapiens and the Human. Each is distinct, yet related, correlative and contingent as much as they are mutually exclusive in many of their attributes.


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