We are human. Humans are animals, but not necessarily beasts. There are reasons why we’re so drawn to visceral, gritty, emotive media and activities.We constantly seek an outlet for our innermost desires and instincts which seem to make perfect sense to us yet have been stomped out over centuries of careful pruning and tailoring of humanity. That’s a loaded term (there will be many in this post; there really isn’t enough time or energy in me to fully develop definitions and explanations for many of them): humanity. What it really means to be human is a concept that is all but lost to our species. We are constantly in denial of our base desires, or too busy to really pause and consider who we are as individuals in conjunction with our role in society, as most of us ramble and plod on daily in a perpetual, repetitive cycle. We’ve been repressing ourselves for so long, often from the fear of being viewed as a pathological weirdo or nutcase or just plain creepy. I’m not saying it’s permissible for people to just run amok and act on their most outrageous whims (especially not if they are intended to significantly harm others), but there is an argument to be made for the human condition being, at the root, an animal condition.
Today’s class, focused on the permission to be human, was a meaningful one for me. I’d been very drawn to the humanistic approach in theory; I thought it was intuitive, really, to focus on the person’s values, motivations, freedoms, and personal growth and realization. Going back to the very basic BEING that is a person – isn’t that what we should all focus on at least at some point in our lives? To contemplate who we are, regardless of what else there is out there – what we care about, what we want, why we want it, how we would go about getting it, where we want to go, what we feel like, who we believe we are, and who we want to be – these are all questions that are just so laden with intricacies that, most of the time, we are just too tired and overworked to take a moment and really, truly answer them. But we should, at least, for ourselves. I believe that once those answers are at least even vaguely determined, a person will be better towards others as well, and will be more accepted, no matter who they are or what they believe in. What we should aim for as a whole is a sturdy understanding of ourselves and then expand that understanding onto others around us.
I, for example, am a highly neurotic person. I’ve known it for a while – I am normally anxious (I feel it at least 5 distinct times a day, almost every day), I am easily stressed out even though I don’t want to show it to the world, and I work in an environment that requires constant upkeep of one’s moods, as it is a job that is all about interpersonal interaction. Having to continuously monitor how I appear to other people is very difficult… And I’ve lost it on more than one occasion, resulting in my coworkers viewing me as a sort of ticking time bomb. I don’t have a great sense of humor, even though I know what humor is and recognize it. I just don’t really respond to it with laughter; I have a strange, kind of off-dry sense of humor, actually. And, many people around me feel all of these anxiety-ridden moods as well – even if they don’t realize it initially. One of my coworkers had described how I behaved as if “everything’s always a disaster, but it’s OKAY,” since my life has been in the weeds and a bit disorganized for longer than I’d wanted or expected so far.
Due to my own realizations of my light neuroses, I’d also decided to just take charge of what I could and change as much as I could – not only for myself, but for the sake of those around me who had to put up with all the Debbie Downer moods they’d experienced along with me. To that extent, I’d been trying to meditate for a while, but it never worked because I have too much going on in my head and I haven’t had enough time in a day to sort through most of it, leaving me with giant volumes of random things that constantly break my peace. My solution had always been to just sleep and wake up, hopefully with a clear mind. Today’s meditation session was nice, just as it’s always nice whenever I’m in a spiritual place like those I’d visited in China with my parents or at the temple we had funerary services in. I always felt calmer in an Asian spiritual place. I could almost smell the heady thickness of the incense, the melodic almost-droning chanting of the monks, and the chimes they would strike at odd points in the verses. The sheer simplicity of it all was, in a word, perfect. Modesty, enlightenment, spirituality, community, humility, harmony, and purity all come together in a moment of idyllic perfection.
It comes around full circle. As I catch myself judging others for their lack of consideration and their odd behaviors which cause me to assume their insecurity, I realize that I’m imposing ideas on them that haven’t even been fully evolved in myself. In order to understand others better, it does have to come from inside me. Only when I give myself and my humanity the recognition and respect it deserves can I reach out to others and seamlessly involve them in the journey as well. After all, what makes us intrinsically different from beast animals is our ability to sympathize, relate, respect, and cooperate with each other in a large society. And the best we can do for everyone else is to be the best we can within ourselves.