Being Human

Dave Farcas

What is it to be human? Is it a characteristic that is limited only to Homo Sapiens? I would like to quote an excerpt from Carl Saganís Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, "In the annuals of primate ethics, there are some accounts that have the ring of parable. Consider, for example the macaques. Also known as rhesus monkeys, they live in tightly knit cousinsí clubs. Since the macaque you save is statistically likely to share many of your genes (assuming youíre another macaque), you're justified in taking risks to save it, and a fine discrimination of shades of consanguinity is unnecessary. In a laboratory setting, macaques were fed if they were willing to pull a chain and electrically shock an unrelated macaque whose agony was in plain view through a one-way mirror. Otherwise, they starved. After learning the ropes, the monkeys frequently refused to pull the chain; in one experiment only 13% would do so---87% preferred to go hungry. One macaque went without food for nearly two weeks rather than hurt its fellow. Macaques who had themselves been shocked in previous experiments were even less willing to pull the chain. The relative social status or gender of the macaques had little bearing on their reluctance to hurt others."

Where is the selfish gene of socio-biology in the behavior of these macaques.  Who is more human? The researchers or the monkeys? The macaques displayed truly remarkable compassion, empathy and self-sacrifice for the other.

To be human is clearly not a characteristic that is defined by, or limited to, someone who possesses the genome of Homo Sapiens. To be human is to empathize with the pain of the other, to be motivated by compassion for the other, to love (sacrifice your own self-interest, even you life)  the other.  To be human is to be like the Human One: Jesus Christ. Jesus turned upside down all conventional ideas of God: Godís justice is retributive, God is coming in wrath to judge and condemn, God is impassible and self existent.  What Jesus embodied in his person and in the way he related to others is the truth of God: the humane and compassionate God, the God who is love, who will spare no cost to Godself to bring justice (make things right) to poor, suffering humanity, and to all creation---no exceptions!  Everyone and everything is included, nothing will be lost. God doesn't exclude anyone. In the death of Jesus on the cross God has experienced godforsaken, damnation---absolute death. There is no longer a place or state of being were God is not---even death. The inexhaustible self-emptying love of God is the non-power that overcomes all powers---including the power of sin (ourselves).

To be free from ourselves is to be made free for others. When we begin to embody the selflessness of those macaques we can then, with some confidence, say we have begun the long journey to becoming truly human.