To Be Human Is To Be In The Spectrum

August 2, 2011

I’ve / written before /, albeit briefly, about synchronicity. I strongly suspect it is an aspect of attention. Our brains are very good at seeing or hearing what is of interest and ignoring the rest.

Words have been much on my mind lately, but also the enduring question of what it mean to be human. What is there that we can identify as uniquely us?

Perhaps all we are is an extension in directions and capabilities. Not apart from, only different. We are no more a ‘special’ species with our brains, our emotions, and our reasoning than is a bat with their echo location, or a cat with their night vision, or an octopus with their color changes.  The  same basic DNA, tweaked to different forms and different efficiencies. No more than that.

Now that allowing animals their various intelligences has become acceptable, we see myriad articles about previously unacknowledged capabilities. /  Magpies /  and /  crows  / (and /  here /, just for the fun of it).

Today I read / this  on bees /. Depressed bees.  Optimistic bees. We can’t avoid terms that have anthropomorphic connotations, but the results seem to allow the usages.

Humans. Unique, or part of the spectrum of life? Seems to me we should lose our egos and rejoice in our connections instead.

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4 Responses to “To Be Human Is To Be In The Spectrum”


  1. Nice post. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is to be human. I am curious as to what you or other readers might think about just why it is that we humans are so desperate to see ourselves as unique among living species, and how we might best cope with the realization that we’re not. Any thoughts?

  2. mhilm Says:

    Sadly, we are also very anxious to define ourselves as distinct from other humans who look or act differently from our perceived norms.
    An easy response is that religions teach us we are a unique creation. However, religions reflect what people think is important, so we are back at square one.
    Another quick answer, for westerners especially, is the cult of individuality: placing a high premium on feeling we are distinct not just from animals, but from all other humans. But again, where did that value come from?
    One way to approach the second question is through speculation on how we’d deal with the arrival of aliens — unquestionably as, if not more intelligent than we are.
    I see I’m going to have to work on these questions a lot more: philosophy, psychology, anthropology — lots of areas that will shed light.
    Thanks for your comment. You show another aspect of the ‘being human’ dilemma that needs understanding.
    It gives me more to think about!


    • If youre interested in learning about the roots of the cult of individuality in the West, I recommend that you check out “Sources of the Self” by Charles Taylor – or, if that 800-page tome is too much for you, “The Malaise of Modernity” displays the same ideas in a more condensed form. I look forward to seeing future posts on this topic!

      • mhilm Says:

        Thanks for the references. I’ll look them up.
        I was reading a book this morning that mentioned that, while the west tends to think of mind and body as separate, Eastern cultures deny this philosophically and religiously, but in practical life, agree.
        I hadn’t run across that interpretation before, and am pursuing that idea as well.


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