On Being Born "as" a Human Being

There is a good amount of talk in popular culture about our status as human beings. Much is made of it, especially in “spiritual” circles. Apparently, we are more than just human. Apparently our humanity is a passing thing — a temporary form that the true us is inhabiting at the present moment. Apparently we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

However, there is no rational reason to think that anything resembling a spirit exists and embodies us. There is no evidence that supports that idea that we are anything more than just biologically human.

Language is a tricky thing. Because we use language to define and describe objects, we sometimes make the mistake of confusing a word for a thing. In this case, because we can define ourselves using words like Iwe, and us, we make the mistake of making a distinction between our view of us and what is actually us.

The reality is much simpler. We are human beings. Our being human is not a quality that can be removed from “us”.

This is a common thought failure. It is the tendency to assign independent existence to a property and thinking it can exist without the thing that it is a property of. Being human is our defining property. If we weren’t human, we would not exist.

Why were birds born with wings? You know this question is nonsensical because if they didn’t have wings, they wouldn’t be birds. Why were fish born as fish? Because they are fish! If they hadn’t been born “as” fish, they would not exist. The “fishness” of the fish is a description of a condition, not a reality that exists independent of the fact that is the fish.

Language is a lot of help. But it can also be something with which we delude ourselves about the shape of the world we live in. For ages, we have made up stories about ourselves and fooled each other into believing these stories as true. It is only human. But what is equally becoming of the human species is the ability to tell fact from fiction and know a word game when we see one.