To be honest, this question frustrated me when, a few months ago, a bright young woman asked me to answer such a riddle. Shortly, it began to entice me. Lately, it continues to boggle the mind. I put my neurons to work before writing the narration for this debut short film. Narrativs is a “social publishing enterprise who have set out to enrich the experience of storytelling by transforming the way we interact with the narrative.”
“Narrativs provides a digital creative space for writers, readers, editors and literary enthusiasts to collaborate, create and present inspiring and motivating pieces of literature. By fostering and advancing the literary frontier, we strive to cultivate and nurture and next generation of storytellers. Narrativs curates stories that capture our imagination and teach us wisdom.
Our three pillars are:
- Illuminate quality stories within a beautiful reading and writing digital space and provide access to editing and social support for aspiring writers;
- Invest in non-for-profit projects that engage and educate underrepresented voices and help them become the next generation of storytellers;
- Commit to continuous research and development in order to revolutionise storytelling and how the narrative is shared around the world.
I am honoured to be an integral part of this creation; not to mention stunned by the visceral experience of witnessing my words having traveled across time and space to find their way into a notebook, re-written and re-read by persons I have not and may not ever know. This is the magic of sharing our creations. I realize how little I understand the breadth and width of the paths with which the words I have written have traveled. Here’s to more of that.
Many thanks to Rachel Bui and the Narrativs team for including me in their project. Here is the full story, online at Narrativs, and a preview below.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HUMAN?
For a human like myself to even begin to answer this question, I give ourselves away. What does it mean to be human? The very thought shines light on one of the most fragile, courageous, fallible and stunning facets of being human, and that is our ability to invent meaning. As far as we know, we are the only cognitively equipped, physically embodied creature on this planet who has the ability to explore the meaning of our existence. We invent meaning with deduction, reasoning, language, thought, imagination, our consciousness of a self-created time scape, and our memory.
Does a snow leopard tell stories? Does a venus fly-trap have an imagination? I’d like to think so – and that is my imagination at play. I’d like to imagine that a ground mole can reason; that doves have romantic thoughts. Many scientific studies prove that animals do have memories, thoughts, and reasoning beyond our own understanding. Bees have a language that humans are only just beginning to grasp, while rats keep memories of the paths they have trodden before them.
Humans aren’t the only species inheriting this planet, and yet, we are unique. One of the most challenging aspects of being human is that we are still learning about the many species with whom we share our food, space, air and water with. Inquiring about the meaning of being human, we are limited by the question of what it might mean not to be human. Locked in the language of our own genome, just as a firefly is locked in its fireflyness, we cannot speak well of what we are, since we are it.
What does it mean to be human? The truth is, it doesn’t mean anything; not more than what we say it means. We apply meaning with emotion, with language, with memory and imagination, and we express these meanings in dimensions that embed us.
One aspect that has been much more difficult for us to quantify, however, is the question of our being. We are aware of it, and yet we can hardly speak of it. It cannot be captured with direct light. We can however, dance around it, point to it, define it with white space and illuminate it with shadow. Aware of our limitations, we attempt to be liberated from them.
Here is the edge of the forest at which we meet the great poets and artists, the musicians, composers, sculptors and architects. Each century countless humans are seized by a sense of being. They touch it, taste it, hear, see and feel it. They strive to capture this Holy Grail, to make it tangible, to put it into word and song, to give it shape. They try to retrieve the sword from the stone, to seek this Helen of Troy, this treasure at the end of a rainbow […]
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