Thursday, January 13, 2011

Some Thoughts on Being Human

Every generation has bemoaned that we are on the course to self-destruction and I suppose that it is inevitable that one day we will achieve annihilation.

However, until we do, what makes us human is our ability to hope, to strive for something better. We do horrible, despicable things to each other and the planet but still we struggle onward. Even in the midst of our destructive impulses we manage to create works of art that make one breathless, and music that momentarily transports one to a place of infinite pleasure. We create ugliness but we also create beauty. Perhaps that is what makes us human, the dark and the light.

Tolstoy wrote, "Happy familes are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."[ Anna Karenina] I can't help but think that there would be no great art if we were all happy and harmonious; certainly, there would be far less great literature for it's our foibles and failings that fill the billions of pages written over the generations.

My fellow humans fascinate, repulse, and enchant me. I find myself aghast at the horrors that we are capable of perpetrating upon one another. The recent masacre by a mentally unstable young man leaves me choking on a mix of sadness and anger. It appears that his illness was apparent and had been noted by others but no one engaged in any concrete intervention so he was left to listen to the voices in his head and eventually act upon their advice.

However, I also find myself astounded at our creativity. A poem that makes me affirm, "That's exactly how I feel!" Or a singer heard on the radio who makes me pause whatever I may be doing and engage fully in the performance. A Puccini aria sung by Kiri te Kanawa can literally stop me in my tracks and sweep me off to some land that I've never been except in my dreams. Or it can be something as simple as my two-year-old great nephew scribbling with fat crayons thicker than his fingers on a sheet of paper and then proudly sharing his work with me so that I may look and marvel. My reward is the sweetest smile that I've ever seen and my heart aches with love and I'm content.

This being human is a complex state. Our flaws are many but I would not choose to be anything more or less than simply human.

Dame Kiri te Kanawa singing "O Mio Babbino Caro."


Beth said...

Beautifully put, Sheria. I try my best to be rational and Vulcan-like, but it's our emotions that make life more pungent and savory.

Nance said...

Oh, Sheria, this is just what I needed tonight. How did you know?

This is my core philosophy about our species, but in the past few days I've lost sight of it.

Thank you so much!

jack-of-all-thumbs said...

As a biology guy, who often sees us as 'just another species' you remind me of our uniqueness. Our pendulum indeed swings such a bigger arc than that of the others, from sublime highs to the darkest of lows. Take comfort in our ability to strive. Thank you.

Jeanie said...

Who could resist taking time out to listen to Dame Kiri? Her voice is such a beautiful and unique instrument that does indeed help us to transcend our daily routine.
I thank God for our uniqueness to explore every avenue of life's possibilites and thought. Sad though it is that there is a downside to life too.
Your entry has given me food for thought Sharia. Thank you.

unmitigated me said...

Such flaws and such beauty all together. Strange, aren't we? In Starman, Jeff Bridges' character says, "Would you like to know what I find fascinating about you humans? You are at your best when things are at their worst." Sometime I think we fulfill that ideal.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

We can only hope that some day, we can transcend our petty follies and truly soar to our full capability.

Yasmin said...

Thank god you still belive in beauty and people, hating it seems to me has become the number choice in how people conduct their interations with each other, it doesn't have to be that way.

Isn't Dame Kiri wonderful thanks for sharing.


Kyle said...

Hope is the lifeblood of our soul. If we ever completely lose sight of it we are lost Sheria. Until then, there is always the chance that we will rise above our animal selves, in mass, and forge a course to true social greatness. I won't live to see the fruits of our collective labor if we are able to see that day, but it makes the work no less important.

Anonymous said...

I do very much appreciate your point, but for myself- non-human primate life would be preferred. They have this whole "living" thing worked out better.But I didn't get to choose, so...