Tag Archives: Columbia University Press

The logical ballerinas: “Human being”.

 

 

What appears in the image is supposed to be a portrait of a being who, in 1758, called himself (and all those who resembled him, according to him) Homo sapiens. As an individual he called himself Carlos Linneo. It has been said he was indeed a great Swedish poet dedicated to Biology. Rousseau and Goethe venerated him. It was not God who named the animals. Not even the human animal, who seems to have named itself.

Homo sapiens. Human being. Are we before logical dancers, pure symbols, “nothings” that want to be something in a living consciousness? Are consciousnesses always “human”? Is it me, the one who now writes, a human being? Are you also that being? What is exactly a human being?

Before exposing what happens in my mind when the dancer “Human Being” dances in it, I suggest to take a look at the following ideas, questions and perspectives:

1.- The scientist-naturalist-evolutionist story: the matter [See here “Matter”] in which that story believes  that story (its universe), suddenly, at a specific point of its temporal unfolding, produces something prodigious: the so called “human being”. It is also said that that being is the “place” where the entire universe contemplates itself. Current state of that narration: in the first version of this article (2013) that narration affirmed that the first modern human being (with body and behaviour equal to ours) would have appeared in the current Ethiopia 195,000 year ago. They are the so-called men of Kibish, discovered in 1967 by Richard Leakey. But, apparently, since 2017 there is another place on the planet (in the known universe) that now has the honor of being our first cradle, our very first outbreak: Jebel Irhoud, in Morocco (315,000 years).

2.- The human being as a genetic sequence. “The human genome”. When exactly does matter begin to be a “human being”? When does it stop being? Is the genetic code the essence of the human? What limits of difference, of deformity, of distancing from the basic model of “human genome”, are admissible in order to continue talking about “human being”?

3. Models of human body. Hatha Yoga: the body as a spiritual shuttle. The Platonic model: body/ bad versus soul/good). The human body and its tension with society. I suggest reading this work: Peter Brown: Body and Society, Columbia University Press, London 1988.

4.- Shakespeare (The Tempest): “We are such stuff as dreams are made on”. We? What is that?

5.- Bible. Corinthians 3, 16-17: Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple”.

6.- Kant. We are citizens of two worlds. One of them is knowable by human beings. The other one is not. And we are destined to fly towards infinity. Towards Philosophy. We can not help it.

7.- Another reading that I consider unavoidable: Max Scheler: Die Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos [The Human Place in the Cosmos]. There is an English translation by Manfred Frings (Northwestern University Press, Evanston 2009).

8.- French structuralists. The end of the human being. Everything is a meta-human structure. [See Levy-Strauss still in Spanish].

9.- Political humanism. Construction and custody of political systems based on the sacralization of the individual human being. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But what happens if a human being is no longer clearly identifiable? I suggest reading this book by Francis Fukuyama [See here still in Spanish]: Our posthuman future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 2002.

10.- I also consider worth reading these two books of Yuval Noah Harari: 1.- Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. 2.- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

I share some personal reflections now:

1.- Michel Foucault said [See here still in Spanish] that it is not men who make speeches, but speeches that make men. The goddess Vak said something similar – more than three thousand years ago – in the Rig Veda hymn that inspires my logical ballerinas.

2.- “Human being” is a word. We are not human beings. Poetry [see] -the group of logical dancers who have managed to survive in “our” mind- makes us see ourselves as human beings. Or not. One thing is our essential self (“metalogical”) and another our “logical” self: what we see of ourselves through the linguistic-poetical filter. From what unnameable abyss comes that Poetry that configures, that  bewitches, our look, that Poetry that makes us see ourselves as “human beings”?

3.- As I stated in “Progress” [See here], I believe that the “human being” does not demand a concrete form -not even a specific genome. Human beings might be philosophers capable to love (and dream and make others dream), no matter if adopting the form of centaurs, or of purple clouds, or of a small, never visited lake in Segovia full of magical living beings. This is not a definition of what we are. It is a suggestion of creativity, of poetization, of identification. That what we essentially might be, beyond Poetry, is ineffable. And, lets say it again, Poetry is not “human”: “human” is an outcome of Poetry.

4.- We might say, from the metaphors, always from the metaphors, that we are a shadow, or a “magical nothingness”: something unnamable, unthinkable, imperceptible that (creatively) dreams worlds: that creates/dreams human beings and is able to identify with them. And also to religate to them [See “Religion” here still in Spanish]. Or do not religate. The Samkya system: to know that one is not the phenomenal (we are not the “matter” and its forms).

5.- We are not the products of our imagination. But maybe it’s more fascinating to believe we are. 

I do anyway madly love human beings, those mysterious creations. And I cannot help it.

David López