What Does it Mean to Be Human?

Once—millions of years ago—oxygen was a poisonous gas produced by the first bacterial life on Earth. It became concentrated in the atmosphere and threatened to suffocate the tender life below. You might call it the first gigantic environmental crisis. Salvation came through the development of organisms that took in that oxygen and started “breathing”—organisms that lived on oxygen. We owe our existence to an unprecedented environmental disaster.

These examples of advances in civilization blooming from decay and defeat are everywhere. When hunting and gathering became unwieldy for the growing population, agriculture was born. Harvesting crops made it possible for people to settle in one place. The industrialization of the past century was an answer to the social constriction of the feudal agrarian society organized around small villages with a great deal of social control. The rise of industry brought with it the free life of the city. With the Industrial Revolution came human rights, democracy and even the welfare state, but since then material progress has run aground in social alienation. At the same time, consumer society is suffocating in worldwide pollution. Thus the same industrialization that once offered an innovative breakthrough for society is creating more problems than it solves. It is hard to imagine that more technology, better iPads, provide an answer to this systemic problem.

It is more likely that Albert Einstein will once again prove right: Problems cannot be solved at the same level at which they were created. Like the bacteria that transformed themselves into breathing organisms, life must develop to survive.

Perhaps environmental pollution, global warming and the painful gap between the rich and the poor do not constitute the major challenges of our civilization. Perhaps the real challenge lies in the way humankind meets the world—that is, in human consciousness. Consciousness is what makes us unique in the history of evolution. But we have yet to embrace fully what it means to be human.

Humanity stands at the threshold of a new era: the era of consciousness. After conquering the external world, we are ready to discover our inner selves.

Join Ervin Laszlo, Claire Zammit, Lynne McTaggart and others in a weekly discourse hosted by The Intelligent Optimist called The Consciousness Conversations, starting in March. To find out more, click here.


Cynthia B.
cynthia l4 years ago

fantastic post

Michael H.
Mike H4 years ago

"After conquering the external world, we are ready to discover our inner selves" Hopefully before we trash this planet

Danial Woolworth
Past Member 4 years ago

Once—millions of years ago—oxygen was a poisonous gas produced by the first bacterial life on Earth

Interesting Article

jn Jnm
jn Jnm4 years ago

We as Humans are a conscious species. In my Humanity, I regonize thoroughly the other inhabitants of our Planet. May it be an animal or plant, rock or water, Even another human, I use my consciousness to ponder and attain the Information I gather, and apply this to my life.

Darren Woolsey
Darren W4 years ago

Big subject. Recommended reading P.D. Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching.

Care member
Care member4 years ago


Bmr Reddy
Ramu Reddy4 years ago


Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

Love stands us out from other forms of life

Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert4 years ago

I recall one line in Niven's Laws. "The ways of being human are bounded but infinite."