2009-11-16

Nature and the Human

By nature we can mean all things, whether known or yet unknown. All things that really are, are real, as what they are. The non-natural and the supernatural  are incoherent categories and do not describe anything that exists.

 

Humanity is an expression, a manifestation, of nature. Humanity is thus natural, in all its nature (human nature). We can say that what humans make is

"artificial," but by this we mean still indirectly natural, since human beings are natural.

 

Human beings are a type of animal, not detached and separated from other animals, but kin to them and similar to them in many ways, and sharing their fate of living on this same planet Earth. The human species is not alienated from the rest of the natural world, and our way of being is not utterly alien to that of other life forms on this planet.

 

Human character, flawed as it is, is natural, of a piece with all the rest of nature, and understandable as a natural thing. Civilization, technology,

cities, and culture are products of nature and manifestations of nature, not something apart from nature.

 

Even though we are not the same as other animals, we can seek a harmony with the rest of nature, and that while still being true to ourselves - harmony, not in the sense of mere domination of humans over the nonhuman world, but harmony in the sense of a life worked out between humans and the nonhuman world which realizes our appreciation of that nonhuman world in its own nature, and our vastening to include it.

 

Human nature is dynamic not static, evolving not rigid, changing not unchanging. We human beings in our current form arose from previous animals with a different form, and in the future we will be beings with a different form. Humanity is not to be confused with some idea of a static form that we possess or possessed in the past, or with some adaptation that was relatively fit compared to other existing options in one time or place or circumstance; what we have evolved to be now is not our future destiny. In us, nature is striving toward the divine. And not necessarily only in us.

 

From insensate matter arose life with basic senses. From that life arose sentient beings -- those who can feel, those who can experience pleasure and pain, and those who are aware. From sentient beings arose sapient beings -- those who are aware of themselves as distinct from the rest of the world, and who can reflect on themselves and their lives. From sapience will arise the divine nature that will infuse the cosmos and become its final salvation.

 

We human beings know some things about the world. But the world still contains many mysteries; the things we will learn in the future will change what we think about what we know now. We are awed by nature when it challenges the limits of our ability to understand; there are things about this world which our human minds cannot properly grasp, because of the limitations of our minds in their current form.

 

So we human beings are not only limited in our knowledge about the world, we are also limited in our ability to directly imagine or adequately comprehend some of the aspects of what exists. For example, we can estimate the number of stars or galaxies, but we cannot really, actually, imagine this number, and we certainly cannot fully grasp the significance of so many stars and galaxies in our minds. We can represent vast numbers by sequences of symbols, but our minds cannot directly grasp the reality of such numbers.

 

We human beings exist in continual ignorance of things, to a certain degree. But as we learn more, our ignorance continually lessens. In the future, we will know far more than we know now, and we will also be able to comprehend more than we could comprehend now.

 

 

 

 

 


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