Thursday, March 22, 2012

Human Being

The Human Being aka Homo sapiens

A member of any of the races of Homo sapiens; person; man, woman, or child.

This is a dictionary definition of human being. We human beings are different then any other living, breathing organisms on this planet. As far as we know, we are the only human beings in the entire universe. There, of course, is ongoing speculation about whether there is or ever was any other living organisms in other places in the universe. And, that speculation goes even to the extent of whether there might be other intelligent forms of life. I use the word “intelligent” with some reservations.

So, let’s get the human part of the term out of the way right away. Here are four adjective descriptors of what it is to be human:

1. of, characterizing, or relating to man and mankind - human nature
2. consisting of people the human race - a human chain
3. having the attributes of man as opposed to animals, divine beings, or machines - human failings
4. a. kind or considerate b. natural

What I really want to explore is the being part of the term human being. What exactly does being mean? Again, looking at a dictionary definition being used as a noun is:

1: a: the quality or state of having existence b (1): something conceivable as existing (2): something that actually exists (3): the totality of existing things c: conscious existence: life
2: the qualities that constitute an existent thing: essence; especially: personality
3: a living thing; especially: person

And, as part of the intransitive verb “to be,” I particularly like:

To have an objective existence: have reality or actuality: live – I think, therefore I am.

To many, myself, included, there seems to be a lifelong quest to understand the meaning of life as a human being. There is nothing new here. Philosophers going back to ancient Greek, Jewish, Arabic, Asian and other cultures have pondered this question. There are many schools of thought and certainly, as far as I know, every religion has pronouncements on this quandary.

The Meaning of Life

So, here’s my take on all of this. Apparently, no one actually knows the meaning of life or why you and I exist as human beings?

Obviously, if you have a strong religious conviction, you believe you are here by Divine providence. Some doctrines suggest that there is a plan for our lives, predestination, if you will. Others believe more strongly in free will and that while the “hairs on our head are numbered,” we are given the unique ability to make our own way in this life, hoping upon hope that we’ll “get it right.”

Those who are not necessarily religious, but do feel a spiritual connection to all life and the universe feel more organically connected to the Earth, nature and other human and animal/plant spirits.

Then there are the pure atheists who simply deny the existence of any form of deity or superhuman intelligence or creator.

And, more or less, finally, we have the agnostics. There are varying degrees of agnosticism, however, the basic premise of the agnostic is that it is rationally unknowable if there is or is not a God. They are the “show me” folks who say I’ll believe it if I can see (prove) it.

Each of these groups goes through life, in one way or another, attempting to inform, educate, persuade and convince others to their philosophical way of thinking. Personally, I have absolutely no issue or problem with anyone believing however they want to believe as long as it works for him or her. I was brought up as a Christian in the Baptist denomination, more specifically, the American Baptist Convention, one of several defined groups of Baptists. At a later time in my life I belonged to a Southern Baptist Convention church. In my teen years I felt I had a calling to the Baptist ministry, and honestly, knowing myself better now, I probably would have been a really good preacher. But, how much of my “calling” was influenced by other young men in my church that I looked up to as an impressionable teenager, who had chosen to go into the ministry and by the Christian youth groups I belonged to and by my mother’s urgings, I don’t know. I can say that after my first year in a secular college and my introduction to the world of audio (and later video) recording, that “calling” diminished quite rapidly.

Perhaps it was because after being exposed to a much larger “world view” I realized that there was way more to life to explore. My father had been subtly guiding me towards an entrepreneurial life. He died at the beginning of my last semester of undergraduate school, so I’ll never know where I might have ended up with his continued guidance. Due to the circumstances in the family at that time, my family, for all practical purposes, disintegrated the day he died. So, a big, wide world, actually a pretty frightening world, I just didn’t realize it, lay before me. And so, like most of us, I blundered on thinking I knew what I was doing, where I was going and that I had control of my life and future. Oh, how ignorant and arrogant we are at that age.


So, back to “being” because that’s what you and I have been doing since we were born, we just didn’t realize it. I don’t know where you are on the question of what the meaning of life is, but I attempted to remain true to my Baptist heritage . . . for a while. But, unfortunately for the Baptist and other religious denominations, I found that I was a pragmatist. As I grew through life, two marriages (one long and one VERY short) and a few more relationships, spawned a fantastic son, experienced business successes and failures, traveled a bit, experienced some periods of happiness and significant emotional pain, lived well, enjoyed nice homes in great surroundings, had lots of cars, clothes and other “stuff,” I felt my life changing. Without any reservations, I have to categorize myself as an agnostic. I often say that I’ve grown through being an American Baptist then a Southern Baptist and finally I’m an Agnostic Baptist. I also describe myself as being “spiritual, but not religious.” That simply means I feel connected to people and nature and, to a lesser degree, the unknowable nature of the universe by some unknowable network.

Many of us spend little or no time pondering the meaning of life. We are either too busy or we hand it off. On the busy side we are surviving or striving for whatever material gods we choose to serve. On the hand it off side, we choose to join some religious group, whether mainstream or counter-culture, let someone else do the thinking and pondering for us, preach the truth, the way and the light, which we accept at some comfort level and carry on with life. I make no judgments of either course. Some will become extreme and even radical in their beliefs and this can be in any religious conviction. Lots of people like to point fingers at each other and create conflict and they do it very well. Look at the history of wars in our world.

My personal thought on this is that, no matter what you believe, I believe religion, all religion, has been created by man – or human beings, if you will, to create a system of civil behavior and control over as many people as possible. It amazes me how many people live in the guilt of sin born of the “original sin” and how the various religions use this guilt to prosper. But, please remember, these are my views and are not to judge anyone individually. Everything in life is controlled by choices that each of us makes individually through our free will as human beings.

My Answer . . .

I’ve decided that the “being” part of being a human being is the essence of the meaning of life for me. Here it is, short and sweet – the meaning of life as defined by me for me:

Before I was born, I didn’t exist.
When I was born, I began being – i.e. I am.
After I die, I won’t exist anymore.
Accordingly, the only life I KNOW I have exists RIGHT NOW!

That’s it! It has nothing to do with if there is a God or not. It has nothing to do with if I follow the Laws of Abraham, the teachings of Jesus, the tenets of Mohammed, the meditations of Buddha or any other religious philosophy or doctrine. Before I existed I didn’t exist. Now, I exist. When I die I’ll cease to exist.

Do, I believe in eternal life? Yes! The human being as an organism is made of matter and energy and neither matter nor energy can be created or destroyed, only converted to another form. Therefore, the ashes to ashes and dust to dust take care of the matter and the energy will likely be converted over and over to various other forms as it was before I existed. As far as my spirit or soul? That is one of those unknowable things that as an agnostic thinker I can’t know about. I could accept a religious philosophy, if I chose to. I can choose to just say it ceases to exist when I die. Frankly, since there is no proof of an after life, I choose to believe that heaven is right here on Earth and there is no such thing as a fiery furnace of a hell other then to live in guilt.

So, life is all about BEING. Being in the here and now. Our past is history, it is over, done and can’t be changed. Our future is simply a promissory note or a dream. It may or may not ever happen past the next moment in time. No! I’m not fatalistic! I’m not living (or being) with the anticipation of impending doom. I simply believe that NOW is the time to BE! Now, I’m writing this post to the blog with the intention that it will be read by a few people who may be pondering the BIG question: “What is the meaning of MY life?” Mine, right now is to be in this moment and write this post and hope that it will help someone come up with an “aha” moment. Quite honestly, I don’t have a clue what the meaning of your life is beyond the simple act of “being.”  


Alan said...

Its good to see there are other people that think like I do !!! thank you for your thoughts... I am reading a book right now that teaches living in the now because its all we have !!
Its called "The Power Of Now" by famous author Ekhart Tolle. This is a deep book that really makes you think.

Ed Helvey - Professional Nomad said...

Thanks, Alan --

Thankfully, I'm finding there are more people like you and me who really are giving this serious thought and not just paying it lip service.

"The Power of Now" is definitely a deep book. Haven't been able to get through it, yet, myself, but I will.