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The human spirit

Sometimes people act in ways others find to be inexplicable, inspiring, overwhelming. Moments of self-sacrifice, compassion, grace, strength of character. We seem stunned and taken aback by it: that someone would act selflessly in a way that suggests a deeper sense of humanity and meaning to their actions.

When that happens, it’s often a wonderful beacon of hope – faith in the human spirit to act in ways that transcend the commercial, calculated behaviours we more commonly see.

It’s clearly inspirational to see people rise above the more obvious responses to situations and choose to offer something so different based on their own sense of what’s important, what matters, and what’s worthwhile. We can get so caught up in ‘how things are’ and all the logical, psychological, or social justifications for human behaviour that we forget there’s another way.

And it’s fascinating. There’s so much bad in the world, and most of it can be chalked up to human nature. Yet the human spirit is also capable of something quite different.

I’ve spoken a few times here about hope, human worth and paths we take in life (see Notes One), all of which tie into this. I mean, in the face of life we have choices: we can act based on examples we may have seen, on how we see others acting, on what seems acceptable or might gain us admiration from certain quarters; or we can act on our ideas, our ideals, our understanding, our beliefs.

It’s another fascinating part of life: that we can choose our own path. We can choose to uplift or destroy. We can choose to believe what we want about life, existence, and the importance of our place within it. We can choose despair or release. We can let ourselves be shaped by things, or we can choose to shape them ourselves. In many ways, the paths we walk are down to us (Notes Two).

And, of course, all of that impacts the world around us: our choices, our actions, our attitudes, and the meanings evident behind them become part of the world we’re creating together. Not just for us, but for everything that forms part of our existence.

We may be but a single person, and the logic of the world may say we make little difference. But it does seem that when people act on a different sense of meaning, we generally notice it. Whether that’s someone more widely acknowledged, or the quieter examples we all offer one another in our everyday lives.

Something inexplicable may prompt people to create beautiful gestures of hope, offering them up to others as inspiration and reassurance that there’s more to life. While something else may lead others to destroy those things, just because they can. Human nature and human spirit seem at odds: one often pointing to despair, the other giving cause for hope.

Do I have a point here? Only that it matters, and not to give up hope that we all make a difference.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Hope as a force to lead us onward
Note 1: Intrinsic worth over social identity
Note 1: What makes a good life
Note 2: Spirit as the invisible
Note 2: We may as well laugh
Note 2: Need to stand alone & think for ourselves

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