156 – Humans

Click the video above for 2 minutes of background waves while reading.

I like to walk on the beach. It is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

I enjoy being alone on the beach in the early morning. The air is fresh and crisp, plus fellow beach walkers are few and far between. The sun is low in the sky, therefore not intense. My mind is clear because the day has not filled it with clutter.

These conditions and looking over the vast water offer a time when the mind can contemplate deep thoughts – even philosophical ones. What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Where are we going? Is there life after death? What is my purpose? What is the purpose of humanity? What makes humans unique? What qualities make humans human?

Photo by Lukas Rychvalsky on Pexels.com

The last two questions occupy my mind as I stroll the packed sand while waves wash over my feet. What qualities distinguish us from other living things? On the other hand, let us not forget the many characteristics we share with other living things.

My biology background influences my thoughts. Biological classification comes to mind. Do you remember kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species? How about its mnemonic device: Katy put cat out for getting smart? Biologists use this system to classify living things based on similarities and differences in structure. Do you recall seeing scientific names (in Latin) at zoos, botanical gardens, and plant nurseries?

I think about how humans are animals first, but far from the only ones. We also join other animals as vertebrates and mammals – and we are not the only primates. We finally get to the genus Homo, but we aren’t the only members of that genus. Have you heard of Neanderthals?

We, humans, are Homo sapiens – a unique organism. Let us not forget that the living world is full of organisms having their uniqueness. After all, red maple trees’ unique characteristics separate them from other maple species. Each of the different clam species is also unique. Uniqueness is not exclusive to humans, but we have our uniqueness.

I walk the beach with two feet and swinging arms to help maintain my balance. My upright spine, bowl-shaped pelvis, and specialized feet do free my hands to do a multitude of tasks. These are uniquely human.

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Most of our cells have 23 like-pairs of chromosomes composed of DNA. More pairs are not better or worse. Besides, a handful of other organisms also have this chromosome number – so that does not make us unique.

Comparing DNA shows our commonality with the crabs, fish, birds, and jellyfish that I see, but small DNA differences lead the way to make us human – and our uniqueness.

Some will say our language is part of our uniqueness. However, we know other animals have verbal and nonverbal communication. I think about the many words and vocal fluctuations we use – let alone the number of different languages and dialects. Surely our voice box structure must be unique.

We not only can learn other languages, but we can also express ourselves through writing, symbols, many art forms, and a variety of technologies. After all, I’m posting this on a blog to be read and commented on by others around the world and in real time.

I pass a small sand crab with uniquely specialized structures diligently working to construct a hole. I wonder if the crab uses any tools. Then again, maybe its unique structures are its tools.

We know that using tools is not uniquely human. Cracking open a nut with a rock is one thing, but how many other organisms can redesign the tool to improve it? What other organisms can make a tool to make other tools? How many other organisms can design and construct a complex machine that is a series of tools?

Photo by Kim Stiver on Pexels.com

I think about how we humans have a sense of morality – a conscience of right and wrong – a sense of fairness, cooperation, and reliance on others with accompanying reciprocity. We aren’t the only social organisms, but do other social organisms take interaction to our level?

I think about how humans not only have a culture, but a variety of cultures fill the human world. Cultures are about shared attitudes, values, social norms, conventions, goals, behaviors, beliefs, celebrations, and social practices shared by people in a time and place. This includes aspects of life such as language, food, dress, customs, arts, music, rituals, mannerisms, behaviors, attitudes, and more – even laws. Humanity has many cultures today – and even more when looking through the lens of history.

The past six paragraphs lead me to that gray and white wrinkly mass between our ears. The human brain isn’t the largest – so size doesn’t matter. Other animal brains also have extensions of nerves and senses detecting their outer and inner environments. However, our more developed outer cortex allows us to understand and interact with our world. Human interaction requires communication, reasoning, problem-solving, social relations, imagination, emotions, creativity, and culture. Yes – the human brain is much of our uniqueness.

What other organisms can build a museum to display their creations or look back at history? What other organisms can ponder deep philosophical questions and even establish meaning? What other organisms can think about these thoughts while walking on the beach, then record them for publishing on a blog to be read globally? These feats are due to our uniqueness – uniqueness courtesy of our brain. No wonder we are Homo sapiens: the one who knows – who is wise.

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We are pretty good at developing many technologies, but also at enhancing technologies and dealing with a wide variety of its problems. Of course, I must also recognize that history shows that many of these uniquely human traits also have a lengthy list of downside possibilities. Let us also not forget the negative displays of humanity’s dark side we see daily.

While walking today, I saw dolphins in the sea, pelicans diving into the water, seagulls soaring, sanderlings scampering, and a heron staring out to sea. All of them with characteristics that are uniquely them. However, I do not doubt that our ability to be philosophical and think about and develop meaning is something they can’t do. Toss in theological and philosophical aspects complicates any discussion, but those thoughts are abstract enough, I question if any other living organism can deeply ponder these thoughts.

Focusing on human uniqueness has been deep and worthy of my time. For me, the day is still young, so I will be returning because I like walking on the beach, which is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

See what other bloggers have posted about Humans

Next Post: Humans v2 – Wednesday 16th November @ 1 AM (Eastern US)

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87 thoughts on “156 – Humans”

  1. Humans are basically the same, deep down, we all want to to be safe, happy and loved we all wish that for our loved ones, and mostly to all. Then comes , Cultures are about shared attitudes, values, social norms, conventions, goals, behaviors, beliefs, celebrations, and social practices shared by people in a time and place. This includes aspects of life such as language, food, dress, customs, arts, music, rituals, mannerisms, behaviors, attitudes, and some people making it an issue to cause havoc. We forget we are humans…good, bad, sad and happy with out own problems. These days I often think, why cannot just live in peace and except other just as humans…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ritva,
      I appreciate your comment because there is much to being human – and you included that. Like you, it’s the havoc part that is difficult to understand – and some of it (maybe much of it) comes down to the selfish quest for power and control over others.

      Like

  2. We’re an interesting bunch, Frank. Quirky, too! We have our dark sides, but even the most placid of animals can turn. Not that that makes our dark sides right, but perhaps they are some kind of warped defence mechanism. I don’t know… just a pondering thought. I much prefer the fun and the light myself.
    Another thoughtful walk, Frank… thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tom,
      Thanks for the wonderful comment. We definitely have a dark side, which has created the battles of good vs evil battles. After all, isn’t that Stars Wars? Harry Potter? … and countless other films and literature? On the other hand, defense mechanisms are not warped. Sometimes I wonder if selfishness helps kick that in.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Biology and beach lessons all in one post, love it. Thank you for all the details to ponder. Not to belittle all the key points you shared, but one stuck out when you talked about swinging your arms to help with balance. Did you also know that the inability or lack of arm swinging is an indicator of dementia? You’re right that powerful chunk of fat in our skull is something special and unique. We should treasure and nourish it to help us function well for our entire lives here on earth.
    PS – welcome back to blogging, I missed your return post, glad to be able to stop here today to read this one!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Shelley,
      I do have a biology background, so it has a tendency to come through. I had no idea about the link between the lack of arm swinging and dementia. Wow … and thanks for sharing. Thank you for the kind words about the walk and the welcome back. If you get time, I invite you to go back one post (Perspective) because I returned last weekend – and I mention my absence at the beginning. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoy early morning walks, too, when there are few humans around. 😏
    We are unique, but it seems almost daily I’m reminded about how little we know. It also seems that we are learning more and more about the other species around us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Merril,
      You’ve enjoyed morning walks for a long time – and I applaud you for that joy! There is something very peaceful about encountering a few others when on a morning walk. As you know, it increases our awareness of the surroundings. Meanwhile, we know both so much and so little … therefore so much more to learn.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Did you write about ridles ? I did in an april 2021 article titled:
            “How could we not silly blind sunbathe at the seaside? “- part 2 , in Radaghast’s world.

            Like

      1. Did you write about ridles ? I did in an april 2021 article titled:
        “How could we not silly blind sunbathe at the seaside? “- part 2 , in Radaghast’s world.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Dan,
      Glad you are walking along on this fall morning. We are so wise, yet there are definitely times causing us to wonder! Personally, I believe much comes down to the selfish need for power and control. I’m not a Trekkie, but I recall one of the Star Trek films when humans and Vulcans met for the first time – and how they were appalled and confused on why we favored fighting to solve problems rather than using our minds. That has stuck with me for a long time!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Your post made me think of what Joan Tollifson once observed: “People fight wars for peace and take heroin to avoid suffering. No other animal gets this confused, because no other animal is capable of such complex thinking.” Sometimes I think animals are lucky because they aren’t so burdened with pondering about meaning and can simply live their lives without angst. But then perhaps they miss out on experiencing joy, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I seldom am near the beach to stroll, but if I lived near the ocean I would be walking the beaches early each day to avoid being disturbed by other humans. When I view nature my thoughts venture to God and what a beautiful world he created for us to enjoy. Being alone is my time to destress and forget about the world man created and focus on the world God created.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lots to think about in your post. At times I think “what a pit of work is man.” At other times I am in awe of what we create. Then there is the Great British Baking Show, which always restores my faith in humanity. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. One of the other separators is that humans use language for cursive and comedy. We journey with absolutely no concrete purpose a lot of the time and yet, we find things that spur us into action in so many ways. We are the most random of creatures, for better and worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for walking again, Frank. I agree we are unique and complex creatures, but we are not the crown of evolution. We are destroying ourselves and our home, Planet Earth. Nature or God made some big mistakes there…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ann-Christine,
      Thank you for walking along! I’m right with you … we are unique, complex, and have made more than our fair share of mistakes … and we are definitely not at the top of the biological hierarchy. However, I wanted to focus on our uniqueness, which is not superiority!

      Like

  10. Enjoyed the beach sounds, the walk, and the video, Frank. We are absolutely unique and complex, but neither is an excuse for not being kind to each other. I hope our world figures that out before it is too late. We need to all be more Human! As unique and complex as we are, it really is that simple.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I know we humans are the big deal on the planet. We don’t deserve it.
    We create wars, and we have polluted the planet to the extent of climate change.
    Individually I like many people. En masse…. mmmmm…. not so much.
    We need to smarten up!
    Our true stupidity is that it seems like we never will. Greed, avarice and tribalism surpasses decency.
    Great post, Frank, in the sense that it promotes in depth thinking about humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You do know how to come up with some deep questions…and even some answers! We do seem rather proud of our unique abilities (some of which you enumerated), but I don’t think enough humans consider the important complexities of the biosphere and how other unique species (all of them) make this a livable planet. We doom too many of them, and someday it could well doom us. We may love museums and examining the past, but don’t seem to learn from it and apply those to our potential future. We seem to be as short-sighted as any other creature – maybe more so!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I agree with your observations and would add another. We adapt and change our behavior based on external conditions but also our internal landscape. We rise above instinct, suppress fear and react with reason… it is kind of stepping outside our “programming”!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This was a deep dive kind of post Frank…..I’m not so sure we are as unique as we like to think we are. All creatures and even everything in nature WANTS to survive – it’s natural to want to but humans seem to be doing a good job of ruining the chances of survival of so many things on the planet. I wonder sometimes just how much pressure life around us can take before it blows away in the wind……

    Pam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pam,
      Yes – all living things are on a quest not only to survive, but to survive to be able to reproduce so the species can continue. It’s true for plants, animals, fungi, and countless microbes … and ALL living things have uniqueness that helps their survival. The human brain is a large part of our uniqueness, but the way we are wired also allows for a negative side of choices – and we have our share.

      Like

  15. Interesting walk, Frank. Of course, I can’t comment without bringing up the religious part of this subject. Humans, we’re told, were created in God’s own image and likeness — that’s what makes us special!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I like how you said your biology background influences your thoughts. That’s so funny, i was thinking when I was reading one of your previous posts that you must have a background in science. I enjoyed this week’s focus on human uniqueness. I read something when I was really young that has stayed with me my whole life, and it is that the thing that separates humans from all other living creatures is our tongue. Our ability to articulate knowledge and build on it, to communicate in all ways and means and forms. What do you think of that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lenora,
      Depending on the topic, my science background shows up – so does my teaching experience. I chuckle at the thought of you wondering about it. 🙂 Your point about the tongue is very interesting. As you noted, communication is an important aspect of humanity. Yes, the tongue is vitally important – as would be the muscles structures allowing us to change the shape of our lips and cheeks for speech – and might as well toss in the facial muscles for a variety of expressions. On the other hand, the brain, where speech starts, has to be organized for speech. So yes, it’s not just the brain! Well done and thanks for sharing!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Our ability to ponder is a wonder thing yes but it is also a curse. A curse because so often we cannot find the peace that other creatures seem to enjoy but then we do not know their struggle. We judge everything based on our criteria. And that as well is a blessing and a curse.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. The information you’ve shared fills me with wonder at the complexity of all living things. I think to NOT be in wonder would be a tremendous loss. We have so much that we share in common with other living things and the differences can be immense or subtle, but they are all to be appreciated. I love this post, Frank. You have some very deep thoughts while you’re walking on the beach.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I never learned: “Katy put cat out for getting smart?” That’s wonderful. I have no idea how I remembered: “Kingdom, blah blah blah, Species” but I did. Something to ponder as I take a walk today, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Lovely and thought-provoking walk, Frank. Thank you. 🙂 The more time I spend with the other-than-human, the more I wonder about what we don’t know about the other inhabitants we share this planet with.

    Liked by 1 person

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