Monday, June 7, 2010

What We Are

Thinking about what we are is a reasonable thing to do, I suppose.

And when I say ‘what we are’ I mean that. I don’t mean ‘who we are’, which is different. Who we are is strictly sociological, by which I mean that the question already presupposes that we are essentially defined by our membership in human communities. Who implies name, rank, status, role. Who wishes to locate us in a position within the external human community. It has already decided in advance that we belong somewhere within it, and not anywhere else. Who we are, therefore, is not that profound a question since it presumes too much, too much of that which it just takes for granted.

What we are is much better. I remember realizing this dancing under an African sky in the summer of 1990. It was an almost mystical moment, an epiphany of insight. It felt so marvelous, suddenly realizing I didn’t just have to be human, indeed that I couldn’t just only be human. I saw that this understanding ‘human’ is one that humans themselves had constructed. How can that make it true, or at least exhaustively true? There may indeed by something real in what we think we are, but surely this understanding cannot be the whole picture since we can only see ourselves from the inside, from our own perspectives. There must be something preceding, left over, flopping around the edges of our self-images. Surely?

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