We live in a functional world. The function of a heart is to pump blood, the function of the kidneys is to purify the blood, the function of the lungs is to infuse the blood with oxygen. Even many inanimate objects have functions. For example, the function of a bridge is to enable people to go across two points.
Can a human being also have an intrinsic function? What could be the larger purpose of a human being?
The dictionary reveals that by the word ‘function’ we mean the kind of action or activity proper to a person, thing, or institution; the purpose for which something is designed or exists; role.
It is life’s perennial question to find the purpose, meaning of our existence- to find the function of human life. On the surface it appears we are meant to only feed, multiply and thrive at the cost of this planet’s resources. Is that all that life is all about?
To get rich or die trying? To eat, drink and be merry? To serve our maker as the eternal servant? Or to Carpe Diem- seize the day: live for today and make the best of it.
Beingness is the quality, state or condition of having existence. Beingness, in this sense, belongs to this entire existence, to the universe. Human-ness qualifies as being-ness; which means it is like an adjective to be. Just like there can be a specific animal-being, tree-being, fish-being. Each interacting with the world in a certain way perceives the world in a certain way. Similarly being human also seems like a unique way in which the universe cognizes itself, experiences itself and understands itself, all in the form of a human. It seems every ‘being’ is an expression, an act, a persona of this whole universe. But at the same time, we humans are uniquely gifted to be self-conscious, ask questions and seek answers. And so being human means being whole, undivided and complete. To be human is to think, feel, behave as a whole being.
1. To feel in a human way is to relate and feel the connection with other beings. To relate with others is to love, bond, collaborate, team, help, serve, care, parent and protect.
2. To behave in a human way is to recognise and respect being-ness in ourselves, in the world around us, in nature and in our fellow beings. To act in a way as to not hurt ourselves or another.
3. To think in a human way is to understand that you are whole, you are this universe cognizing a limited aspect of itself.
To be human means that we fully embrace ourselves as a unique function of the universe- our flaws and perfections all of them together. It requires us to acknowledge that the way we perceive the world is limited in many ways. Yet it is possible that we can understand and assimilate its whole-ness.
The universal principles like truth, non-injury, fairness and so on that many spiritual traditions prescribe for deliberate practice, help us be in harmony with ourselves, fellow humans and nature. Thus it helps us feel well, act well and think well; allowing us to create the inner space to take the next leap of understanding, to take in the universe. An ethical life seems to prepare us for the deep intuitive understanding that frees us from our limited-ness, narrow-mindedness, our biases, our frailties and nudges us in the direction of being whole again. It’s a journey from the illusion that ‘I am in this universe’ to the understanding that ‘The Universe is in me’.
I have been mulling over ‘the function of human being’ for several weeks after it first occurred to me but couldn’t explain it until today. This reinforces my faith in how truth is intuitive first. It seems through inductive or deductive reasoning we can only negate what is not true and arrive at the gate of truth. Beyond that we need to let our intuition guide us and help us take the leap of understanding – the intuitive understanding that we are all a function of this universe and so our function is to feel the connection with it, relate to our fellow beings, to act in ways that recognise and respect this wholeness in others and finally to understand and realize that wholeness in us, understand that we are this universe.
The beating heart, the purifying kidneys and the infusing lungs are all aspects of what a human being does. Similarly what a human being does is but an aspect, albeit the most important aspect of what the universe does- realizing itself.