What makes us human?

Earlier I blogged a book review of E.O. Wilson’s The Meaning of Human Existence. Now this extraordinary book is a documentary.

I strongly encourage you to watch it to gain a fuller understanding of what makes us human, and how that must be understood to make the complex decisions we now face. Simply, we need to know when instinctual inclinations are at work, and that they may or may not be what we need in the new technological complexities we face together today.

I originally posted this in 2015 after the publication of Wilson’s book.

My Father Loved Poetry

My sisters and I grew up listening to our father recite his favorite poems. Once memorized, he never forgot them and he could recite verses for hours on end when encouraged. However, what we all loved the most is the way he would snatch from the air a poem that perfectly fit the moment. Some examples:

And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew
That one small head could carry all he knew. ~ Oliver Goldsmith The Deserted Village

This one was meant to put us all back in our britches when our egos grew too large!

This above all – to thine own self be true, and it follows as night follows day, thou canst not be false to any man. ~ William Shakespeare Act I, Scene III, Hamlet

Whenever we were confused about standing up for what we believe, he sighted this one with great care.

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. ~ William Shakespeare The Merchant of Venice Act 4, Scene 1.

Dad often recited this one whenever there was an angry exchange or he listened to a news report of cruelty and violence.

There were fun poems as well that he quoted for us kids such as the Owl and the Pussycat.  Here are a couple of stanza’s:

I
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
   In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
   Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
   And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
    What a beautiful Pussy you are,
         You are,
         You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”
II
Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
   How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
   But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
   To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
   With a ring at the end of his nose,
             His nose,
             His nose,
   With a ring at the end of his nose.  ~ Edward Lear
Dad also smoked a pipe and loved a good glass of wine in the late afternoon. Here is a short video of Dad reciting his favorites. He was in his 90s when recorded.

Corn Tastes Better on the Honor System – Robin Wall Kimmerer

Robin Wall KimmererRobin Wall Kimmerer is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and a botanist who explains her knowledge of an indigenous worldview about plants with that of the western worldview. In that process, Kimmerer embeds whole Earth teaching along with botanical science. Here in this beautiful essay, ” Corn tastes better on the honor system” published in Emergence Magazine, is one of the author’s best teaching contrasting indigenous ways of knowing with western perspectives about the Earth. At this ragged time in American history, return to sanity. Listen.

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants and Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. She lives in Syracuse, New York, where she is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.