Thursday, 29 November 2007

The Ultimate Art of Being Human

It is well known that the eccentric Cynic philosopher Diogenes, who had a passion for virtue and natural living, was walking around in the daylight with a lighted lantern. When asked why he was doing it, he used to answer, “I am searching for a MAN”. Apparently, even in Diogenes’ days, true men, i.e. human beings with a virtuous character, were something scarce. 

An anecdote about him says that one day he called out for men in order to teach them. When people gathered, Diogenes started hitting out at them with his stick, saying, “It was men I called for, not scoundrels.” 
What was Diogenes looking for? He was looking for people who had realized their true spiritual nature and had submitted their ego with its petty desires and carnal appetites to the dictates of their Higher Self.

Being born in the family of Hominidae, i.e. being a bipedal primate having language and the ability to make and use tools, does not automatically make one HUMAN. Far from it! Possessing humanoid features does not in itself guarantee that one thinks, speaks, feels and acts as a HUMAN...
Evolving from mere humanoid existence to the lofty HUMAN state is a long and difficult evolutionary process; it is an art - the highest of arts! “How graceful man is when he is a MAN”, said Menander. Being HUMAN means being sapient, i.e. a true ‘homo sapiens’ and a humane person.

Nietzsche saw man as a rope stretched out above the abyss - a rope between the beast on one hand and the ‘overman’ on the other. ‘Overman’, according to Nietzsche, is the ideal superior man and is the goal of human evolution. However, the evolution towards becoming fully HUMAN does not come automatically, simply by virtue of time elapsed. In other words, the ‘overman’ will not be produced as a result of the blind function of the evolutionary process. On the contrary, it is a matter of choice and conscious effort for man to become ‘overman’, says Nietzsche.

If this is the case, how then could one become an ‘overman’?
In other words, how could one realize the full human potential? 
Which are the methods and the tools of learning the ultimate art of being HUMAN? 
How could man learn the art of keeping one’s balance on the rope between the ‘beast’ and the ‘overman’? 

From time immemorial, great philosophers, mystics, prophets and saints had agonized over this question. Some had come closer to the truth than others, although none of them laid out a blueprint as to how one could actually become ‘overman.’ Not that we need blueprints for Self Realization, anyway. The perfect ‘blueprint’ is to be found within us, and it is written on our spirit. It is up to us to be willing to study it, and implement the wisdom found therein on our lives.

As in every art, whereby the artist is born with the talent but needs to cultivate it by learning certain rules and by daily practice, so it is with the ultimate art of being HUMAN. The ‘talent’, i.e. the seed of excellence, is inherent, but it needs cultivation and practicing in order to blossom and bring forth the spiritual fruits that are the characteristics of the ‘overman’, or the spiritual man, to use the language of the Bible. 

Diogenes was searching for a man of virtue, and Nietzsche was looking for the ‘overman’, i.e. a human who could rise above himself and be something greater and nobler than he was. Jesus was pointing to the ‘inner man’, calling people to be born of the spirit, in order to be easier for them to become virtuous.
In effect, all philosophers and mystics were talking about the same lofty goal: virtuousness.

The founders of World Religions set up specific rules in order for men to become virtuous, so that they might avoid God’s punishment in this life or in the Hereafter. This, in my opinion, has had adverse results. You cannot intimidate people into virtue. Oh, no! Fear, even fear of God, is not a fertile ground where the flowers of virtue may naturally blossom. One must be willing to become virtuous out of LOVE for one’s Higher Self, without expecting any rewards from it
In fact, expecting rewards, whether physical or metaphysical, blocks the way to enlightenment and Self Realization. If you forget about rewards and benefits and just fall in love with Creation and your Higher Self, then you are well on the way to enlightenment.

One must be grateful for being born in human form. What a privilege! 
One must be overwhelmed for being granted with the potential of becoming a god! What a blessing! One must be filled with gratitude for being given the mission of becoming the light of the world! What a lofty responsibility! 
One must be ecstatic for being born with the destiny to become the embodiment of God’s love for humanity and all creatures. What a divine assignment! 
One must be melting with joy for participating in this awesome festival of God’s wonderful Creation! 
If the realization of all the foretold privileges does not awaken in us the intense desire to become all that we humans were meant to be, then no set of outwardly imposed rules and regulations can effect genuine virtuousness.

The fist decisive step towards Self Realization is solitude. Unless a human becomes his own best friend and takes delight in solitude, thereby looking within and discovering the wonders of one’s higher nature, one does not stand many chances of activating the evolutionary process of becoming an ‘overman’. 
This does not mean becoming an ascetic. Not at all! Nor does it mean starving and suppressing one’s natural instincts. In fact, such an attempt would have the opposite effects. It simply means not being anxious about finding the truth or ‘salvation’ externally, and stop running around to theological or philosophical lectures, churches, libraries, ‘holy’ places, etc. All these help ONLY if one also spends enough time with oneself in quietness.

Why solitude? Because “The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil,” said the great inventor Thomas Edison. 
“The departure from the world is regarded not as a fault, but as the first step into that noble path at the remotest turn of which illumination is to be won,” said Joseph Campbell.

Winning illumination in solitude will prepare one for developing one’s full human potential and exhibiting all those virtues that are the characteristics of a HUMAN. Being great in this life has nothing to do with becoming famous, or wealthy, or popular. In fact, fame, riches and popularity could be obstacles towards Self Realization. Becoming great has to do with developing the full potential of humanhood! And for this, we do need solitude, at least from time to time. “A solitude is the audience chamber of God,” said Walter Landor. And oh, how do we desperately need to have an audience with God! “In quietness and in trust shall be your strength”, says the Bible. (Isaiah, 30:15) 
Not only do we gain illumination in solitude, but also we gain strength!

The critical question now is how many people in our era realize their full potential of humanhood. Having a close look at our culture we can easily find the bitter answer. And another, more crucial, question to which we must sincerely answer to ourselves is whether we prefer to remain mere humanoids rather than strive to learn and practice the ART of being HUMAN. 

If we long for a more humane society, we must first strive to be humane ourselves. 
Every true and lasting social progress starts from the spiritual evolution of the individual. 
Those who do nothing to adorn their character with true virtues have no right of complaining and criticizing others for the social and international ills that have hidden the Sun of Righteousness.

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