Existential philosophers have debated for years on what separates humans from animals. Why is it that humans have such an advanced form of reasoning, logic, capacity for understanding and consciousness and the rest of the animal kingdom so vastly different? Even some of the most intelligent creatures like chimpanzees or dolphins do not appear to have any where near the intense need to organize and create hierarchy and established an ordered approach to sustaining life. It seems that humans have all the base animal instincts, the base level of survival intelligence and then on top of all that a form of superior intelligence and active consciousness that is remarkable when comparing to any other form of life on the planet.
This blog is not the place to evaluate the many arguments that I have heard. One good one is that human consciousness evolved so rapidly precisely because of a belief in God emerged. As this concept solidified, the human race began to evaluate itself out of context, from the perspective of God. By so doing, they began to notice the gap – what is not there. If you are from the Judeo/Christian mindset this is familiar to you. You have been taught that mankind fell away from God, thus creating a large gap between what man is and what man could be. You are constantly evaluating your life based on overcoming that gap, and you have learned to rely on an external view of yourself, a view that comes from God.
Some existentialists believe that this concept allowed humans to conceive of what is NOT here. Developing the ability of early object permanence is a great example of this human capability in this regard. Humans know when something is not present, in fact they are probably better at detecting what is NOT here then they are at describing what is here. Remove a toy from a child’s room and they will alert you immediately – having discovered the crime really quickly. Add a toy and it is surprising how long it will take them to make the discovery.
The point is that you are really good at knowing the NOT. Of what is NOT here, of what you do not have, of what someone else has that you do not. You are also good at identifying what you should NOT be doing. I think we should use this innate power to our advantage. In the morning, before writing down your 365 commitment, think through very carefully what you do NOT want to be like. What have you been in the past that you do not like? Are there certain things you say, do, or act like that you do NOT want to do? Carefully think through that – you will probably come up with a many. You are after all very good at coming up with the NOT. What are some things you should be doing but are NOT?
This well thought through concept can help you decide on what you should do today that is vitally important. Normally, you would act a certain way, be a certain way, talk a certain way, expect certain things. Perhaps you should visualize what is NOT there and work on that today?
Just a thought – the power of the NOT is pretty interesting.
Guy Reams (275)