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Human Self-Awareness Leads Us to Recognize Three Core Paradoxes or Absurd Features of the Human Condition

Essay by   •  January 2, 2011  •  Essay  •  441 Words (2 Pages)  •  1,205 Views

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Human self-awareness leads us to recognize three core paradoxes or absurd features of the human condition:

* The human imagination has no physical boundaries, but our bodies do. In our minds, we can instantly travel to the ends of the universe, the center of the earth, even the center of the sun. We can use our mental microscope to visualize germs, viruses, atoms, quarks. As soon as we detect something with any instrument, we can make images of it in our minds. We travel effortlessly in our thoughts. The boundless production of fiction literature is evidence of the creative powers of the human imagination. Yet physically we are bound to one specific, small planet, and due to the speed limit of the universe (speed of light), it appears that we are bound to a small neighborhood around this planet for the foreseeable future. This paradox is the physical frustration of the human condition.

* Human spirits can motivate the noblest and holiest thoughts, the most altruistic actions, the most beneficial generosities. But they can also produce the most horrible cruelties and violence against countless people, including suicide of the perpetrators. Our will effortlessly moves our thoughts one way and then another, untamed by moral law or conscience. Leaders can sway whole populations to do things -- benevolent or malevolent -- that individuals would never, on their own, have contemplated. How can these two extremes coexist in the same individual? We don't observe such extremes in other animals. They are exclusive to the human condition.

* Human actions and our very lives are motivated by hope -- that we can make a difference, that we can learn and grow and build and make things better. Yet physically speaking we know that we are mortal, we are made of dust, and we will return to dust. Despite this realization, hope springs eternal. Without hope, as Albert Camus said, the only serious philosophical question is why we should not commit suicide. Hope gets us up in the morning, and drives us forward every day. By extension, we hope for eternal life beyond the grave -- God, heaven, paradise -- because otherwise our existential situation has no meaning. These aspirations -- for hope, meaning, significance, purpose, identity, peace, happiness, beauty, love -- are all aspects of human spirituality.

These paradoxes present universal, inescapable questions about life. Whenever any

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