Into the “Beautiful Unknown”: thoughts on what it means to be human
Sometimes I’m asked, What does “M” stand for? I usually answer, “Exactly.” The question is understandable. I use M a lot.
My website is theimn.
My social network is myimn.
My internet radio show is All Things M.
So while I usually answer in such a way as to increase curiosity, today, I’ll answer a different way. M stands for huMan.
This past Easter, one of the beautiful word images used at Kensington Community Church in Troy, Michigan
about the human experience with the resurrected Christ was the phrase the “beautiful unknown”.
I’ve organized some thoughts of the Human Journey into the beautiful unknown in three sections: something human, something normal, and something questionable. This is a journey of the imagination. Enjoy.
Something so “human” happened in the first century, that I have turned to calling the events around the life of Jesus, the Human Event. Here’s the key idea. Jesus Christ did not come to teach Christianity. He came to make the world human.
If you get this, you may know more about Jesus than most Christians. Of course, this begs the question, “what does it mean to be human?” And, this question, I think, is the defining question of the 21st century.
Rather than studying Jesus’ life and teaching with reference to the question, “what does it mean to be a Christian?” read about Jesus through the human question. The answers (and questions) that emerge will be far more human than religious, and far more interesting than the things we normally talk about in the Christian ghetto. Here’s the question: has the depth of our common humanity been disguised by our religiosity. What is your experience?
Something “normal” happened one Thursday (Sept 25, 2008) around 2 PM. My son, Lucas Daniel (14), was sitting on a bench looking at a pond near our home. He’d been having a tough day. We both had. He stood and began to walk home when, for some unexplainable reason, he stopped to meditate and pray. When he opened his eyes a bird flew towards him and landed on his head. He reached up and grabbed a tiny zebra finch from the top of his head.
Those of you who know Lucas are aware that he has a unique interest in and relationship with animals. Genesis tells us that humankind was created on the same day as all the other animals that move along the ground. We have a connection at the point of our genesis as a species. The New Testament describes how some who believe would not die from the venom of snake bites. Jesus was identified by the descent of a dove. St Patrick and St Francis are said to have had unique relationships to nature and to animals. Humans are a part of the natural world. Here’s the question: has the depth of our connection to nature become a forgotten way? What are your stories?
In a sense, asking the question, “What does it mean to be human?,” is partly the answer. No other species on earth asks this, or is capable of asking this, of its own kind, or of any kind.
Only humankind is questionable, that is, question-able.
Humankind is driven by questions — i.e. insatiable curiosity combined with the capacity for symbolic thought and made possible by the capacity for the social act of speech. Driven by these questions, humankind will explore the deepest seas, the human genome, the mind, and the darkest jungles, but not for just facts about the universe. We explore because we are on a search for the meaning of life in the universe.
Many of you know that one of my favorite places on earth is NASA. I’ve always suspected that we are destined to travel to and eventually inhabit the stars. Our questions are big enough to fuel that quest. Interestingly enough, the one question that drives it all, I think, is not one that we are directly asking.
We will leave Earth, and eventually the solar system, in search of the answer to our deepest questions. But all along we will be looking for the one thing we didn’t need to leave Earth to find. We will be looking for ourselves. We will be asking, What is the meaning of us? Who and why and what are we?
This is more than a Christian question. It is more than a religious question. It is a human one. This question is the end of the rainbow on the way to which we will discover God.
That’s what M means.