This is a phrase that Jacob Bronowski used often in his writing on science and the arts. It always intrigued me because "human" as a species designation didn't probe or expand that word deeply enough for me. When we ask what the fullness of the human condition might be, it's hard to know whether this is a consequence of the brain, of our curiosity and striving, of our longing for transcendance, of our capacity for hope or out capacity for self-delusion.
Maybe this has always been a difficult problem to solve, but it is certainly that kind of problem in the contemporary world. Who helps lead us to an answer or even to the need to ask the question? I believe the schools have failed us, especially the university-factories. Religion has failed us, cowering in their "one-trueness" instead of living out their common core messages. Our leaders have failed us with little courage and imagination.
Have we failed ourselves as well? No one escapes the events of life that inevitably can discourage, poison, darken and even destroy us. But these are precisely the events that require the courage and faith that take us beyond ourselves. And that to me is where the fullness of being human lies. Truly, we are only "fully human" to the degree that all of us are.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Each of us is a black hole. If we stay comfortably outside of our own event horizons, we know the rules and negotiate the universe, even with its strangeness and eccentricities. But if we have the courage to approach that event horizon, we are pulled deep within ourselves, taken apart, reconfigured, and thrust into a new world as new selves with new mysteries to share.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Freedom means the freedom to do or think what we want without limits or responsibilities. At least that's what many think and act on. But that to me is the emptiest and shallowest freedom. It a freedom that teaches us nothing and contributes nothing. It's a narcissistic freedom, a dead end. Freedom can only be understood in the contexts of the limits imposed on it, the limits it imposes on itself, the consequences it accepts when it acts with integrity. Mature freedom is not adolescent freedom. Freedom doesn't separate and glorify the individual; rather true freedom frees the self from the burden of self and allows unfettered connection to the larger community and the larger end.