What Does It Mean To Be Human?

What does it mean to be human?

This question has amazing implications and considering it can affect ones life in so many ways. In this day we see so many issues vying for the attention and approbation of people and society: euthanasia, abortion, stem-cell research, life purpose, evolution, biology, history, life after death. You name it and a carefully thought out belief system regarding the nature of humanity can at the very least assist in the formation of your opinion on the matter.

Of course this is not to say that I have any special dispensation of knowledge regarding the nature of humanity, merely a few ideas that thought floating around in the nebular regions of the cranium. And I doubt that any of you do not at least have some idea of your own thoughts on the matter. Even if you’ve not consciously thought: “hmm, I wonder what it means to be human?” You’ve at least thought at some time, usually in the midst of a spate of bad luck and in a voice fraught with emotion, “Why me?”

“Why me” indeed. And the answer: “because, just because.” I am reminded of Job’s anguished cry: “Why me, God, Why me?” Here he was, a holy man by any measure known to man or God, blameless even to the point that he was apparently God’s favorite human, and that’s something to be proud of, a laurel you can really hang over the mantel. “Why me?” he asks and the answer comes back from God: “Because, because I’m God and you’re human.” God didn’t enjoy watching Job squirm under the Devils’ special ministrations like an hapless any under some cosmic magnifying glass. God is not some super-bully who piques his dirty henchys’ ire towards the little kid on the playground. No, God is Love. God said to Job, because I’m holy and you’re not, and I’m sovereign and you’re not, and you’ll never understand the full reason, but this you will: that you will be holier because of it.

As though we could ever be Holy in the sense that God is Holy. No, the best we’d ever get is a lower-case holy. But God, being loving to all and Love to His children, overlooks our fault and sees only holiness. Holiness that is not out own,either, but that of His Sons gift of blood. So holy Job, realizing that for all his holiness is reminded that he must still watch for the pride, that sense of self-entitlement, that seeks to hold what he’d earned close. God allowed it to be taken away to show He was the reason behind it all.

So what makes us human? Is it language? Self-awareness? Social nature? Rational thought? One could argue for and against each of these and many others and only when the root answer is reached will it ever make sense. We are human because, because God is God and we are not, because God Loves us even so and made us first in His own image with an eternal soul and with a never-ending desire for a relationship with him. Hell will be hell because those in it will be forever separated from the object of their deepest need and that without remedy. That will be inhuman.

Giving Up

I’m disappointed. A friend of mine recently gave up.

He’s in his first real job, he’s going through junior college, he’s been on summer missions a couple times. By all accounts he’s progressing and growing, learning and choosing and standing. But he doesn’t live in reality any longer.

Is it his workmates and their common, liberal bent? He’s gotten along with them pretty well from what I see. He worked with them for a while and then left to do summer missions and then returned and they hired him back on the spot. So he feels important and needed there.

Is it his college classes? It’s only a junior college but one filled with few dreams and many lies. I remember my JC years as ones of constant grating, constant fighting. I guess it helps that I’m a rather passionate guy, and I hold my beliefs tight to me. I believe that the purpose of debate and argument is to present two beliefs and weigh their strengths and weaknesses against each other. The result may be that either one or the other or a combination of the two that is found to be accurate, or even that neither hold up to the truth. This kept me combative and while I made few friends there I held truth close (because of course I was always right), and that was more important because I did not lose myself. I did not understand why I was different, to an extent I did not even know I was different. I just thought the others did not try as hard. The friends I did have were different like me so I never seemed too different from those I knew best. Perspective being what it is, I was saved from the constant chipping that wears down many.

He loves to debate and argue and has an incredibly sharp mind. He can understand things quickly and grasp the root of a matter quickly. His mind is difficult to keep up with and therefore many people find it hard to keep up with what he’s saying. Even his mother says she cannot understand him at all most of the time. I can only imagine he feels like he’s the only one in the world. I can understand him most of the time and can keep up well enough to ask questions and learn those things he’d jumped over. But I don’t particularly enjoy hanging out with him, and I definitely don’t have time to even if I had the desire what with our differing schedules.

I honestly believe that he could be president if he learned how he differs from us and learned to communicate in ways we all can understand. He has charisma and brains, he’s tall too. Give him a few years and he’ll look pretty good. Photogenic, charisma and smarts. What more do we need? Values and backbone.

I can only think that he was constantly faced with the dismissal of his ideas and beliefs by people he respected or at least wanted to get along with. When one has no friends it is easy to make concessions until someone finds enough to like. I can only think that his teachers dismissed his ideas and ideals and his classmates are just mediocre enough that he sees the gap between himself and them and, not seeing either the danger inherent in their position or the reasons for the disparity, tries to close that gap at least a little. Whatever the reason, mediocrity has set in and I hope to God he recovers a little over the holiday season as he has more time at home around strong people and lives.

How did I open this Pandora’s Box? I have turned the key in the lock just as surely as I have ten fingers on our hands. I have opened the door peeking in just to see what it was hidden by that mysterium, hoping to only get a glimpse of the inside, little knowing the inside was the future. I am irrevocably and hopelessly drawn into the secrets of the box. I want to be normal, I want to be able to live my life in the day to day grind of worrying about the next paycheck instead of the state of the world. I wish I could return to before Pandora’s Box, but I cannot. I cannot, and am therefore forever cursed to be different. I see the looks from my classmates and I long to tell them “I’m normal, I’m just like you” but I know that is a lie. When I try to return the truth comes to me and I know I will never be content there living a small life. Dear God I live Your plan.

This may seem like a shamelessly self-aggrandizing rant, but I ask you to read it as if it were you crying out. What is the “different” in your life? Are you a Christian? Should you be different from those around you? Should you not be different? We are all given our own Pandora’s Box. Have you opened yours?

The Name’s Derci, Ariva Derci

Casino Royale is a gritty film with a bit more life than recent Bond films. This film apparently falls near the beginning of the Bond saga and tells of Bonds early days before and immediately following his receiving 007 status. There is much less gadgetry and the resulting action is more authentic for it. The classic Aston Martin Bond car is driven on screen for only a few moments before, well, that would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say, this is a very believable film as far as action goes.

This film also delves into who Bond is as a person. He has one supreme relationship in this film and he, well, that would be a spoiler too. There are the customary bedroom scenes but these are nothing more than a PG-13 film, with lots of kissing and a bit of off-screen bed-sheet pulling. I have only seen the Pierce Brosnan Bond films prior to this and I found this one deeper, richer and more enjoyable, even if it did not have quite as much “flash”. There’s still plenty of killing and maiming in creative ways, and the directors even made poker look enjoyable, which they had to considering that’s about half the movie.

Towards the end, there is quite a lull in the customary non-stop action, but this also serves to frame the final scenes and make it that much more, erm…, interesting shall have to be the word as most other adjectives might be used to deduce the eventual result.

Anyways, this is a recommend, with caution for younger peoples. If you like Bond, this is a good Bond. If you like action, there’s that in spades. And even if you’re a bit of a romantic, this has a classic romance woven throughout. So enjoy.

Frozen Toes

Happy Feet is a wonderful movie which brought the whole audience to laughter several times during the showing I attended. The animation was incredibly life-like and well executed making it easy to believe those are real penguins you see singing and dancing. Technically it was quite an achievement and I’m now looking forward with much anticipation to my copy of Computer Graphics World where they will no doubt delve into the machinations necessary to produce such a result. But beyond the eye candy the story, the songs, the scenes, the whole movie is very enjoyable.

Note: There are a few minutes of “save the world” propaganda towards the end and the whole major premise of the movie does involve a slight twist of eco-freakishness. However, it’s easy to ignore for the most part and the ride is still very enjoyable. Suitable for all but the youngest of children (there are a few tense moments involving seals and killer wales, but even these are no worse than similar Pixar productions), and enjoyable to adults. I had a hard time keeping my feet still and not bursting into song myself, but I restrained myself and my fellow theatre-goers do not know from what terror they’ve been saved. And one of my group, a relatively jaded young man, admitted that even he enjoyed the film.

Merely Christian

::This is an incomplete article I first wrote two years ago to present at a discussion group I was then participating in. I hope to continue it and finish it as I finish Mere Christianity, Lewis’ seminal work.::

Merely Christian: A simple analysis of the life and teachings of Clive Staples Lewis

Lewis was an example of the equality of all men before God: His self-assessment as “a very ordinary layman of the Church…, not especially ‘high’, nor especially ‘low’, nor especially anything else.” Though he may have personally felt that God called certain people to a ‘higher life’ of religious leadership, he lived his life to its fullest fulfilling Gods highest calling, that of a sanctified life for Him.

Some people decry Lewis’ mantra of “mere Christianity” charging that he believed that Christians must accept and even relish vast differences in major sections of belief so long as the basic tenets were agreed upon. And yet I believe that whatever Lewis’ aim, the idea of a root to which all Christians can cling in unity is important. The Bible entreats us as Christians to “with all of your might, live at peace with all men.” The instruction does not include any qualification allowing for strife among Christians who have legitimate commonality. In fact, Christians are instructed only infrequently to disassociate with those with whom we disagree, and only then when they are in direct disobedience of Biblical mandate, and even then, only in cases where the Ten Commandments have been directly and grossly violated with no admission of wrong and no intent to repent and change. So Lewis’ cry for unity among the brethren is well founded. Lewis seems to echo and provide depth to the American reformer White’s dream of heaven, in which he saw not Catholics, Methodists, Baptists or any other group in Heaven, but Christians. Lovers of God and Christ His Son are who we are first and foremost, all else is secondary.

Lewis holds this view of unity and simplicity of faith with good purpose as well. “Ever since I became a Christian I have though that the best, perhaps the only , service I could do for my unbelieving neighbors was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times. …I think we must admit that the discussion of …disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. Admittedly Lewis actions belie his beliefs in that he holds that the deep issues of Christianity are only of profit to the “real experts” however, he is correct in his belief that us holding to those ideas with such vehemence causes the focus to be on us, and not on Christ and the sinners He’s given us to witness to. If the church is too busy bickering amongst itself, it will not have time to show love to its neighbor.

Lewis also came upon his calling in a simple and effective way from which we may learn. After getting the “impression that far more, and more talented, authors were already engaged in such controversial (the branching tenets of particular sects and denominations) matters than in the defense of … ‘mere’ Christianity. That part of the line where I thought I could serve best was also the part that seemed to be thinnest. And to it I naturally went.” Lewis saw a need, and saw that his perception of that need was the same as God calling him to fulfill that need, and to fill that need he willingly went. In the Christian church I see (and I myself do as well) people saying “such and such needs to be done” and “so and so has needs and we should do something about it” little noticing that God has either given them abilities or resources to fill that need or do that thing. An interesting point I read recently had to do with our callings and the idea was that God has given us these ideas as callings and if we refuse to do our callings, God will not necessarily call another to do what we’ve failed to do. If the kingdom of heaven is formed by the souls of those trusting in Christ, saved and sealed. Then our work is made of the ideas and perceptions of the needs immediately surrounding us.

And then there is the singleness of purpose with which Lewis composed Mere Christianity. In explaining briefly why it was that he would not debate certain (as he saw them, secondary) issues or even address them in any way, he takes the example of an extremely divisive issue which is legitimately a major dividing point between protestant and catholic faiths, that of the worship of the virgin Mary. Showing the various perspectives of the adherents of the various faiths, he shows how having taken a stand on that would have made his book a thesis meant for the church, and not for the sinner. Keep in mind that the book was first delivered in the form of radio addresses given during successive years of World War 2 to the people of the British Isles and were strictly evangelical in nature. Lewis’ argument is that “If any topic could be relied upon to wreck a book about ‘mere’ Christianity – if any topic makes utterly unprofitable reading for those who do not yet believe that the Virgin’s son is God – surely this is it.” While we of the protestant Christian faith do take issue with the severity of this issue, and may question the validity of the salvation of many Catholics, we can apply Lewis’ ideas to other issues such eschatology or predestination/predeterminism. These issues are important, but we only sound like fools arguing over such issues before someone who does not even know Christ yet.