What Kind Of A Being Is A Human Being?
There are so many lenses through which you/i can look at this question and answer it:
– We can look at it through the Judeo-Christian lens: a human being is fashioned in the likeness of God and is here to create something like a paradise on earth.
– We can look at it through the enlightenment lens: man is the rational being who defines himself through his ability to exercise reason and act on the basis of reason as opposed to dogma/superstition.
– We can look at this question through the psychoanalytic lens: man is never ending interplay of dynamic forces arising from the ‘id’, the ‘superego’, and the ‘ego’.
– We can look at it through the sociological lens: man is a social being who always exist in a social context and whose way of showing up in the world is fashioned by the social context – particularly the culture in which he grew up.
For my part, I find myself drawn to the following way of defining a human being: Man is the being who cannot escape the question of being and as such necessarily takes a stand on his being.
Who Am I?
I can define-view myself in many ways. And if I look into this deeply I get there is no limit to the many ways that I can define myself. If there is a limit then it is the limit of my imagination.
Every tribe/society privileges certain definitions-categories above others. In the world in which I find myself, these definitions centre primarily on what one has-holds-occupies: wealth, social class, profession, status….
So who am I? I am my stand. At any point in time, I am that which I am committed to. These commitments show up in the form of possibilities that I invent, ‘projects’ that I take on and give myself to, and the way that I show up and travel in this world.
Let’s make this concrete:
Many years ago I found myself confronted with a choice. Which choice? Career: doing that which it takes to move from Senior Manager to Director/Partner in a major consulting firm or doing that which it takes to be a good father. I chose the latter.
Some years ago I was confronted with the choice of doing that which the CEO asked-dictated and relating to myself as ‘thief-liar-cheat’ or risk losing my job. I found myself saying that I was not willing to do that which was being asked-dictated.
Every week I clean the toilets and bathrooms, voluntarily and willingly. Why? To ground myself, to experience humility, to lead by example: to do the kind of work that I ask of my family.
I do not accept presents. When Christmas or my birthday comes, I ask those who would give me presents to give me money instead. Why? So that I can give that money to those less fortunate than me.
Recently I invented the possibility of being a good cook and cooking curry for my parents as that is what they love to eat. I took on that which, by default, is hardest for me: asking for help. I asked my wife for help as she is a great cook. Now, some months later, I relate to myself as a cook. I have cooked for my parents – I did it a week ago. And, I insist on cooking Sunday lunch. This Sunday my family members told me that this was the best curry I had cooked.
I hope you get the idea.
Who are you?
I invite you to step outside of the existing categories-definitions. Instead take a good look, at who/what you give yourself to in terms of your time, your energy, your deepest self, your self-expression, your resources..
I invite you to notice the following:
– if you define yourself through the standard categories – your sex (male, female), nationality, occupation, social class etc – you find your room for manoeuvre limited.
– if you accept my invitation and define yourself through your stand, the possibilities you invent, the projects you take on, your room for manoeuvre is so much wider-bigger-spacious.
I leave you with this quote from Lynne Twist:
“Taking a stand is a way of living and being that draws on a place within yourself that is at the very heart of who you are. When you take a stand, you find your place in the universe, and you have the capacity to move the world.”