This is not a Christmas post, as it should be, but now I’m almost finished with an arduous project that has consumed untold hours and years of my life for no other reason than the simple fact that I wanted to answer an age-old and really rather incorrigible question tackled by some of the greatest minds — far greater than mine — down through the annals of history. The result is a book wrestling with the question of just what it means to be human, and now I realize, all too late, how foolish I was to begin this venture.
Once I began this journey, though, I could hardly give up on it without discovering what might lay ahead. And I can honestly say I’ve learned a good bit, so not all has been lost. And I’ve even managed to come to at least a partial answer for myself, so I suppose this is good, too. When I started I allowed myself to imagine the finished product would be something of interest, and even benefit, to others, but I now have grave doubts. Besides, for those who are interested in the same very ancient and very basic question of what it means to be human, perhaps it is better for them to make their own journey anyway.
I say this because for me the journey in and of itself has been as much a part of my conclusion as the bits and pieces of answers I picked up along the way. This is probably true of most ventures, really. You kind of tend to grow into whatever it is you’re after, or think you’re after, which may, of course, change over the course of the journey. Actually, this happens more often than not, and this is good. One would expect, for example, that if your goal is to become a better cook, then you actually grow into a better cook in and through the adventure of cooking, which can be rather hilarious at first, than you do by simply sitting and imagining what it means to be a good cook.
So does this mean I’ve become more human? Or even a better human? I would like to think so, but to tell the truth, I’m still digesting my own conclusions to the matter. At any rate, when I am finally completely finished, I will likely have it all printed up with a nice, glossy paperback cover — or, who knows, maybe even hardback! — then place it on one of my bookshelves next to truly great works, if I be so bold, all so I can look every once in awhile and see my name on the spine next to an important sounding title, maybe like, On Being Human: A Multi-Discipline Journey of Discovery. Yes, that’ll probably do!
And, hey, everyone needs an ego boost every now and then! Who knows but my children might be impressed … especially if they don’t actually read it! And it might provide a conversation piece with visitors, who will also never read it, and they may leave my humble dwelling with a slightly higher, though unwarranted, view of me. This, too, never really hurts anything, unless you let it go to your head. I’m not likely to do this precisely because I’ve read the damn thing too many times already. I know the texture, flow and content all too well.
I don’t mean to sound too self-deprecating. I actually do like my conclusion. Perhaps I should just publish that in, say, small booklet form. The problem is, it might land in the hands of some far wiser individual, which means almost anyone, who would then question how it is I made it from point A to point Z. To answer this would, of course, require all the previous material, and I know s/he would not want to be so burdened, especially when s/he would do much better to simply read Plato and Aristotle, which is, by and by, almost always the case when you get into philosophical matters. Begin with Plato and Aristotle, then if you need to go further, stick closely with those who stuck closely with them. The rest has been (mostly) drivel.
At any rate, as I said, it is done. The awful, years-long deed it finished. Now, perhaps, I can return to what I do much better, for I am not a philosopher or theologian, an anthropologist or psychologist, scientist or mystic, no. In the end, I’m an ordinary man, who should never have approached such a daunting question to begin with, but now … now I can return to my love of reading and writing poetry, offering an occasional commentary on some current event, even penning a short story every so often, as well as continuing to enrich the dear relationships in my life, carrying on with my daily chores, and nurturing my over-active imagination at night when I lay my tired head to rest.