What Does It Mean To Be Human?
What Does It Mean To Be Human? According to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, “Part of what it means to be human is how we became human. Over a long period of time, as early humans adapted to a changing world, they evolved certain characteristics that help define our species today. ” Some of these characteristics include, walking upright on two feet, larger and more complex brains, and a social life that not every living organism has or can do.
Although this is more of a physical take on what makes each person a human, there is also a complete and separate part of the human race that makes us human; and that part is our intellectual being. All our thoughts, feelings, emotions, takes on life, and opinions all go into figuring out who we are, what we live for, and what makes us different from animals, trees, or birds. Along with the fact each human has their own thoughts and feelings, also means there are different takes on what makes each person human.
Who we are can start at, but not limit to how the Bible, Paul Tillich, and Gilgamesh perceive human life and what truly makes us who we are. The Bible is a very old, and very credible source that still holds truth to this day. Through out the book of Genesis, being human is in a very literal sense. It describes in great detail about the features of a human. In Genesis 1:27 God goes to say “So God created humankind in his own image.. ” (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Genesis 1-12). God then describes the job that each and every human is to do every day, and that includes taking care of the land, animals, and providing for himself.
Man was created to serve. Human ambition for the purpose of serving oneself certainly cannot provide anyone with the fulfillment they are seeking. There are many examples of people who became famous and wealthy, only to find there is no fulfillment in personal ambition. (Criswell) Later on in the book, it goes on to say how the snake tempted Adam and Eve into eating fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil “But the serpant said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5). ” That caused the two humans to become imperfect and realize their flaws. God also cursed them, the woman would have great pain during childbirth, and man will have to work for all his food, even through all the hardships it brings him. Genesis itself has numerous stories within the one book, another being about a man named Noah. Within his story he builds an arc for his family and 2 of each animal on the earth. God then strikes a flood over the entire earth for forty days and forty nights. After that it tells a story about Cain and Abel.
In this story they were both brothers, Abel was a keeper of the sheep, Cain a tiller of the ground. Each brought the Lord an offering, and “the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry and his countenance fell (Genesis 4:5). ” Although each story through out Genesis is very different, and all have many meanings, they all have a common interest within them. It seems that through each story each one of them experiences pain or suffering of some sort.
Some of it is short lived, but most of it is pain that will affect someone for a lifetime. Even though God allows pain and suffering to his people, it is not because he is heartless. He is still there for, and protecting his people, but they only way they can truly become human is through mistakes and being punished for those mistakes. The book of Gilgamesh has many similarities and differences to the Bible. The Bible goes into great detail about how human life came about, whereas Gilgamesh makes no mention to it, but both books share many similarities about what makes us human.
Gilgamesh is a story about two men who live entirely different lives, but find each other and become best friends. At the beginning of the story each man starts out as a man on the outside, but not entirely on the inside. Gilgamesh was a mean, hard ruler over his people, and Enkidu lived among the wild with the animals. The author placing Enkidu apart of the animals was almost relating the start of human life to evolution and Darwinism. According to the Smithsonian National Museum of National History: Human evolution is the lengthy process of change by which people originated from apelike ancestors.
Scientific evidence shows that the physical and behavioral traits shared by all people originated from apelike ancestors and evolved over a period of approximately six million years. It takes a complete opposite side from the Bible, which states God created the heavens, the earth, and all the people within it. In the story Enkidu was said to have lived with the animals, and when he slept with the prostitute and shaved and bathed, he became a man. Soon afterward he realized how much it hurt him because the animals no longer claimed him or considered him family anymore.
“When he rose again looking for his friends who had gone, he felt a strange exhaustion, as if life had left his body. He felt their absence (Mason 18). ” Later on in the story, when Gilgamesh and Enkidu were searching for the key to immortality, Enkidu died after fighting off the gods. This is the first day that Gilgamesh lost one of the most important things in his life. He had always gotten what he wanted, and had never experienced pain or suffering before. Along with losing Enkidu, Gilgamesh finds, and loses the flower, which is the key to youth they were looking for on their trip.
This also saddens him and is one of the second things he loses in his life. Although it seems the stories between the Bible and Gilgamesh are very different comparing how humans are made, what makes us human is all very much alike. Throughout the entire story of Gilgamesh, Enkidu and Gilgamesh were hurt by someone or even by their own self. When they both experienced pain in their lives, it made them realize how perfect their lives were, and that you haven’t truly experience life or developed entirely until you have loved and lost something special to you.
In Paul Tillich’s writing, “The Nature of Religion and Some Problems of Religious Language” talks about humans losing in a literal sense compared to the Bible and Gilgamesh talking in a literal sense. Tillich describes the loss of the dimension of depth in human lives and how it affects us as a person later on in life. Without depth in our life, the meaning of life and who we are becomes lost. Depth in life gives reason and meaning. Through out life though, depth becomes lost very quickly. When one tries to go through life and lives by the world, depth becomes farter and farther away.
Tillich brings up religion multiple times in his writing about depth. He explains how religion isn’t one right or wrong answer, it is more of what is right for your life. Although a lot of people are thinking more in depth to their meaning of life, and do not think that any religions fit them entirely; so they become religious without actually having a religion. All religions and religious belief have been losing gradually their hold on the mind of man for the past couple of centuries. Religions, primitive or historical, are based on certain dogmas and contain a code of conduct and moral values.
As matters of fact, with progress of civilisation and globalisation today, many primitive religions have been out of date simply because they failed survive against the revaluation and redistribution of the age-old values. (Londhe 1) Once someone has conformed themselves to the world and forgot about religion and depth in their life, he loses himself. Religion has almost become non-existent towards this generation, and if it is still in existence it is not taken seriously or the appropriate manner that it should.
“When in this way man has deprived himself on the dimension of depth and the symbols expressing it, he then becomes a part of the horizontal plane. He loses his self and becomes a thing among things…He becomes an element in the process of manipulated production and manipulated consumption… (Tillich) Religion is the reason many people are not living their lives to their full potentials and losing the dimension of depth. Without depth in life, life is essentially nothing. In conclusion, there are numerous takes on what it means to be human in this day and age.
Primarily throughout the Bible, Gilgamesh, and Tillich the common theme that shows up is losing something or someone of value and importance. Without pain and suffering, is life even life? Whether a person believes in creation or Darwinism, death and loss Is an essential part to life that we cannot help. It is so usually fought off and prolonged, but it eventually catches up to us someday anyways. Works Cited Daniel Criswell, Ph. D. 2006. What Makes Us Human?. Acts & Facts. 35 (1). “Who Am I? What Does It Mean to Be Human? ” The Theosophical Society in America. The Theosophical Society, n. d. Web. 08 Feb. 2014.
“Introduction to Human Evolution. ” Human Evolution by The Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Program. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, 06 Feb. 2014. Web. 08 Feb. 2014. Londhe, Manali. “Philosophy of Religion and Modern Age. ” Indian Streams Research Journal 3p 3. 6 (2013): 1-3. Academic Search Complete. Web. 08 Feb. 2014. . Genesis. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. 4th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2010. Print. Mason, Herbert. Gilgamesh. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1970. Print. Tillich, Paul. The Nature Of Religion and Some Problems Of Religious Language (n. d. ): 1-4. Web. 08 Feb. 2014.