What it Means to be Human

Did you know that there is a field of thought out there that says that reality is defined by our language and relationships?  I am not saying that I agree with that sentiment, but I like to ponder the idea.  In a sense we don’t truly live without a method of articulating what our senses gather.  In another sense we don’t truly live if we do it in isolation from other people. 

I think about this idea frequently when I think about my son Nathan.  For four years he did not have a language, he spoke less than four words in his native language.  How does a child develop when he is left for hours in a crib during the day in order to be able to keep track of him, not being touched?  How does a child retain memories without having a language in which to define those memories.

This post is not about Nathan necessarily, its about what defines us as human.  Can we say that we are living the human experience without communicating with other people, without articulating who we are and allow others to articulate who they are?  Can we say that we are living the human experience if we don’t reach out and interact with others on a normal basis?  Can we say that we are living the human experience if we don’t actually make physical contact with someone on a normal basis? 

What is the human experience if it is not shared?  Humans were created to be relational beings, there is no doubt about it.  To believe that rationale or emotion supersedes our need for relationship would be an insult to the one that created us.  What that means is that there is no way we can use our rationale or our emotions to justify escaping from relationship.  If we do, we are trying to escape what makes us human in the first place.  What makes us human?  A God that doesn’t just believe in relationship but exists in relationship. 

I frequently ask Nathan about what he remembers about the orphanage that he lived in for half of his life.  He can articulate a very small amount of what happened before the day we received him.  If you asked him, he was a baby when we received him because there is so little that he could put words to before that.  His memories are vivid after that day however;  he speaks about the hotel room that we stayed in like it was his delivery room.  He learned words, was well fed, and had two people that were not going anywhere no matter how hard he screamed (and boy can he scream). 

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