Sunday, January 19, 2014

Good Morning Jessicca...

Letter to my Daughter
Sunday, 19 January

What it means to be human

Good Morning Jessicca…

Numbers and words have no existence outside the human mind.  A world without people reveals no evidence as to the validity of these concepts of intellect.  Until recently the surface of the planet Mars simply existed, without the need to account for itself in any way that might be construed as a reason for being.  Then came machines.  They crawl about the land of Mars, occasionally stopping to break its surface and dig into the soil.  They were sent by humans inhabiting the neighboring planet Earth.  These mechanical devices are missionaries that bring the first evidence that there now exists a mental construction, fashioned from words, which humans refer to as meaning.  These roving devices are precise constructions of a preconceived purpose.  Purpose is like numbers and words.  The idea of purpose is of no consequence outside the boundaries of the individual human mind.  This mind is unique in a number of ways.  It is self-aware and wonders of the nature of its own existence.  The mind is a form of consciousness that endlessly explores itself and its perceived surroundings, armed with a revolutionary potent tool – the question.  The question is a mental device that goes beyond the biological instinct known as curiosity because it is based on a formally constructed purpose we will call intent.  Questions displaying intent rely on the analytical words how and why as well as specific fact-seeking words such as what, when and where. The intent-based question requires another tool unique to human consciousness.  This is a tool fashioned from a capability human’s have developed over time and we’ve termed it reason.  Reason is a concept founded on the growing belief that every object and every event in existence is the result of one or more specific causes and that this cause-and-effect phenomenon is potentially predictable because existence is fundamentally neither random nor arbitrary.  The human mind has grown increasingly confident that the brain’s ability to reason makes understanding existence within the realm of possibility. 

Why did human beings go to the expense and trouble of sending a machine to Mars?  There are many reasons having to do with the intent to answer arcane scientific questions and to further develop human technological capabilities but, uppermost in most people’s mind, is the question whether life has existed on another planet.  If it is determined that no life ever existed on Mars then the question becomes, “If not Mars, where?”  If, on the other hand, life or its remnants have been proven to exist on Mars then the minds of human beings are flooded with new questions.  We humans find renewed motivation to speculate on numerous intriguing avenues of possibilities.  What is the source of life?  Are there other forms of consciousness comparable to ours?  Do they believe in God?  If not, why?  If yes, then what is the nature of their God?  Is the concept of God inherent to the thought of higher consciousness?  If God is absent in the consciousness of others then what does that imply about human spiritual beliefs?  Does our hope for God’s existence have to do with our desire for meaning in life?  What is the nature of meaning without God?  A machine searching the sands of Mars for evidence of life is invested with the meaning of what it is to be human.  We don’t want to be alone.  We want our lives to have purpose beyond generating our biological offspring.  We want something of greater value than just merely existing.  The many monuments we have created throughout human history – churches, statues, a flag on the Moon, a simple blue ribbon – all have to do with instilling in us the value of meaning.  We matter.  No one celebrates the life of an individual sparrow.  Who mourns the rose separated from its stem? 

Numbers and words – we have each a name.  We each count the length of our solitary existence and share our sentiments with those close to us.  We all have ingenuity, love, happiness and fear that together makes us each somewhat unique.  Here, then, is the kernel of our meaning – modest as it may seem.


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