THE HOLINESS IN HUMANITY
In a previous essay, I suggested our fixation on using nature and nurture to define what it means to be human may have limited our endeavor to understand who we are. I further suggested those considerations only address who we are as a physical body with a mind and a personality, and are therefore capable of providing only a limited description of our humanity. Simply put, many of us- myself included- believe we are much more than those parameters can describe. Also worth consideration as we try to understand our humanness is that scientists- including sociologists and anthropologists- warn us to tread carefully while defining human nature, as it takes only one exception to disprove any theory. With these caveats in mind, let us consider what we think we know so far regarding traits shared by the overwhelming majority of humans.
Our biologic and essential social structures are well agreed upon as an initial description of human nature. We are living organisms who have defined ourselves as Homo sapiens sapiens to differentiate us from all other living organisms. We have needs, the most basic of which are related to our survival: air, water, food and shelter from the elements. Yet survival of the individual is less important to us than survival of our genes; our children must live long enough to procreate and ensure species survival. Also, we have always known our survival is best achieved by groups of people working together, so we have formed communities. Those in our communities agree to participate in the give-and-take necessary to enhance the survival of all. We are interdependent.
Yet our communities enhance more than the survival of its members, which fact is one of the KEY ELEMENTS to understanding who we are as human beings. Through our social interaction, our communities enhance the quality of our lives. While we are sharing the day-to-day tasks of survival, we bond with one another. While teaching, learning, helping and sharing, we care for each other. Our relationships take on greater meaning in our lives. We depend upon them for fulfilling emotional as well as physical needs.
A second KEY ELEMENT describing our humanity is our self-awareness. Each of us identifies with a self we believe is “me, and only me.” We are unique biologically and experientially, yet we recognize a kinship- a “self,” if you will- with/in all others. Innately, we can comprehend the similarities to ourselves in other people and identify with them- we have empathy- and so we learn to treat others as we ourselves wish to be treated. Our caring and empathy lead us to stronger, loving bonds with each other. We all have a need to share in those feelings of loving kindness- both as giver and recipient- so we learn and internalize definitions of acceptable behavior. We develop a conscience. And so, through our innate qualities and experiential social education, we have become humanitarians.
A third KEY ELEMENT of our humanity resides in our brains and minds. We seek education, explanation, and understanding pertinent to ourselves and the world in which we live. We also seek understanding of our origins, how we came to BE in our world. For the overwhelming majority of the 7.4 billion people on earth, those explanations include the existence of a God as Creator, a Universal Oneness of all existence, a Greater or Supreme Power, and/or a human soul.
To summarize, we humans are self-aware beings who have formed communities upon which we rely for our physical and emotional needs. We have empathy for each other and we form kind, loving bonds with one another. We have a conscience, we are humanitarians. Most of us believe our being transcends our bodies, and that our existence is related to a oneness or a power/intelligence greater than our own. All THIS is the holiness in humanity, our true selves- the reflection of our souls.
I believe by each of us recognizing and embracing the holiness in humanity within ourselves and all others, we will create a new perspective from which we can more clearly understand who we are. Such a perspective will not blind us to the challenges we all face throughout our lives, rather it will help us to discover new solutions to those challenges. We have the opportunity to remember what we knew as children while taking advantage of life’s lessons viewed with our enlightened vision.