Humanism – a Threatened Awareness


The last post about not touching each other’s lives is symptomatic of our time. There was a time when a person needed another person to help with life, to generate a sense of wholeness. Granted and without question, a fulfilled life is still a universal experience but, for example, when one looks for a new friend recommended by Facebook, something subtle is missing. Increasingly, we tend to turn to frozen food solutions rather than bake from scratch.

Mariner certainly leverages the huge amount of free data available on the Internet. He can become, for practical purposes, knowledgeable in any subject. Does that define him as a valuable commodity? Does it reflect a life’s work through time commitment? Does it define him as a scholar with years of study, reading and human dialogue? No. The Internet and the cloud is a giant frozen food factory. The missing dimension is the three-dimensional experience as we move through time, space, commitment, people, and the finer edges of worthiness, sympathy, empathy and experiencing the ethos of humanness.

Anthony Bourdain had a television series called “Parts Unknown” wherein he traveled around the world visiting unique cultures and sampling the differences in cuisine. Mariner began watching the series in 2013. Tony freely admitted his difficulties with drugs and alcohol which set a framework for watching Tony as much as where he went. Over the years viewers watched as Tony mellowed, became less mechanical and eventually looked forward to the opportunity to share life with his series guests. Tony died on June 8, 2018. No matter how efficient a process is, it takes time for a human being to become valuable – not only to others but to one’s self.

The recognizable human creature has been around for about 200,000 years. The story of those years is one where very slowly humans mastered the environment and invented tools that expanded human capability. In recent times, say about the last 3,000 years, tools have become more sophisticated and have altered core behavior in humans. Just a few oversimplified examples reflect this: There was a time when electricity didn’t exist. Life was simple, time-consuming, and required dependence on others to survive. Then suddenly there were combustion engines; care and feeding of livestock and the time it took to maintain transportation for the family and the time it took to travel 25 miles to the nearest village to visit other humans suddenly required a few minutes at a gas station and a half-hour drive – no other human or animal interaction required.

Today, with the advances in telecommunication and labor-saving devices, humans live history on fast-forward. Humans don’t darn socks anymore; they don’t even take the time to go to a store to buy them, which requires human interaction, time spent and what today would be called inconvenience; just a click on a keypad – socks delivered. Soon, socks will have a tiny microprocessor that decides when the socks need to be replaced. Who needs a keypad? Further, who needs themselves? The socks run our lives, needing only to use our feet to sustain commerce.

Humanism is a belief that focuses on the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasizes common human needs, and seeks solely rational ways of solving human problems. As humans move through to another era with many confrontations (overcrowding, elitism, racism, economic failure, environmental degradation, and displacement of human behavior and activity by robots and AI), our conscious awareness of worthiness, sympathy, empathy and experiencing the ethos of humanness is left wanting. If sensitivity to other humans as an end product, and the most important one at that, is not practiced, human society will diminish. Humans will be reduced to interactions with their socks.

This is the commercial. For all of the 200,000 years humans have been around, they have a tool for sustaining humanism. Pass it forward. Readers may overlook this term because mariner pushes it so incessantly. It is a tool for the human spirit. Deliberately look for a way to make another person’s human experience better. As walking is to exercise, passing it forward is to human spirit. Further, seek ways to participate in group activities – everything from Tai Chi to bowling to square dancing to parties for no reason.

We will defy the power of the sock.

Ancient Mariner