BY JOSHUA JOO, STAFF WRITER
Humans are weird. Weird is a term that’s thrown around a lot nowadays. Sometimes it’s used to describe a person who’s quirky or deviates from the social norm. Sometimes it describes a situation that just isn’t right. It seems that weird is just one of those words that have become disassociated with its dictionary definition over the years – one way Webster’s defines weird is “of, relating to, or caused by witchcraft or the supernatural”. The witchcraft part is a bit misleading but what I really mean is weird in the supernatural sense – “a : departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature”. And in this sense, humans are very weird.
What is the supernatural? Usually the word evokes imagery of spirits and ghosts, superstition and miracles – things that some are prone to disregard or even scoff at. But the supernatural is merely anything that is beyond or unexplainable by nature. What defines the natural? The popular definition may be something that is physical and exists in nature. This is true, but I think another element must be added to the definition of natural – it must be governed by a series of laws. Nature is governed by natural law or the laws of nature; these laws are dogmatic and defined by their regularity, rationality, and consistency. Without such laws governing nature, there would be no guarantee of anything whether it is as grand as the possibilities of tomorrow or as mundane as the sun rising the next morning or even the things we take for granted such as the concept itself. These laws ensure that what we experience one day are consistent with what we experience the next – that the sun should rise each morning or that there is a floor underneath my bed each day; without such laws, the floor could disappear without warning and we could have no basis to object because no law would be violated. Nature has an ideal – the natural law – and everything in nature conforms to this.
But humans are not like this – humans are not natural. Humans are not subject to the regular, rational, and consistent laws of nature because humans are not inherently regular, rational, or consistent. Humans may have rationality, but humans are not governed by dogmatic rationalism – humans are free to ignore and act contrary to the rational and empirical and anecdotal evidence would support this. Humans seldom, if ever, conform to the ideal.
Humans are weird because they are very different from everything else in the world they live in. It’s almost maddening when one sees the duality and contradictions in humanity. For instance, I presume that most would agree that some fundamental human needs (outside of physical necessities such as air, water, food, and shelter) are love, affection, and acceptance. These are needs that drive humanity. However, what I find so perplexing, is that in my experience with people similar to me (insofar as we are all Cal students and all the associations that follow) is that they are so adamant in settling for something that may be less but is definitely different. Speaking from personal experience, it seems that young men and women while professing openly or secretly the need for love, affection, and acceptance, are utterly focused on developing careers, bank accounts, and advanced degrees. These things are not inherently bad themselves, but I find it very strange to see people admit and acknowledge the need for the intangible and drive themselves towards material goods. The reasoning is often that these things will bring the love and affection and acceptance that are so desired, but how often does that ring true? And even if it is true, one cannot help but ask, is there a better way?
The gap between human ambition and human conduct rings true in another area of life – morality. Humans are unique in that humans can recognize what is morally good and desirable, but we frequently don’t do it. Animals are not capable of this recognition and only act in one way. And what’s interesting is that we don’t just act contrary to what we recognize as morally good, but we have a hard time doing so. There is a prominent and almost daunting gap between moral ambition and moral conduct. I may not be able to speak for others, but I can speak for myself and from my own experience of living in reality, there is a gap between my own moral ambition and moral conduct. If humans were really natural, I do not think this gap would exist. I can recognize the moral good or ideal and I do have the moral knowledge, but my moral conduct does not always line up.
Nature has no inherent contradictions, yet as residents of nature, we are walking contradictions. For those who can recognize this gap, I would imagine it would be perplexing at least and troubling for most. I want to challenge everyone who reads this article – mind the gap. Examine your own life and see whether or not this gap exists and why. The existence of the gap is one of the biggest questions we must answer.
I would like to suggest that maybe the gap – specifically the ability to recognize the moral good and have the moral ambition for the good – may be a memory of a time when we were able to not only recognize the good but also live it out. Maybe we’re homesick. Maybe we’re longing for that time when our moral ambition and moral conduct aligned.
Everyone has a worldview and each worldview grapples with the gap, but I would like to suggest that the Bible has a clear answer for the gap. The Bible says that humans are supernatural – that humans are not of the natural world. Humans were meant to live in a relationship with God. But at one point, each individual human lost or broke his or her relationship with God. And now we long for what we were meant for, recognizing the ideals – our moral ambitions, love, affection, and acceptance – which we so desperately try to fulfill with what limited resources our world has to offer – like money or careers. In the end, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”
Josh Joo is a perfectly normal 4th year political science major.