Our recent DM’s have treated subjects such as economics and slavery and indigenous genocide that tell us something of the shadow side of what it has been to be human, what footprints our species and its cultural institutions have made on mother earth and in on our very souls.  We are all still suffering from the trauma of slavery and of colonialism, whether we be black and descendants of blacks or whether we be white and descendants, not necessarily of slave holders, but of the privileges that came our way because our ancestors were not slaves.  As Broderick Rodell said recently, “whether you are black or white, you carry inherited trauma from slavery.”  (Broderick is black.)

Rep. John Lewis, celebrated Civil Rights Leader has passed on. To honor his revolutionary nonviolence, here is a clip showing what it truly means to be human.

I have been reading Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace by Carl Safina.  This book tells us stories parallel to lessons learned from Black Lives Matter, that our species needs some profound truth-seeking both about our knees on the heads of black people and also  our knees snuffing out life of other species besides human.  First the author treats the wonders we have come to learn about the sperm whale nation.  Their profound “culture” that includes care for one another and especially the young, their language and capacity to communicate over many miles, their ways of eating, living, celebrating, raising their young and the rest. 

Whale watching in Puerto Vallarta, Jal, Mexico. Photo by Paola Ocaranza on Unsplash.

Then he tells of the human wars against the whales.  Reading this history of our savage attack on whales, it occurs to me that these stories very much match the stories of genocide to indigenous peoples that were occurring at the same time; as well as the assault on enslaved Africans stolen from their land for the sake of offering free labor to feed a voracious economic system that will do anything for bigger and bigger profits, for the gods of avarice and mammon. 

It was in the same spirit of greed, that we created the killing fields of the oceans.  “From the 1700’s through the 1899’s, sail-driven whaler had killed about 300,000 sperm whales.  Diesel engines and exploding harpoons allowed twentieth-century whalers to equal the previous two centuries’ killing in sixty years, then double that in the next decade: the 1960’s.”  The twentieth century exterminated 3 million whales.  What was the purpose of killing whales once petroleum was discovered?  We invented “new uses to justify the unnecessary.  Dog and cat food, fertilizer, mink food for fur farms.”  In the 1800s, men had killed 60 million American bison, “but in terms of pure gross tonnage of animal destruction, twentieth-century whaling beat them all.” 

Video from River Voices on May 5, 2019, Tiohtiá:ke Great Peace of Montreal 1701 Opening ceremony for The North American Dialogue on Biocultural Diversity Redpath Museum (McGill University Campus)

Did the modern era, so bent on knowledge for humanity’s sake and corporations’ sake and financial gain sake, render us all crazy with violence and hatred of other species imagining they existed only to serve us?  Is this what “being human means?”  Are we doomed to live with a self-identity that enshrines a domination neurosis, a patriarchal ‘value,’ as our definition of what it means to be human?  to be continued.

See Carl Safina, Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace, p. 88.

See Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 1-34.

Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth.

Banner Image: Compassionate human hands. Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you think it is just coincidence that the same culture that was subjugating indigenous and black peoples was also hell-bent on driving whales to extermination?  What is going on?  Is it our “superiority complex” that Wendell Berry says is behind all need to dominate?  How can we go about dismantling that?

Recommended Reading

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

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1 thought on “What Does it Mean to be Human?”

  1. Avatar

    Sometimes words cannot be expressed
    My meditation this morning after reading this is
    Silence / prayer

    Jainist Prayer
    Peace and Universal Love is the essence of the Gospel preached by all the Enlightened Ones. The Lord has preached that equanimity is the Dharma.
    Forgive do I creatures all, and let all creatures forgive me.
    Unto all have I amity, and unto none enmity. Know that violence is the root cause of all miseries in the world.
    Violence, in fact, is the knot of bondage.
    “Do not injure any living being.”
    This is the eternal, perennial, and unalterable way of spiritual life.
    A weapon howsoever powerful it may be, can always be superseded by a superior one; but no weapon can, however, be superior to non-violence and love.
    Stay safe

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