THE DOMAIN OF HUMAN PURPOSIVENESS

The second episode of the second season of the TV series True Detective opens with one of its protagonists, played by the actor Vince Vaughn, lying in bed and staring at two stains on the ceiling whilst soliloquising in an existential monologue. In the course of the interior narrative, which could be considered a symbolic confession before the eyes of God, the character discloses the absolute vanity of his life.

He lives to make money and obtain land – but why? He cannot take that land with him when he dies, and he has no heirs to leave it to. And even if he had heirs, isn’t that a superficial answer as well?

What he is complaining about is a lack of existential muscle, his life is purposively flabby. After thinking through the dilemma, it is obvious that he needs to revaluate his reasons for living and remake himself.

Like most confessions, however, once made it seems to be forgotten, and when the character reappears some scenes later he is still obsessed with money. Revelations may come to us, but that does not mean they are going to change the way we act. The revelation itself cannot necessarily open the doors that it presents to us. Actually changing the way we act is far more difficult, and one needs to see not just what the existential problem is, but also the purposeful solution to that problem.

As individuals we naturally individualise our problems and, as we live in a civilisation that encourages individualisation, the logical thing would be to do so. Likewise, we live in societies that value and propagate desires for money and what money can buy, and so possessing an obsession with making money is also a logically comprehensive attitude to have in our world. However, when the lust for money becomes a psychological problem, as any addiction is, then that can hardly ever be expected to be overcome through a self-analysis of one’s personality and dreams. Individualising one’s analysis will almost certainly opt for pleasure over duty, even one’s personal duty.

To resolve this protagonist’s anxiety, therefore, the script writers would need to imbue him with another quality, they would have to give him the power to have faith. A character possessing faith would analyse this dilemma from the position of that belief, and morally and psychologically this is always an advantage when dealing with meaningfulness, as long as the faith that one possesses is also a meaningful thing and not a Quixotic fantasy. For faith to be functional at more than an individualistic level or in a sectarian way it needs to more universal in its ambitions, for all faith is a kind of ambition as well.

Faith in humanity gives a clear indication of what the existential problem in the case of this protagonist is: i.e., a disconnection from human purposiveness. In fact, it is this disconnection and the vanity of individual existence it causes that opens the door for us towards the species, toward the human, conscious, thinking entity that grows and progresses together within the all-encompassing home of the species itself.

The domain of human purposiveness, therefore, is in the human. As human beings, individuals will also find their purposiveness there. When individualisation cuts itself off from humanity, it carries itself to the edge of the precipice of nihilism. Once there, the individual can firstly enjoy the freedom of being able to invent whatever fantasy of purpose he or she may want to, or devour the fantasies that others throw at them, but the price to be paid for that freedom will be the loss of authentic purposiveness, which is human purposiveness: a purpose that offers fulfilment found in this world.  

The alienation felt by any individual and the anxieties that alienation causes usually has its roots in a lack of connection with our humanity. Even in religious faith this is a fact, for religions are only authentically purposeful when they focus on humanity as something positive, likewise becoming perilously perverted when their own creeds become forces that confuse and separate humanity rather than bring it together. It is a faith in humanity not God that is needed to tone our existential muscles, and give wings to our purposive-lusting souls.

Faith in Humanity (part two)

(Continued from Part One: Faith in Humanity (part one) | pauladkin (wordpress.com) )

Faith is more than just a mental state: one needs to have confidence in that which one has faith in; confidence that the thing one believes in will be capable of resolving our problems – of saving us.

In order to believe this, one has to be primed into believing it: one has to me made aware of the Scripture, or in our case the Declaration, and, once aware, to appropriate its power. In order to do that, one has to already have a disposition towards it: one needs to be prepared to see and experience reality from a certain perspective, the human perspective, that overrides any antihuman standpoints.

Faith is a stance, and faith in humanity is an authentically human stance. Of course there is no Church of Humanity, and there should not be – nothing could be more absurd. Human ritual is one’s everyday life, applied to the unique experience of being human in the world in a way that glorifies the potential in the absolute whole of that which we all are. With or without a church, faith is an ennobling condition, and it creates a kind of existence that itself arises from the possibilities revealed by the uniquely human way of life. It is a rolling snowball – small at first, quickly growing large and always increasing in size for as long as we can keep pushing it – but, like all snowballs, it is also a very fragile thing that can just as quickly melt away into nothing if it is not cared for. This protective caring can come through faith but faith has to be grounded in practices and in necessities. For faith to exist in an authentic way, there has to be a need for it.

Humanity is in the world, and it needs to be in the world. This is an essential existential fact, and it needs to be taken into consideration in any future amendments to the Declaration of Human Rights and to all humanist thinking. To successfully be able to exist, humanity has to be successful at living in the world.

We think it feasible that faith in Humanity is an essential ingredient to be able to live in the world, and that it is our lack of faith in humanity and our antihuman historical process which has put us in such a dangerous position in terms of our relationship with the Earth. A humanity divided into competing nations and into the different prides of all those nations, cannot overcome the enormous challenges faced by our necessary partnership with the Earth and the protection of its fragile ecosystem. Likewise, our global economic system and its requirement for perpetual growth is also a cancer to the planet. A cancer that needs to be extirpated and its damage healed if Humanity is ever going to triumph.

Faith in Humanity is also a faith that tells us that only through Humanity itself can our partnership with the world be established in a harmonious and fruitful way that will ensure our mutual existence. Humanity contains within itself a tremendous duality of wretchedness and greatness. Humanity’s capacity for freedom allows it to be fervently antihuman, and capable of taking freedom away from itself.

We pursue happiness and associate material pleasures with progress, but that same progress pushes us to the limits of extermination while bringing about the extermination of many other species and causing the direst misery and deaths of many other exploited and enslaved humans. We live in antihuman civilisations that measure their progress according to their comfort and the pleasures they have attained at the expense of the sweat and lives of other human beings, as well as the devastation of the planet we depend on. This duality is our human/antihuman reality, and it causes much despair in the idea of Humanity. The result is that, even in the parts of civilisation that are able to fully enjoy the material fruits of the antihuman system, under the surface people are not happy, because ultimately the antihuman lacks enduring purpose. Without purpose their can be no enduring fulfilment.

Only faith in Humanity will ever ultimately resolve the contradictions of our dualistic nature and the paradox of freedom.         

Faith in Humanity (part one)

Doubt or fith, opposite signs. Two blank opposite signs against blue sky background.

To ask someone to have faith in humanity is not unlike asking them to have faith in God.

This statement sounds absurd: why would we need to have faith in humanity in the first place? Humanity is something that is manifest to us every day; something that we ourselves are a part of – why then should we need to have faith in what we are?

What’s more, we can define ourselves scientifically, as a species, the homo sapiens, animals with self-consciousness that stand erect on two legs and have thumbs and smiles and understand irony etc.. No-one doubts that humanity exists.

But that scientific definition, actually tells us very little about ourselves and our social interactions, purposes and desires. A proper all-encompassing description of humanity would be something else, something harder to grasp – it is our shared humanity that is the fundamental reason why we should be able reach out to each other and why we should feel united with each other. These reasons remain undisclosed, and to believe them requires a certain faith. Humanity (now with a capital H) as something we truly belong to is not a manifest thing, it is an abstraction embedded in Truth, with a capital T. We feel it must exist, and, by believing in it, it can bring meaning to our lives. Doesn’t this sound very much like a rationalisation of faith in God?

Not only is it through Humanity alone that we know Humanity, but it is through Humanity that we come to know ourselves. Without Humanity we do not know what our life, nor our death, nor humanity, nor ourselves really are …

This passage is a direct rewrite of a text by Pascal in which we have swapped the terms God and Jesus Christ with Humanity. The result carries a philosophical coherence, and points to why the Church has historically been so fearful of humanistic thought. However, Pascal, went on to point out that it is through the scriptures, which has Jesus Christ as their object, that God is revealed. Therefore, to continue with this shadowing of Pascal’s thought, we need to ask ourselves what the equivalent of the scriptures would be for Humanity. What written text reveals Humanity?

This is a pertinent question, especially as most of what has been fabricated and taught about the human condition has been stewed from an anti-human point of view, depicting human nature as an egocentrically segregating and separating force, and human beings as vain, competitive creatures. In the anti-human narrative Humanity gets buried, until we can no longer see the forest for the trees. Faith needs its own testimony, a witness that Humanity has never had.

So, what can we, those of us who want to believe in Humanity, base our faith on?

Of course, a great reservoir of humanity exists in the arts and sciences themselves, but not in any clear, defining way other than the testimony their very existence itself gives to what we are, but if we want a clear and concise description of Humanity to build our faith on, we need to look at a document like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

This bill, drawn up by the United Nations in 1948, describes Humanity as the human family, and, if we return to our shadowing of Pascal and his text on the scriptures, we could say that – without the Declaration of Human Rights, which has Humanity as its sole object, we know nothing and see only darkness and confusion in the nature of humanity and in nature itself.

Through a faith in the Declaration, as humanity’s scriptural word, faith in Humanity is revealed. Act according to the commands and orders of the Human Rights and you will start believing in Humanity.

This is the kind of logic that religious faith is built on, but: Is it applicable to the Declaration which was more concerned with guidance for political states than in giving moral advice to individuals? In any case, each article in the Declaration does give us clues as to how a human being should act in human society, and how we should treat the other members of our human family.

Let’s look at the first seven articles:

Article 1: tells us that we should act towards each other in a spirit of brotherhood, respecting each other’s dignity and rights.

Article 2: that the brotherhood has no distinctions of any sort. If you are human you have the same dignity and rights as any other human being and should treat all others accordingly.

Article 3: tells us to respect the life, liberty, and security of all other humans.

Article 4: condemns slavery and servitude, implying that these things are anti-human activities and need always to be condemned.

Article 5: the same is true of torture.

Article 6: states that all humans should have the right to be recognised as persons (and therefore humans). Therefore, to be human yourself, you need to recognise all others as human.

Article 7: all are equal before the law.

Everyone is human, of course, but Faith in Humanity belongs to those who are able to act and live in a Human-faith way, which is according to Human Scripture (the Declaration). Faith demands that one has confidence in the object’s of one’s faith. Humans, of course, often act in anti-human ways, but to have faith in Humanity despite its flaws is certainly no more absurd than to believe in God despite all the flaws in the creation.

(Read part two: Faith in Humanity (part two) | pauladkin (wordpress.com) )