Isn’t the question of what it means to be human one of the first and perhaps biggest we ever ask? In a way, isn’t the whole of life – from youth to old age – our attempt at finding or creating answers to it? This world of theories, priorities, beliefs, practices, attitudes and actions that together make up our response as to what life is and how we should live it.
As if we are, in a way, the answer to our own question: “this” is how we’re living; the faces we’re offering one another; the things we believe matter most or think we can get away with. Society perhaps being the embodiment of our collective, inherited “answer” for how to live. Aren’t we forever being taught, explicitly and implicitly, how we should be valuing all we find around us?
Attempting to untangle the relationship between individuals and society is fascinating (Notes One). Presumably, society “must” be built around the personal and collective needs of individuals? All the things we require, plus all those activities that promise to make our lives better: progress, development, improvement. Everyone playing their part, it seems possible both sets of needs can be met.
Yet, for some reason, it often seems the world – society – doesn’t really value us that highly; that we’re forever trying to earn back or demonstrate our own worth. A topsy-turvy social reality where we’re expected to fight for our worth within these value systems of culture, wealth and security – our status, acceptance and peace constantly being reset in a never-ending climb against novelty, marketing and time.
Is human worth to be the foundation or the product of society? Do we have it as a given, or is this something we’re working our way up to each day? Shouldn’t the answers to such questions be baked into the very heart of society? Woven deeply within all we’re thinking, doing and passing on throughout each moment. Is our foundational assumption that life matters, or can that be questioned? (Notes Two)
Doesn’t the value of human existence need to be the solid, unquestionable bedrock of any healthy society? That life and all that happens to each one of us is meaningful. It seems strange to feel the need to argue that the value of our lives isn’t defined by the social, cultural or economic ideals currently surrounding us – what are those things if not society’s reflection of our worth? (Notes Three)
Taking it back to the individual, isn’t every instance of human life – beyond any flaws, wounds or mistakes – infinitely valuable, precious and filled with unique potential? Each member of humanity, while essentially the same, bearing within them the lived experience of their own path through the undeniably flawed world we created for ourselves (Notes Four).
Maybe it’s not possible to challenge or change this Western value system with its commercial estimations of our worth; leaving us all with the strange task of constantly having to insist on a recognition that could’ve been ours all along.
Notes and References:
Note 1: The self within society
Note 1: Authenticity & writing our own story
Note 1: Mutual awareness and accommodation?
Note 1: Values, and what’s in evidence
Note 2: Do we know what stands before us?
Note 2: Absolute or relative value
Note 2: Losing the sense of meaning
Note 3: The thought surrounding us
Note 3: Where do we get our ideas from?
Note 3: The value we’re giving to things
Note 3: Culture as information
Note 3: Society that doesn’t deal with the soul
Note 4: Personal archaeology
Note 4: Places of belonging & acceptance
Note 4: Understanding what we’re all part of
For thoughts around where we stand in the flow of time and our role in the process of change, there’s Will things change if we don’t make them?