Humans must not disregard their humanity

Are we gods, or are we just naked apes? I tend to think we’re the latter, but we’d really like to be the former. I am continually astounded by the human energy we exert to construct cultural barriers that keep us from understanding what it is that we really are.
We forcefully attach anxiety to all those things that truly connect us to the earth, the ecosystem and the other living creatures around us because we are so fearful of discovering we might not be gods. We might actually be humans. We’d rather live above the earth than within it. This is a dangerous habit that will destroy us if we don’t acknowledge the true nature of ourselves.
Let’s look at a few examples:
Like all mammals of this earth, we are mortal beings. We will all die someday. And yet, we refuse to believe that this is true. All world religions (to my knowledge) share the view that death does not exist, and our time here on earth is not what is really important. There is, in one form or another, life everlasting (in heaven, for example). This is a very comforting idea, because if our human existence is all there is, then what’s the point? Or, even scarier, might there not be a point? Do we die and decompose like all these other creatures? It’s a frightening thought, but it might just be true. But when death does occur to someone we know personally, it comes as such a shock that it is ultimately denied in one form or another.
Like all the mammals of the earth, we are comprised of two sexes — males and females –and we engage in the act of coitus to reproduce ourselves. But in today’s world, this act has been almost completely severed from human reproduction. Either it occurs within the institution of marriage and somehow results in a child to complete the family unit, or it occurs outside of marriage and is somehow prevented from resulting in a child.
When these rules are broken and a pregnancy results, the people involved become greatly distressed, and their lives are seriously interrupted. So many constructed conventions are attached to this act of reproduction in the Western world that it ends up virtually governing all aspects of our lives.
Like all the mammals of the earth, we consume dead plants and animals in order to nourish our bodies and keep us alive. But where do we get these dead plants and animals? From the immediate environment around us? Not usually. Almost always they come from a shelf in the supermarket. Somehow a cow becomes hamburger meat.
We know this, but we don’t really understand it because we’d rather not. And a cow is not really an animal, anyway; it’s more like a milk-and-meat-producing machine. But a dog is an animal. And we would never eat a dog.
Like all the mammals of the earth, we digest the dead plants and animals that we consume, use the necessary nutrients contained within them to perpetuate the functioning of our bodies, and we then expel the unnecessary waste. We shit and we piss. But this idea is somewhat unsettling, so we have decided to just “go to the bathroom.” We know what goes on in that room, but we’d rather not admit it to ourselves. There are these unsettling smells that are produced, so we drown them out in potpourri or some other “natural smell” — note the irony of this practice. Sometimes those nasty smells are produced outside of the sanctity of the bathroom, resulting in even more anxiety.
Like all the mammals of the earth, we are susceptible to the torments of weather and natural disasters. We often die in blizzards, thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and earthquakes. We try to protect ourselves from this deadly stuff, and usually we do a pretty good job, but sometimes we fail.
When we do fail, the result is a disaster, because people die from something completely beyond their control. None of the living beings on this earth have any conscious agency in the patterns of the weather. What a scary sense of powerlessness.
And finally on a somewhat less serious note, like all the mammals of the earth, our bodies have hair on them. We’re somewhat more at ease with this fact, though, because of the degree to which we can control this reality. We have “haircuts” or “hairdos.” Most men don’t have hair on their faces. Women definitely do not have hair on their faces. Nor do women have hair under their arms or on their legs. And if they do, there is something wrong.
I could go on, but I’ll end here. My point is that we are more like the other creatures of this earth that we so mercilessly live above than we are willing to acknowledge. But we have erected so many customs and practices and conventions and institutions to shield us from this fact that it appears as though we are not living within an ecosystem, with a variety of other living creatures, but rather above that ecosystem.
We have put ourselves on a separate plane. We have made ourselves into gods. But this is a destructive mentality, and we cannot sustain ourselves and the earth if we continue to perceive ourselves as being above it. We must bring ourselves back down to reality, acknowledge that we are a part of a living earth, and learn to live within, rather than above, that earth.

Joseph Malherek is a senior in political science and welcomes comments to [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]