What makes us human?
This is a question that undoubtfully all humans ask themselves at some point? I recently heard a talk about this subject and thought it was well worth exploring. As I am currently working on the new calendar cycle and The Year Ahead, when the famous question – what is it all about? fleetingly raised its head. But was equally quickly succeeded by – What comes next and what are my plans for the year ahead?
It would be highly presumptuous of me to say that there is only one answer, of course, there is not. But the more I listen to experts who study primates in their natural environment and early human civilizations, the boundaries between humans and animals are becoming ever clearer. Not that I see the human species in any way far more important or superior. The Biodynamic way of life sees all species, including plants, worms and even microbes in the soil as part of the WHOLE CYCLE and each play their unique part. But humans have qualities other species simply have not.
Over 70,000 years ago Neanderthals started to use instruments, discovered fire, and even played music. These ‘creative activities’ had not been seen before. This all got even more sophisticated around 48,000 B.C. when the Cro-Magnons – the earliest humans- started to settle in today’s Europe and Africa. Cave paintings and subsequently found tools show us what their civilization would have looked like and more importantly how they lived. Working with fire was by then well established, but this ‘new species’ showed creativity and the ability to plan ahead as no other species had done before.
In his book The Pattern Seekers, Simon Baren-Cohen describes how humans became distinctly different from animals when they started to recognize patterns. And I would argue more importantly when they started to connect the dots. Animals tend to react, but humans plan ahead.
Initially, this ‘planning ahead’ was quite haphazard. But once early man discovered a predictably time-pattern in the sky, i.e. the cycle of the moon, ‘social planning’ became a lot easier. This was a big game-changer. Once tribes knew how to operate these early time measuring tools – proper social planning was really on its way. Here you can find out more about how early humans created their first calendars.
We know that humans were definitely collective beings right from the very start. And there is no reason to believe that this trend is slowing down. Just look at the very recent rise of social media and there is no doubt that humans thrive on collective interactions.
But then certain animal species, of course not all, also share this communal spirit. Just look at how a pack of wolves or lions hunt together and share the prey (or fight over it!). Or how monkeys or whales come together and care for their young.
But what sets humans really apart is the communication of shared experiences. We do like events and we like to share them – live!
This has been the biggest impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. It has taken away the ability to congregate, celebrate, and see ‘live events’ and share ‘in the flesh’-experiences? Technology has made great advances and I am sure we are all grateful for that. But ‘this common energy’ is missing. We don’t communicate just with words, there are so many unspoken cues that are impossible to pick up via a video screen.
I think once we are all vaccinated and free to mingle again, we will treasure this ‘communal energy’ even more than we once did. Especially the senses of touch and smell, which have both been so neglected.
But until then the ‘virtual gatherings’ will prevail and I have finally taken the nudge and together with the new calendars, I have created a VIP Facebook group. At the moment this is on an ‘invitation only’ basis for some members.
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