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  • Aishath Aboobakr

On Being Human

A woman washes thelii on the beach in Kulhudhuffushi.

Us humble biological beings. We come across problems so often, but to solve one, it has first to interest us and to hold our interest. If it is demanding enough, maybe we'll be consumed by it. But it must ignite that furnace within. Whether called passion or motivation, they are just shorthand for a powerful drive that comes from our animal heritage, the working of which is felt but whose nature is still mysterious.

That is, we don't hold the world in a dispassionate gaze. We encounter it through our moods, our instincts, our prejudices. Our biological inheritance. Science, or rather ‘human science’, has brought us this far, and maybe we are at the limit of our abilities. For those who examine the universe must also end up examining themselves, with even greater scrutiny. We are entangled in what we are investigating while our own nature remains elusive to us.

While on the subject: isn’t there a desire or even a need in us to prostrate ourselves before something magnificent? To surrender? What is the origin of this desire? An instinct to size up the strength of our rival, and judge them better in every sense than our modest self? Perhaps they deserve a bow from the cowed. And maybe the genes of the lesser being have spread among us (for he who runs…) thus the need.

And through the permutations of this urge in our brains, we feel this way not only about individuals or groups but landscapes, art, ideas. Sometimes, they too 'beat us into submission'.

Still, interestingly, there are those among us who believe they are above being fooled. They see the world through what they consider to be the lens of science. Having freed themselves of the clutches of one delusion, they believe they can no longer be bewitched, and are seeing the world as it is.

These otherwise intelligent people, and no one would doubt their intelligence, are still somehow blind to the existence of their blind spots. They display a curious and unscientific lack of awareness about their limitations. In this, they begin to resemble those they find most repulsive becoming even more grotesque precisely because of their capacity for sustained thought.

To us however, the world is almost incomprehensible – it is too chaotic, too interconnected, too quick for us to unravel and decipher. Faced with the unknowability of the world in its totality, we come to terms with the limits of our human understanding and knowledge. All we can do is accept our fallibility, our boundless capacity to be deceived as we carry on with our investigations, our experiments, our journeys. Yet they do not make these singularly human pursuits any less meaningful.


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