Who Are We As A Species? (A Contribution to the Science of Psychology, Part 2)
Who Are We As A Species? (A Contribution to the Science of Psychology, Part 2)
by Ron Dultz
There is good reason to feel some sympathy for humans because nature has made them the guardians of the planet Earth. If they fail in that responsibility, there is no savior to take away their guilt, and they will have to live with what they have created. As this is true of human responsibility for the planet on which we live; it is also true of human responsibility for the success or failure of the human species, and for the success or failure of each of our lives as individuals.
We Are Our Brother’s Keeper
It is also true that we are (or should be) our brother’s keeper; and that due to the considerable responsibilities placed on the shoulders of humankind, some of us will not always succeed in solving our problems or overcoming life’s obstacles. So we must sometimes judge the success or failure of our personal lives by the success or failure of our collective efforts. If some of us cannot accomplish what is required of us in the process of living our lives; hopefully there will be a kind soul or charitable agency to assist us in our struggles, who will be there to at least partially cushion our fall. Realizing that humans are vulnerable creatures, sometimes without adequate expertise to meet the challenges and responsibilities put before them, we must acknowledge that the success of the individual will rely, in part, on the cooperative and collaborative efforts of the human race.
Since every human begins and ends life in a helpless state of being (either too young or too old to provide for its own needs); it is obvious that to be considered successful, a society must not only provide a firm foundation of support for its disabled and disadvantaged citizens, but also for its child and elderly populations.
Figuring Things Out
One of the many problems of being human is attempting to understand ourselves and our circumstances. The more complex an entity is, the more difficult it is for everyone to figure it out. Unlike less evolved animals, whose lives are lived out primarily on an instinctual level, humans spend a lot of their time immersed in thinking about, or trying to comprehend, the entire world of people, things, events, circumstances and situations which surround them.
Whether it is attending a movie, and then contemplating the story line, dialogue, characters, incidents, production quality, etc.; or evaluating the behavior of our closest friends and companions; or determining which of our politicians are most honest, and which of our laws are least needed; or deciding which, if any, church we will attend, and the quality of last week’s sermon; or devising a strategy for getting along at our place of employment; or prioritizing our daily activities; or devising short term and long term goals we wish to accomplish by the diligent focus of our efforts and wise use of our time; or devising a system of values and ethics which give meaning to our conduct; humans have a lot to think about, and always will.
For humans, the sheer amount of facts, concepts, statistics and data they are capable of perceiving, thinking about and evaluating is so enormous that humans must spend a large portion of their lives trying to figure things out: considering their options and choices; planning, strategizing, maneuvering; devising objectives, goals, motives, rationales and reasons for being, etc. The possibilities for thought and action seem nearly infinite for humans, and this poses many dilemmas. No other animal on Earth has access to books, the internet, telephone, radio, newspapers, TV, movies, etc; and this is as much a reflection of a human’s capacity for observing and reasoning as it is of the technical achievements of humankind. If humans could not benefit from so much information, and could not make use of it, there would be no reason for it to exist in the first place, and people would not continue contributing to the vast amount of data and information that daily floods the media and the marketplace.
The complexity of information humans are exposed to, and experience, causes humans to have to fine-tune their identity as individuals. The question of Who Am I? with regard to the total picture of life on Earth, and as a functioning being within one’s local environment and personal circumstances, is of paramount importance to each person who has rational thinking capabilities.
Every human must, at the onset of taking responsibility for his or her own reasoning capacity, and thereafter, strive to be a guiding force in determining his or her own destiny and happiness; including deciding which role to play at home, at work, socially, at school, and in the various situations and circumstances which crop up in the course of living life. In using the term, role, I am not referring to a fictitious role, as might be conjured up by an actor in a play; instead I am referring to the responsibilities and duties, and type of association and involvement, each individual decides to commit to as a participating member of a family, friendship, community, workplace, etc.
Human Decision-Making, Juggling and Prioritizing
Some of the decision-making people do will be preceded by a long history of their own personal experiences and previous decisions, so that the individual need only respond to the dictates of habit to address a particular situation, dilemma or problem. But many situations and circumstances are sufficiently complex or unconventional to require deep thought, careful consideration and improvised decisions.
Humans are like jugglers – constantly trying to manage many aspects of their lives at once (work life, personal and family life, school life, social life, creative life, community responsibilities, etc.), while simultaneously trying to adapt their understanding, life experiences, intuitions and decision-making abilities to the requirements and demands of the circumstances and situations in which they automatically find themselves participants, or in which they choose to play a part.
One of the differences between humans and all other living things is that humans are aware in advance that their decisions can have a multitude of consequences, and that they can be held accountable for those consequences. Also, humans have a keen sense that there is such a thing as right and wrong, better and best; and that their actions and decisions can affect the quality of the lives of other people, as well as the quality of their own self respect and self-confidence.
Due to the innate complexity of human nature, and the great variety of human experiences made possible by the complexity of life on Earth, humans will find that a life fully lived is not a rote experience, but a forever changing and challenging endeavor that will produce gains or losses, depending upon the choices that are made. The human experience is rich and complex, and we must be dexterous in working with all the possibilities, options and choices life provides if our lives are to be interesting, worthwhile and productive.
Understanding the Complete, Fully Functioning Human
To understand the complete, fully functioning, healthy human being, we must not forget about the industrious human, bent on working hard – for economic survival, to accomplish personal goals, and to attend to the needs of dependents and loved ones. We must not forget about the esthetic person, who loves beauty, art, color, the appearances, sounds and smells of things, symmetry, works of the imagination, etc. We must not forget about the spontaneous, impulsive human who sometimes wants (and needs) to burst into flights of fancy, and break out of routine and predictable patterns of behavior. We must not forget about the autonomous human, who has a strong instinct to do what he wants, when he wants, as he wants. We must not forget about the adventurous person, who frequently seeks new experiences, challenges and mentally stimulating activities. We must not forget about the person searching for his place in the scheme of things, for an identity of her own and a suitable way of life of her own. We must not forget about the person who is searching to give and receive love, affection and respect. We must not forget about the frail, vulnerable and imperfect human being, who has limitations, fear, anxiety and self doubt. We must not forget about the person who needs many avenues and outlets for self-expression in order to make himself heard, seen and felt. We must not forget about the person who needs to belong, to be a part of, to share, to participate, to bond with others whom he or she can call family. We must not forget about the person who needs to have a worthwhile purpose in life, and who needs to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day.
The personal characteristics I have just described are present in all of us, but they are just a portion of human nature. They reveal the existence of a complex psychological being, which is a composite of many strivings, impulses, talents, sensitivities and vulnerabilities. If we take away from the psychological essence of human nature any of the characteristics I have just described, or any of the sensitivities, strivings, impulses or vulnerabilities which are native to its being (because we find them unappealing or because they don’t serve our purposes), we are no longer left with a human being. We then are left with either a robot, or some deformed or reduced rendition of a human being which we have invented. The fully functioning, healthy human being does not function like a smoothly functioning machine, by rote, or without imagination or emotion.
It is more correct to say that the fully functioning, healthy human is a collage of strivings, impulses, strengths, talents, sensitivities and vulnerabilities – which resist being boxed into any simple definition or any simplistic set of descriptions. The psychological human reminds me more of a Fourth of July fireworks display because so many needs, impulses, thoughts, feelings, motives, wants, sensitivities, vulnerabilities, strivings, eccentricities, etc. are occurring simultaneously within it. The multifaceted, many-sided, spontaneous, impulsive being, happening on many fronts simultaneously, is the genuine and fully functioning human.
A major part of the failure in understanding human nature has been in underestimating its complexity, intensity and potential; and in not understanding its ongoing requirements for impulsiveness, spontaneity and freedom of expression. People who have an agenda for human nature, or who are daunted by its complexities, will wish to minimize its essence and functions; but in doing so, they insult not only a human’s capacity for feeling, thinking and experiencing, but every human effort throughout the ages toward virtue and accomplishments of value.
Tags: Who Are We? , Science Of Psychology , Our Brother's Keeper , Fully Functioning Human
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