"I'm only human"...really?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

“It is not human nature we should accuse but the despicable conventions that pervert it.” - Denis Diderot

I got in trouble with my mom once when I was a teenager for the weirdest thing. I can't recall exactly how it went down, but I think it involved the song "Human" by The Human League. In case you've never heard that song or don't remember the lyrics, here's a sample: "I’m only human, Of flesh and blood I’m made, Human, Born to make mistakes"

I was singing it or she heard it playing on my boombox (back then that's what we used to listen to music) or maybe I just quoted it and said "I'm only human". I don't really remember. All I remember was how mad my mom got. She said something to the effect, (really paraphrasing here) "What do you mean you're only human? Do you know how special it is to be human? Do you know how much you have been blessed by God? Do you have any idea?"

Obviously, I didn't. At least not back then. Nowadays, because of that incident so long ago and because I am older and wiser (wink), I am always struck when someone else uses the phrase, "I'm only human" or "It's just human nature". Is it? Really? Or is it an excuse? Why do we even say that? The whole concept of "What exactly is human nature?" has been a prevailing theme in my life lately. Friday night on Jeopardy there was a quote from the movie The African Queen with Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart:

Charlie Allnut: A man takes a drop too much once in a while, it's only human nature.
Rose Sayer: Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.

That quote completely encapsulates my thoughts on the subject. Too often I feel that what society currently labels as "normal" and "acceptable" and/or "just human" are actually just mainstream conventions of thought and practice that I personally don't adhere to. What is so great about modern conventions anyway? It seems like everywhere around me all people care about discussing or spending time on are things that pertain to this world and everything within it - politics, celebrities, new technologies, entertainment, latest gossip, etc. Sorry, but something tells me that just because a large percentage of society believes certain things to be true, or acceptable or "human", doesn't make it so. For example:

"It's perfectly normal to have a glass of beer or wine with dinner every night, in fact, it's good for you!"

"By your third date, it is completely ok to have sex. You gotta test the merchandise, right? Besides, you're only human."

"It's understandable if you yell and scream at your significant other every once in a while. You have to let off steam. It's natural."

Hogwash, I say! I strongly believe that we were made to "rise above" our baser, more animalstic nature and that is because our truer, more relevant nature is "divine". There is a light within us that we can tap into, a light that is our true spirit and our divine essence and more truly human than any other aspect that typically gets labeled as "who we are". Maybe that makes me a "fuddy-duddy" or a "goody two shoes" to the rest of the world. So be it. All I know is that I've been there, done that other junk and focusing on my divine self feels way better.

Don't forget to check out some spiritual writings on this topic below and as always, please share your thoughts and quotes from your spiritual traditions. I'll end with a quote from Katy Perry's song Firework since I think it is relevant to the topic, reminding us all to let our divine light shine:

"Do you know that theres still a chance for you, cause there's a spark in you? You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine! Just own the night like the Fourth of July, 'Cause baby you're a firework, c'mon show 'em what you're worth!"

"Divine civilization is like the spirit, and the body gets its life from the spirit, otherwise it becomes a corpse. It has thus been made evident that the world of mankind is in need of the breaths of the Holy Spirit. Without the spirit the world of mankind is lifeless, and without this light the world of mankind is in utter darkness. For the world of nature is an animal world. Until man is born again from the world of nature, that is to say, becomes detached from the world of nature, he is essentially an animal, and it is the teachings of God which converts this animal into a human soul." - Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 289

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." - King James Bible, John 1:12-13

"Lift up your self by yourself;
examine your self by yourself.
Thus self-protected and attentive
you will live joyfully, mendicant.
For self is the master of self;
self is the refuge of self.
therefore tame yourself,
like a merchant tames a noble horse." - Buddhist, Dhammapada - Sayings of the Buddha 2 (tr. J. Richards)

The sage whose soul
Holds off from outer contacts, in himself
Finds bliss; to Brahma joined by piety,
His spirit tastes eternal peace. The joys
Springing from sense-life are but quickening wombs
Which breed sure griefs: those joys begin and end!
The wise mind takes no pleasure, Kunti's Son!
In such as those! But if a man shall learn,
Even while he lives and bears his body's chain,
To master lust and anger, he is blest!
He is the Yukta; he hath happiness,
Contentment, light, within: his life is merged
In Brahma's life; he doth Nirvana touch!" - Hindu, Bhagavad Gita (Edwin Arnold tr)

"The rewards of this life are the virtues and perfections which adorn the reality of man. For example, he was dark and becomes luminous, he was ignorant and becomes wise, he was neglectful and becomes vigilant, he was asleep and becomes awakened, he was dead and becomes living, he was blind and becomes a seer, he was deaf and becomes a hearer, he was earthly and becomes heavenly, he was material and becomes spiritual. Through these rewards he gains spiritual birth, and becomes a new creature...this is the meaning of the second birth.

For such people there is no greater torture than being veiled from God, and no more severe punishment than sensual vices, dark qualities, lowness of nature, engrossment in carnal desires. When they are delivered through the light of faith from the darkness of these vices, and become illuminated with the radiance of the Sun of Reality, and ennobled with all the virtues, they esteem this the greatest reward, and they know it to be the true paradise." - Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 324

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