Sunday, May 10, 2009

Transcending the Rat

We choose to be, or not to be, in the Aristotelian sense of what makes us distinctively human, in that we are not bound by nature, as is - as far as we know - the rest of the animal kingdom. If we "refuse" to make that choice, or refuse to be aware that such a choice exists, taking the "ignorance is bliss" path, by default, we choose to remain rats (beast) cloaked in human flesh.

Why rats? Well, ask yourself why scientists substitute rats for humans when trying to improve our quality of life? Consider, out of the entire animal kingdom, the rat's diet most closely mirrors our own diet, hence the reason why where goes our garbage, goes the rats. And, as the old saying goes, we are what we eat.

"The difference between humans and rats is that it isn't as easy to get humans to exercise. Put an exercise wheel in a rat cage and a rat will zoom around on that thing all the time, unless it's sleeping. But putting an exercise machine in your family room doesn't mean you're going to use it." -- A researcher
For this very reason, transcendence is my favorite word. Without that word or concept, to be "human" would mean nothing more than existing at the level of a rat, and I don't know about you, but I hate rats. In other words, transcendence is the gift - or curse depending on how you look at it - that allows us to shrink or rid ourselves of the rat that lurks just below the "man" flesh that so beautifully - or sometimes not so beautifully - camouflages our ratly essence, so that we may become fully human.

Although, beautiful meat suits are looked upon as a gifts for the most part, in reality, the work involved in shriveling the rat becomes much more difficult, because let's face it, what's the point of sprucing up the inside when the outside is so perfect? And maybe that's where the process of aging comes in handy...even the physically beautiful can't escape.
The body is yours - but is not you. The body is a garment that you are wearing, a machine that you are using, a vehicle that you are driving. The body is your possession. Just as a person does not identify himself as being the shirt he is wearing, he should also not identify himself with the body that he is wearing. - Chris Butler
Nevertheless, ratly essence is so comfortable, that many of us fake it, and pretend as if we're striving to be fully human, when in reality, we're nurturing the rat to the point - that if we live long enough - the small, squinty eyes, and naked, scaly tails will begin to emerge, revealing our ugly essence
"Thomas Aquinas adopted Aristotelian biology to explain the biology of the human being. Aristotle thought that human beings were animals, and Aquinas affirmed him on that. According to both, the organizing structure (or form) of the human being was the soul, which was both immaterial and inseparable from the body (unlike Plato who thought the soul was imprisoned in the body). In the Aristotelian view, the human soul had three levels. The most primitive level was the vegetative level that allowed the human being to do plant-like things like grow through cellular division or use energy. The next level of the soul was the animalic level, which allowed the human being to do animal-like things like hunt down food, attack in self-defense, and mate with other human animals. But where humans were distinct from their fellow animal kingdom members was that they had a third level of their soul—the rational part–which allowed them to do things like think, ponder, form communities, create moral codes, resist animal instincts, and wonder about God. Most importantly, it is the rational part of the soul that allows the person to have free will, that is, the ability to act voluntarily and intentionally. The idea of the soul as having multiple levels allowed Aristotle and Aquinas to conceive of the human person as both an animal and more than an animal."
How do I know that this is true? I don't, but I had a dream that the doctor told me I was really a rat after he did an MRI, and then told me how to transform myself into a human. I failed miserably, and in the end, I was eulogized as a rat. Freaky.
If we lived in a State where virtue was profitable, common sense would make us good, and greed would make us saintly. And we'd live like animals or angels in the happy land that needs no heroes. But since in fact we see that avarice, anger, envy, pride, sloth, lust and stupidity commonly profit far beyond humility, chastity, fortitude, justice and thought, and have to choose, to be human at all … why then, perhaps we must stand fast a little--even at the risk of being heroes.--Robert Bolt (A Man for All Seasons)


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