20 Jun 2009

What does it mean to be human?

Posted by jofr

I wrote about it before: What does it mean to be human? Each human is a unique combination of worlds (i.e. billions of complex proteins made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygene and nitrogen molecules combined with a myriad of neural assemblies representing personal experiences, ideas and impressions). Like all other organic life-forms, humans are made of physical material, but they have immaterial dreams, hopes and illusions. To be human means in Ray Bradbury’s words to be “Too Soon from the Cave, Too Far from the Stars…” It means to be a genetic, biological organism and yet a unique bundle of memes, in short a ghost in the machine. It means to exist and yet to be aware of the own mortality. It means to be selfish and yet care for others. And it means to write love songs that combine the deepest feelings with the highest culture. An example of a very emotional song is Tears in Heaven from Eric Clapton, about the pain Clapton felt following the tragic loss of his four-year-old son, who fell out of a 53rd-story window in a New York City apartment:

Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven
Will it be the same if I saw you in heaven
I must be strong, and carry on
Cause I know I don’t belong here in heaven

It is about the tragic loss of a loved person, a very common motive for a love song. Ah, this old thing called love, which is experienced by each generation anew, and each generation thinks it is special. Poets have tried to describe it again and again since the first beginnings of Greek and Roman poetry more two thousand years ago. Here is a more traditional try from Garry Rafferty:

Every night’s a lonely night since you went away
But you come back to haunt my memory
I lie awake and think of you and how it used to be
Oh my love don’t give up on me.

And finally the icing on the cake: the showdown between Kirk and a Gorn. Isn’t it very human? Kirk uses basic stone tools, makes fire and fights a monster with bare hands. What our ancestors have done for millennia..

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