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A Miscellany 100
Why Me?

by Allan W. Janssen

"Humanity has in the course of time had to endure from the hands of science two great outrages upon its naive self-love.  The first was when it realized that our earth was not the center of the universe, but only a speck in a world-system of a magnitude hardly conceivable...  The second was when biological research robbed man of his particular privilege of having been specially created, and relegated him to a descent from the animal world.”

 -- Sigmund Freud  

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There are many and varied characteristics that have been proposed over the years for the difference between humankind and the other species.

Some might argue it is the use of fire, which separates us from our worldly co-inhabitants. 

Others propose the influence of religion in our lives, and still more say it is almost certainly the fact that we have a soul and none of the other living things on this earth are so endowed.

Although the reasons for our differentiation from the "lower" animals are varied, we can go by some basic guidelines. 

One of the things that seem to be unique among humans is the ability to mentally travel outside of ourselves.  To view our surroundings from a perspective other that what we actually see with our eyes. 

We seem able to mentally check-up on others and ourselves.

We are not only the product of our feelings, moods and thoughts, but to a great degree we constantly do a "reality check" on how we present ourselves to others.  Then, (here is the good part) how they might see and think of us! Actually, unless we take "how" we see ourselves into account, we are unable to understand how others see and feel about themselves, or even more important, how they feel about us! 

Because of our unique human capacity for self-awareness, we not only live in this world, but can also transcend it.

The nature of man seems to be controlled by three social factors.  Independently or in combination, they explain the way we relate to the world.

  1. Genetic determinism holds that the actions and ways of our ancestors influence our behavior to a large extent.  In other words, if I have a temper, and also my great grandfather, my grandfather and my father all had a temper; it must be hereditary and passed down through the generations. 

    This is much like saying that having kids is hereditary---in other words, if your parents did not have kids, chances are that you will not either!

  2. Psychic determinism is loosely based on the theories of Freud , in that "what we are" has a lot to do with how we were brought up.  Whatever happens to you in infancy and childhood governs your personality and character from then on.  It regulates things such as our value systems, judgment, and work ethic, or lack thereof!

  3. Environmental determinism is the effect of the world around us on our psyche.  What sort of day you will have is a result of the everyday joys and aggravations of living!  In other words, things that push your buttons are a trigger for your behavior, whether it is good or bad!

The three factors of Genetic, Psychic, and Environmental determinism are the stimuli that govern how we respond to the world.  The lower animals will almost always have the exact same response to certain stimuli.  It is the human trait of having the freedom to choose between the stimulus, and our response to it by the use of self-awareness, that makes people more flexible and unpredictable.

Here within this freedom of choice are the endowments that make us uniquely human.  We judge and shade our response to life and living with the implementation of a "conscience.”  A sense of right and wrong governed by the principals that shape our behavior. 

We also employ "imagination" to step outside the confines of here and now, and a healthy dose of "independent will" so that we can act free of outside influences.

Animals have none of these parameters.  Their response to outside stimuli is on a more basic level.  They are like a pre-programmed computer that relies on instinct and training.  They cannot change their programming to any great degree because they are not even aware of it!

History shows no greater influence on us than the events and forces that have produced the ever-increasing complexity of modern society.

This ability to make change occur is at the heart of humanities long struggle up the evolutionary ladder.

The recent leap to a new and different kind of life and intelligence is a road that began many thousands of years ago. It has now turned into something of which our distant ancestors were only dimly aware. 

The mere fact that evolution favors the many and is hard on the individual led to the first human cries of Lebenschmerz, or why me!

It accounts for all the conjecture, stories and fables concerning the purpose of life, and of humanity's fate. 

Since the dawn of our existence, it is this cry in the wilderness.  The wonder and mystery of the human condition that eventually led to the advent of self-awareness and free will!

It is no wonder humanities united cry is "why me!”

To which God answers: