This week in my Religion and Film class, we are analyzing Sci-Fi movies and how they attempt to answer some of the general questions religion does — how we got here, what is ‘out there’, what is our purpose, etc. I really find that class to be intriguing and mentally stimulating, and the various discussions are fun, too.
But at the end of class on Monday, my professor asked my entire class, “So, guys, what does it mean to be human?”
I’m sure you can imagine some of the answers a bunch of liberal, young college students came up with:
“Nothing is real!” (The girl who said this said quite a bit of other related stuff, too, but it was all so far off that I actually think she managed to reach Jupiter with a batch of hash brownies.)
“Only our memories and experiences make us human.”
“DNA and our unique 7th chromosome.”
Those were just a few of the answers stated in class.
After class, I couldn’t help but ponder on this idea. What exactly is it that makes us human beings? Is it our bodies? Is it the volume of our intellect? Is it just our genetic coding?
To me, what makes us human is the search for significance. We humans (Christians and non-Christians alike) are all looking for the purpose of our lives, and what it is that really matters in life. And while I do think there are some extremely smart animals (like pigs, no joke) that search for optimal existence, there are no animals that yearn for a deeper meaning beyond mere survival.
This ‘search for significance’ plays out differently according to people’s beliefs. For us Christians, significance is found in a life filled with Jesus (Philippians 3:7-9). For an agnostic, significance is found in whatever they make of their life. For a Buddhist, significance is found in the liberation from suffering into an elevated existence (sounds complex to me!). For the atheist, there is no significance, but ironically they find it awfully significant to make sure everyone else knows that.
I think you get my point.
Also, I personally see that ‘search’ as the main mark and evidence for the soul, which far outlives our Earthly vessels. As a Christian, I obviously believe there is only one source of true significance. However, many peoples are satisfied in where they find it, at which point they usually stop searching. I am taking a neutral stand in saying this, because in all reality it is my love in Christ that pains me to know some people turn from the truth.
Anyway, that is what I believe makes us human.
What do you believe makes us human? Is it purely tangible and nothing more? Or is there something else?