It’s hard being human. We have minds that think. There are emotions and desires that stir and motivate us. We are sentient and aware of ourselves and our relationship in time and space. Our realities and experiences are as varied as each individual, yet we have a commonality that binds us together. All of this seems to indicate that humans should be happy that they are apparently the pinnacle of creation.
Yet, we are not happy. We are a conflicted lot, internally as well as externally. Externally, it’s easy to see how very disturbed we are. Watch the news or read a newspaper, (if you can find one). Every day people are being abused, robbed, murdered or taken advantage of by others. Wars are waged in the name of whatever the cause du jour is. (For some reason people seem to think that if you kill people peace will break out.) The privileged oppress those who are not. Greed and lust for power are systemic ills that are deeply embedded in virtually every culture. Yeah, it’s hard to be human.
Internally, we wage our own private wars against ourselves. Many of us live in cultures that value things like integrity and character. We have set up ideals that we aspire to attain. But, we can never seem to grasp them. We denounce greed, yet desire more. Mention lust and people gasp and put their hand over their mouth. Our eyes, however, crave to see and our hands to hold that object of our desire. Voices cry out against injustice. In that inner most part of us, though, there is another voice that laughs at it. Our appetites rule us and our desires drive and motivate us. Then, we wake up the next morning and our heads hurt and our bodies ache and we wonder what the hell just happened. It’s still hard to be human.
If these observations of mine are not true, then why are there so many self-help groups, gurus, counselors and therapists, churches and para-church organizations and books in the millions designed to inspire and motivate us to be ‘better’? In the particular religious culture that I spent many years immersed in, they would say, “Just read your Bible and pray.” They seemed to think that the Bible was some sort of talisman and prayer a kind of magic that could ward off the evil of the flesh and this ‘present generation. Shame and guilt were used to keep the flock in line. These, of course, do nothing but add to the inner conflict of people who are already hurting. Not only am I battling my inner ‘demons,’ now I’m also a bad person for having these thoughts and feelings. This, too, is a form of abuse. Damn, it’s hard being human!
I don’t think that it has ever been easy to be human. Our species has endured a lot of adversity over the millennia that we’ve been present on this planet. Nature has been against us. We have been against each other. Drought, famine, war…it seems like there are always battles to fight. Yet, we have survived. In fact, some would say that we are thriving is spite of the adversity.
As, I was praying this morning these thoughts came to my mind. I shared them with God saying, “It’s hard to be human.” And, I didn’t hear any disagreement. I think this may be because God now knows what it’s like to wear a body of flesh and bone. The Creator has experienced the reality of the created. Reading the stories that recount God’s sojourn among us, I am struck by the fact that Jesus’ life was not easy. He wandered around Palestine and probably wondered more than once where his next meal would come from. Hated and despised by his own culture, he continued to press on. Those who, like himself, were on the fringes of society…the people who were hurting and marginalized…he loved and cared for. And, he encouraged them to persevere and to continue to put one foot in front of the other. He didn’t offer spiritual platitudes and magic to remove the obstacles that confronted them. He said, “Go, and stop sinning,” or “take up your cross and follow me.” I think that Jesus realized that the only way people could live and thrive was to take on adversity head on and to do the necessary work to deal with it. I suppose that means when the external injustices rise up to crush people, we stand against them. Maybe, the internal appetites and desires will always, always, always be with us. Our lives will be spent in the muck of living. We’re going to be confronted with desires that we must resist. There will be cravings that must be tempered with self-control. We must then confront these things with whatever strength we can muster. Difficult? Yeah. But, whoever said it was easy…to be human?