What makes us human? What underlying characteristic differentiates humans from animals or Gods? Where does the Essence of humanity Essay lie?
Initially the answer may seem simple. One might say when comparing animals to humans that they are cruder than humans; they live their life by instinct, they don’t love, they don’t strive to educate themselves and each other – their overriding goal is to survive and make it through the day. Yet, human history and the scientific evidence tracing our human linage back to some ape-like predecessor proves that humans (well, their ancestors) most likely lived that same existence – scavenging for food and looking for a safe and warm place to sleep – subsistence. Hence, it must be something else that separates us from the animals.
The case contrasting Gods and humans is a more difficult one.
There are the endless arguments for Gods’ immortality and omnipotence as the reason humans and Gods are not one. But, unlike animals Gods’ behavior cannot be observed by first hand account, one either believes or doesn’t believe in them. For the purpose of argument and to present the most factual material possible Gods, in this paper, will be viewed as a human creation, an ideal to aspire to -immortality, perfection, power; all qualities humans admire. Look at the Greek gods, they all had human forms and were supposed to have been very beautiful, to a human a God symbolizes perfection something all humans what to achieve. It was when humans started to conglomerate together, the first signs of society, that the idea of Gods first arose, hence it is our society, our relationship with each other that makes us human. Of course there are many other characteristics that are considered human traits, like love, faith, our obsession with time, but these are byproducts of society.
Society is the key to our humanity. Looking back in history 1,500 years before Homer, in societies we might consider primitive and crude compared to our own, there we find the same human characteristics we find in ourselves today – lust, power hunger, love, faith, fear of death, curiosity – all byproducts of the relationship between humans and society. The Epic of Gilgamesh which gives us a glimpse into that society and it’s people emphasizes the idea that society is the essence of humanity. For example, there is a character in the story that has lived in the wilderness for his entire existence, Enkidu. He is described as being “ innocent of mankind; he knew nothing of the cultivated land,” in other words society. ( Epic 63) Enkidu lives just like an animal until a Shepard boy brings him a harlot that seduces him.
After that he finds it impossible to return to the wilderness. He is taken in by society, given food and clothes, bathed and oiled – “Enkidu had become a man.”(Epic 65) It wasn’t until Enkidu joined society that he started to develop human characteristics.
Gilgamesh, the hero of the story, is the perfect example of the idea of humans wanting to fit the concept of a God. Firstly, Gilgamesh is 2/3 God and 1/3 human which in itself shows that humans want their heros to be like Gods. Secondly, Gilgamesh’s quest is to achieve immortality.
“I have not established my name in the place where the names of famous men are written, yet I will raise a monument to the Gods.” (Epic 70) Gilgamesh is a perfect example of a human wanting to reach that ideal level.
Thus, humanity is a result of the creation of society. What prompted humans to form these organized groups? We have yet to know. But it is this organized system of relationships that separate man from beast, and it is that same society that incited the idea of Gods. The necessity for explanation ( another human trait) required the concept of a God to explain the whys and hows of the univerese.
It is somewhere in between God and beast that humanity lies, and this happy medium was a “product of society.”