What, if anything, sets human beings apart from other species? More and more research in anthropology, primatology, and zoology points to the fact that, biologically and even behaviorally speaking, there is very little that defines humanity.
Even empathy and altruism, characteristics formerly believed to be singularly human, are now known to manifest in many non-human species. In this week’s episode of “The Rabbit Hole” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra explores this fascinating question about the uniqueness of the human species. Perhaps consciousness, alone, is not the answer to the riddle, but rather the remarkable way in which it functions in human beings.
As Deepak describes, consciousness sleeps in minerals, dreams in vegetables, wakes up in animals, and starts to become self-aware in humans. In word, action, and intention we have the limitless ability to reflect and consider chain reactions. Other barriers may otherwise inhibit us, but no one can curtail our inner freedom nor the self-awareness that generates infinite vision. When we ask ourselves questions like, “Who am I?” and “What do I want?” we turn the mirror back on ourselves and see all dimensions of our existence. We can play with new identities, experiment with different lifestyles, and experience the whole spectrum of sensations, while simultaneously knowing that identity and experience don’t constitute the Self. We are so much more than the sum of our parts, AND we have the ability to recognize this fact.
Now, of course we don’t know that other animals lack this trait (and even if they do, it doesn’t make us “superior,”) but you have to hand it to human beings for really making the most of our consciousness. Let’s be sure to live up to the name.
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