The Human Centrifuge- 3 mins
On Being episodes
- Michel Martin on “The Fabric of Our Identity”
- His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Jonathan Sacks, Katherine Jefferts Schori, and Seyyed Hossein Nasr on “Pursuing Happiness”
- Richard Rodrigues on “The Fabric of Our Identity”
Now I list these out here, I realize the sessions in Chautauqua may all have the same name.
There’s a conversation about the human identity which it seems the human is drifting away from with the passage of time. These conversations all held similar views on this. From Richard Rodirigues’ take on food, and how the food nurture trail of every ingredient adds or removes from the taste of the meal at the end, through the happiness conversation interwoven through four faiths, to the way we treat the other in the conversation with Michel Martin… all conversations show that humanity has a center, of sorts. Yet each instance of humanity, through time, has found genius ways to drift further away. And in all these ways, one common ground underpinning each vice through time is the notion of “the other”. This introduction of “the other” into the narrative provides the necessary dissonance to act “against”. Some examples through these conversations are the whiteness and blackness dichotomy which plagued Gen X in the US, or the producer-distributor divide Richard Rodrigues points to in the food industry. And we have created systems to solidify this; as Jonathan Sacks would point out. In the worst cases of human degradation, the self defines itself as the other. Now this, there’s little who return from here. Now, some of us may be reading this and thinking the situation is far-fetched from our current situation. But consider this, every time a country needs to make a decision on who should be the next ruler / ruling class, there’s an internal divide on choice. The self (country) often defines itself as “the other”, and antagonizes itself; and we (individuals) are well oiled cogs in this mechanism.
The wisdom of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, provides a solution though. I cannot put it in words as wise as his, so I’d encourage you to listen to the episodes yourself; especially the unedited version. In my terms, the self and the other are all one. Both have different traits, but both are necessary for the total being of the self. It is difficult to “self” as a word different from “other”, since one is just the under-face of the other. Consider a coin. When paying with the coin, you place the coin on the table. If the face that is up constantly gloats to the face that sees the table saying “I can see the light. You are stuck with darkness,” then goes on to dissociate itself from its under-face (assuming this is possible), the coin as a whole loses value. However, when the up-face, and the under-face of the coin stick together, the coin itself is valued more than the up-face or the under-face individually. Same with the self and the other. The self must be able to recognize the other, as the other must be able to recognize the self. Both must work together to realize the essence of being.
Somehow, in some way, we have to create this human “being” centrifuge which brings us back into what it means to be human. With all the technology around us, and the advancements intelligence has made over the centuries, surely there’s a way to connect to human to its basal realities. I do not have answers to how this can be done. But I am hopeful that it can be. One way you can help create this centrifuge is simply… meet someone new, learn about their story, share yours. Together, we can recapture what it means to be human.