Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Humane Being

1. Concern with the alleviation of suffering; merciful - showing or giving mercy;
2. Showing evidence of moral and intellectual advancement;
3. Concerned with the humanities; humanist, humanistic;
4. Synonyms: compassionate, humanitarian, merciful.

1. The state or quality of having existence.
2. a. Something, such as an object, an idea, or a symbol that exists,
is thought to exist, or is represented as existing. b. The totality of all things that exist.
3. a. A person b. All the qualities constituting one that exists; the essence.
c. One's basic or essential nature; personality.

Ways and ideals for humanely existing in the world have been around for as long as humanity has walked the Earth. In every epoch, land and culture, people have celebrated compassion, mental clarity and sustainable modes of living as foundations for being a humane person.

A humane person is a wise being - a homo sapiens - striving to become the best version of oneself in community with others of like will, heart and mind. But the work of becoming humane, fully human, often proves more elusive in deed than in word. It can be said that we are all here on this Earth to “become into humaneness,” which the theologian, Abraham Heschel described thusly:

“I am born a human being; what I have to acquire is being human.”

Some of us become humane beings by way of our deeds on behalf of family, society and world. Others put their “humaneity” into practice by evoking ideals through words and the arts. I happen to be a philosophical wordsmith and a visual artist and musician, so I try to put the essence of the humane into action through these expressive channels. But any talent with which one is born is a tool to the humane.

Yet even the most alluring modes of expression must often await the right moment to have their desired effect. For there are certain times in which ideas come into their own - when their “times have come.” We are clearly now at one of those potent junctures, where a concerted leap must be made into another set of ideals and paradigms for living. It is a time when things seem impossible to change for the better, but it also holds the necessary energetic conditions for a shift from our current fragmented reality of life into one of greater wholeness and happiness.

Conditions now have ripened for the acceptance of ideas that may seem new, but actually have been anciently known. “There is nothing new under the sun,” observed Ecclesiastes. And there are no better ideas and practices than those which have preserved human life since earliest times. Ironically, such humane ideas and the ways for living them have always been here with us – secreted in the depths and antipodes of our collective culture and minds - silently waiting to speak forth from our own selves, featured actors in this life’s tragi-comedy.

My own point of view has been deeply infused with anthropological ideals and alternate cultural points of view. So, I naturally look to others and to the past for inspiration in the unfolding of my personal drama. I seek out the ancients and the indigenous for guidance. because what had vouchedsafe humanity’s ancestors through all those centuries and millennia past, are most certainly applicable to our present human condition.

Joseph Campbell and similar great students of humanity have shown us that there are certain elementary, universal ideals and practices which reappear and reinvest human beings with wholeness, healthfullness and holiness - regardless of outer cultural style, time period, geography or genetics.

I love the way that Navajos and Tibetans express our essential oneness in this regard:

We are all related; are we not each and all five-fingered beings?
- Navajo medicineman -

“Be compassionate toward others; we all have been each other’s mother in previous lifetimes.”
- The Dalai Lama -

Early on in my career I was led by chance and mentorship beyond the hard-headed, anthropological mode of understanding what it means to be human. I was tilted toward an “innerstanding,” by studying and experiencing the wisdom ways of other cultures. Over the years, I have directly come to know how Tibetans, Navajos and other such peoples seek the whole in their lives, while I continue in the work of finding my own humane way to wholeness.

A humane way of being is properly every person’s goal. Even the most hardened and dissolute wish for happiness for themselves and their relations – although their motives and means may be misguided. Even these poor souls have the possibility of humane “redemption.” The way lies in embracing the humane instead of ignoring or assassinating it.

The ideal of humane being speaks to the necessary awakening from our deathly sleepwalk through the world, and to leaving it a sustaining place for those who will continue along our way.

“There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in
happiness, knowledge and wisdom.
Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels?
We appeal as human beings, to human beings:
remember your humanity, and forget the rest.
If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise:
if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”
The Russell–Einstein Manifesto of 1955

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