s and others
have long theorised about what it is to be human
-- what is it that makes us special? Each group has a different name for it. The religious groups call this special essence the soul
. Scientists for the most would speak of our intelligence
, our ability to make tools, to change our environment to suit our needs. Many philosophers would argue that the ability to ask the question itself sets us apart from others in the animal kingdom
I think that all miss important and key aspects of the issue of being human.
When I think about what makes humans special, I look back in history to the things that people consider important, at the achievements, at who were considered important influences upon the development of humankind. In this group of people and achievements, you would find scientists, artists, philosophers, mathematicians, and engineers, great works of art and music, great buildings and discoveries. All have had different important influences upon each of our self images. Their influences were their creativity in operation. What they created, be it images, music, buildings or ideas, each had long-term impact on our ideas of who we were. Each a genius, an example of the pinnacle of humankind.
With this insight, I think that creativity is the essence of our specialness. Humans sometimes create things and ideas that change the way we think about the world, the way we relate to the world.
Now I hear the nay-sayers, `so, you are only human when you are creating something?' That would be a simplistic view. I'd rather say that you are at your best when you are being creative, that you exemplify the best of being human when you are your most creative. You are the most 'human' you can be when you are being creative, and are less 'human', more `animal' when you are not. This dichotomy does not signify which is better, but recognises that there is a difference. I accept that humans have both aspects to a varying degree.
As an example, most would abhor war, the death and destruction and needless suffering are certainly not hallmarks of human greatness. And most I think would agree that human soldiers are `less human' when they are out there killing. Only when the killing and destruction stop do these people appear more 'human'.
Let us compare that side of being human with some things that we admire, the creativity of artists, the achievements of science and technology, the philosophical insights many have had through the centuries. Each of these things or ideas have enhanced our collective sense of humanity.
In essence, the one side leaves use feeling degraded, ashamed, diminished while the other side lifts our spirits, enhances our sense of self-worth, and encourages us to realise greater personal achievement.
To be human is to be creative.