What Makes You Human?
Your answer goes deeper than you might think. Introducing The Birth and Death of Meaning and the beginning of a new series exploring the works of its author Ernest Becker.
February 10, 2014 - 9:30 am
One of the most noticeable aspects of reading Becker is his constant referral to human beings as “organisms.”
No doubt this is normal fare for most, especially in a college setting. However, it struck me as odd. Consider contrasting this terminology with that of an airline pilot. He does not give an account of how many organisms are on board. Rather the organisms that fill his seats are officially counted as “souls.”
Does it matter? Yes. How we view one another, and the terminology used is exceedingly important. It is a direct reflection of value. Granted, psychology is a scientific study, but the terminology does reflect the interpretation of its subjects.
The more I thought about Becker’s introduction to dualism the more I realized just how extraordinary our dualism actually is. Although as he said, it may not be a new or a startling thought, it is an astonishing fact.
Have you ever been in a phone conversation and, without a word from the other person, “feel” their response? What about our “inside’s” ability to feel excruciating pain? Anyone that has ever felt profound grief understands how devastating that pain is.
We are the only “organisms” endowed with language, both spoken and written. Is that not one “inside” connecting to another “inside”? Our ability to hurt, destroy, uplift and love one another are acts solely of the self, spirit or inside, whatever you choose to call it.
Becker points out that from an early age, from our first lie, we learn to protect our inner selves from the world around us. We are selective to whom we reveal all aspects of that self.
For many years I worked in a domestic violence shelter. We saw scores of women with black eyes and bruised arms. But if you looked deeper, you could see where the real abuse took place–their inner selves. Every woman I met would tell you they would rather have a broken bone than suffer the mental, verbal abuse. A broken bone heals– a blow to the inner self, seldom does.
How many of us have been hurt, even had our lives altered by something a parent, or someone we admired, said to us? These wounds can last the span of a lifetime.
I submit that we are far more than organisms. We are created in the image of God. In that, it is our “inner” selves that are created in His image. We alone hold the ability to conceive of an idea, and then create it. We can put forth something into the universe that did not exist before. We alone, not only have the ability to conceive of a future, but have a need to see inside our mind’s eye the future for which we hope.
If that were so each and every person on this earth is indispensable, we come into the world wholly unique. However, that’s not the way Becker sees it.