Friday, July 20, 2012
Being Human (Part 2)...
I think that the last post might have sounded like I was complaining about being tired and that the phrase "I'm only human" has somewhat less than glowing connotations. It feels like a dirty phrase, like giving up or accepting defeat. And I can see those words coming out of the mouth of a swarthy imaginary character, intent on pleasure-seeking and writing off blame or fault.
But to me, the idea of "being human" is a profound and humbling concept. It has been my experience that people like the epic hero, the one that triumphs over all odds and adopts almost super-human powers. As a culture, there's a strong emphasis on the "more than human". Truth be told, I like it too when I've accomplished an amazing amount of work and have made things that are beautiful and it leaves people thinking, "How does he do it?" When I get patted on the back for my efforts, it reinforces this desire to keep pushing. I don't think it's just me though. When I look around pop culture, there's a love of superheroes and comic book characters who are more than human. I don't usually write about religion on here, but the fact that a majority of Americans claim to be, in some form or fashion, Christian further confirms this idea. The word "Christian" means, "Christ-like". Someone who can perform miracles and is the living embodiment of god... well... if that's not heroic and more than human, I don't know what is.
The point of that last paragraph was not to criticize, but to explain why it's understandable that the idea of "being just human" might sound like a "cop-out". Society and cultural conditioning says to strive for more, to be better, and achieve greatness.
The accepting of limitations though isn't always a cop-out or giving up. For me, it's about understanding oneself better and determining what can be done and knowing what can't. Instead of feeling guilt or frustration for not being able to perform miracles, knowing what one can do and then doing it is far more positive and proactive. Once one knows what the limitations are, they can recontextualize their needs, wants, desires, and what they are able to accomplish.
In painting, sometimes it helps to put a view-finder up (that blocks out peripheral visual information) so that you can see an image or composition more clearly. Some artists limit their subject matter or palettes, to find beauty in the repetition or in the subtle variations. People frame paintings to draw special attention to the works of art, of distinguishing this as something to be viewed. The word "frame" comes from the meaning of to "make ready for use". The statement, "being human" is a frame. If I can understand what my body needs, what my mind needs, what my heart needs, what spirit needs and know what will harm the Essentials... then I can better utilize what is in front of me. Within the frame, I can create a masterpiece and maybe if I embrace my humanity, I can create something miraculous.