Does anyone else think this is a very strange question? Am I the only one who longs to reply ‘No, I’m actually an alien from the planet Zorg”?
Of course, I get it. I am simply being required to confirm I am not a robot or a computer programme. But surely ‘ticking a box’ is not beyond the wit of a robot? In fact automatic box ticking is exactly the task I’d expect of a computer programme.
But ‘confirm humanity’? Really? By ticking a box? Isn’t there slightly more to it than that?
How do I confirm my humanity? What does being a human look like in terms of every day life?
I know I’m not a plant, a bumble bee or a robot. But what is it that makes me different from these? What is this quality of ‘humanity’ I am being asked to confirm?
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the first National Mindfulness Day Conference for Christians in London. The first speaker the Rev Shaun Lambert, said mindfulness ‘works’ because you already have three inate psychological capacties that can be enhanced through practise.
I’ve been thinking about these capacitites and wonder iF these are what make me human.
First: I have self-awareness: I know who I am, I know I’m finite, I can reflect on my thoughts, feelings and motivations.
Secondly: I have self-regulation – from infancy onwards I have learnt to regulate my thoughts, emotions, appetites and discipline my effort towards constructive goals eg (diet, exercise, learning) OR not as the case may be . A toddler has very little self regulation, they are tired or hungry and boy, will they let the whole world know. A teenager similarly has not made a huge leap forward in terms of self regulation and, let’s face it, alot of adults struggle with this. Nevertheless it IS still a capacity you do have, you have developped it already (at least a little bit) and with practise you could develop it further.
Thirdly: I can self-transcend – No, that doesn’t mean levitating 2 ft off the floor in a cross-legged trance like state! It simply means I have the capacity to ‘step’ outside of my experience and enter other peoples’ expereinces with sympathy, empathy and compassion. I can feel their pain and joy. I am connected to them. The opposite of self-transcendence is self absorbtion. However your capacity to self transcend doesn’t only connect you to the ‘other who is just like you’ (even though of course,they may be completely different from you in terms of race/culture/belief/gender/sexuality but recogising they are the same as you in their human essence is surely the first lesson in ‘humanity’ – miss this connection and you’ve pretty much ruled yourself out of ‘humanity’ in all the senses of kindness, generosity, equality carried by that word).
But it’s not just connected to other human beings. It is also the capacity to connect with an ‘other who is not at all like me: God himself/herself’. This connection we call ‘spirituality’. And I think all of us have it, whether we believe in God or not. Buddists are spiritual and they don’t believe in God. Spirituality is merely a capacity. It’s an open awareness or consent to the possibility of a greater reality, we are not all there is in the world, we do not have all the answers, nor will we ever. Christian faith is embracing and choosing to believe what Christians have come to understand about God. Many people see it as a set of beliefs to which they are required to give intellectual assent but in fact it is a way of living, walking and loving: a practise that increases our capacity to self-transcend. A way of being that calls us to become more fully human, the best human we can be.
Jesus gave one all encompassing instruction to his followers: ‘Love God and Love other people’. Not ‘know God and know other people’ not ‘recognise God and recognise other people’ but Love God and Love other people.
Love is an action, it is also a way of knowing and a way of recognising but it’s so much more: it’s an action and it’s an attitude towards that individual.
Surely it’s against these two actions that I ‘confirm my humanity’?
Can I tick the box now?