Welcome to Only Human! Human nature is defined as being ‘
What does it mean to be Human?
Everyone has a way of seeing the world. For the sake of this article, and as is increasingly popular, we shall call this a “world view”. For some, this world view is formalised in what is commonly called a religion or philosophy; for others it’s the habits and customs that develop as competing ideas shape their culture. These world views may be inherited or well thought through and chosen. What does a world view do? A world view is an understanding that explains a person’s place in the world, and so answers questions such as origins, identity, purpose, meaning, morality, destiny and what it means to be human.
The Baha’i Faith – Sarah Jaros
The Baha’i Faith is an independent world religion based on the teachings of the Prophet-Founder Baha’u’llah. It recognizes the common spiritual foundation of all of the world’s great faiths, and seeks to promote friendship, cooperation, peace, prosperity and unity in diversity throughout the world.
The Baha’i teachings describe human beings as having a two-fold nature – a lower nature which inclines us toward qualities that are animalistic, materialistic, self-centred, competitive and aggressive- and also a higher essential nature which inclines us toward qualities that are spiritual, elevated, loving, self-transcending, altruistic and cooperative. In the Baha’i view, each human being has two-fold moral purpose – both to advance oneself as an individual by cultivating qualities inherent in one’s higher nature, and to contribute to the ongoing advancement of society at large. The Baha’i teachings suggest we can do so by developing spiritual qualities (such as compassion, kindness, freedom from prejudice, generosity, fortitude…) and by expressing these in our families, neighbourhoods, workplaces and communities.
By striving to bring our actions in line with pure intentions, by immersing ourselves in regular prayer, meditation and study of spiritual teachings, by being of loving service to others and by striving to pursue noble goals in service to humanity. In doing so, we are able to fulfill the ultimate purpose of human life – to draw nearer to God in preparation for an eternal existence.
Christianity – Campbell Markham
Christians emulate Jesus, and learn what it means to be human from the Bible:
Using earthly matter, God hand-makes us in our mother’s wombs, and personally breathes life into us. We are thus neither lucky bags of atoms (materialism), nor souls imprisoned in dusty bodies (Platonism), but integrated body-souls.
God makes humans in two delightfully different and complementary kinds, male and female. Both men and women are made equally in God’s own image, meaning that every human is a moral, creative, relational, and spiritual being with unimaginable dignity and worth.
Human beings were made to be the pinnacle of God’s creation, to look after and enjoy and govern the earth under him. That God’s Son Jesus took on complete humanity proves the untold value and grandeur of humanity.
That every human being bears God’s image underpins the Christian ethic to love and protect one another, no matter our size, strength, intellect, nationality, or “usefulness.” Thus Christians seek to protect the unborn, and to care for the poor, the sick, and the alienated.
The Bible teaches that every human, except Jesus, has rebelled against their Creator, preferring self-rule to his rule. That our relationships tend to be combative instead of cooperative, that work and child-raising is difficult and frustrating, that our lives are doomed to death, is all the dreadful result of God’s judgment for our rebellion.
This explains the extraordinary human capacity to love and achieve great and noble works and deeds; and the simultaneous wretched rebellious propensity to selfishness, cruelty, and conflict. God’s priceless creations are broken in their bodies, their thinking, their emotions, and their will. We can conceive of deathless life and love, but cannot attain it. This is the human tragedy.
God’s undeserved love for rebellious humanity moved him to give his only Son: to suffer the death that we deserve to die, and to be resurrected to bring us the eternal life we yearn for but cannot attain. Our broken humanity is ultimately restored when we entrust our entire present and future to Jesus.
Buddhism – Vajra Fa Xian – Tasmanian Chinese Buddhist Academy of Australia
As with many other religions, there are Buddhists who believe in their religion in order to obtain blessing and protection against ill fortune or the like.
However, more importantly, with its specific cosmic view and life view, Buddhist teachings offer answers for those who want to explore the meaning of life—where we come from and where we will go to after this life ends.
In Buddhism, we believe in causes and conditions. There are numerous lives before and after this life. Our situation in the next life depends on what we have done in this life; the karma we commit shapes our future.
We also believe that every human being has the same nature as the Buddha, and because of that, each and every human being can realise the ultimate enlightenment and attain Buddhahood. We analogise Buddha nature as a precious gem in our pocket. This precious gem can radiate light on its own, but our past bad karma serves as dirt on this gem, preventing the light from permeating through.
We practice according to the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha and the values of Buddha’s ultimate virtuous kindness, compassion and wisdom, both in theory and with mediation practice. Through this, we aim to cleanse all the dirt on the gem so that the light it possesses can be seen, and positive energies of the universe can be shared with other sentient beings.
Not only do we practice to reveal our Buddha nature, we would like to help others achieve this attainment as well while encouraging peace and harmony between all.
Islam – Keysar Trad – President of the Muslims Australia, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils
Allah says: We have honoured the progeny of Adam. (Qur’an 17:70), to be human means to have the potential to be the most noble of God’s creation. To help and guide you in this noble pursuit, God sent you His Grace through scripture, the final being the Holy Qur’an and through prophets and messengers, the final being prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him.
To be human means to recognise the humanity of others and their right to respect and to equal access to resources, services, God’s Grace and life-quality.
To be human means to understand that God will help you in your trials through prayer and perseverance. As a human, your greatest success is in gaining the pleasure of God, this gain will uplift you spiritually and intellectually and improve the quality of your life and the lives of those around you and make you a force for good.
Sikhism – Bawa Singh Jagdev – Secretary of the National Sikh Council of Australia
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion that rejects ritualism, superstitions and idol worshiping. According to Sikhism, “There is only one God. He is the creator. He does not fall into the cycles of birth and death.”
Our life, and ways of life, are moulded by the customs, traditions and moral beliefs of Sikhism, which in turn, are based on the ethics of one’s religion; a set of beliefs, dogmas and practices which should make one a better person.
Sikhism teaches us that, “Truth is the highest virtue higher still is the truthful living” (Guru Nanak), so one should lead his life by following the path of righteousness, truthfulness and by becoming more compassionate, humanitarian, more loving, truthful and ethical. The purpose of our life, is to strive for noble causes; to make this muddled world a better place by meditating on the name of the Creator, and by earning our living by honest means, sharing meals with the less fortunate and helping others find their little piece of happiness in this life.
Sikhism gives women equal rights to men in every sphere of life. Our Holy scripture says, “why should we call a women bad or unworthy when she has given births to kings and queens” (Guru Nanak).
Judaism – Tony O’Brien
Jews believe that the One God, who created the Universe (including the human race) passed down through the Prophet Moses on Mt Sinai, a complex set of rules for behaviour. These 613 rules are recorded in the Torah, or Teaching. The rules, or mitzvot, include those known as the Ten Commandments. Living according to the mitzvot brings one closer to God, leading to a more worthwhile existence as a person and one more harmonious with one’s fellow humans and with the world. Among the most important of these are: “Do justice, and love mercy and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8), “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus19:17) and “You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in the land” (Deuteronomy 15:11). Judaism places less emphasis on what one believes than on what one does.
One’s relationship with God is celebrated communally in services in the Jewish House of Prayer, the Synagogue. These are held each Shabbat, the 24 hours from dusk on Friday to dusk on Saturday, and involve prayer, singing and study of Torah. Shabbat, a day of rest from normal occupations, is the holiest day and climax of the Jewish week. Additional special services are held on traditional festivals during the year, among them the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the Jewish New Year (Rosh haShanah) and Passover (Pesach).
Because Jews believe that we don’t ‘own’ the earth, but hold it from God in stewardship, we have a duty to care for it, a principle known as tikkun olam, or ‘repair of the world’.
So, to be a human in the best sense – Judaism maintains that one should behave appropriately towards God, one’s fellow-humans and the world environment.
Music is an artistic expression of humanity, capable of challenging perceptions, evoking beauty, comforting those in grief and inspiring greatness.
Mid 2016, Airports, an Australian techno-pop duo, released their EP ‘Human Things’. The EP is a compilation of songs, conveying the artists’ stories of coming to terms with life — their mistakes, insecurities and struggles. ‘Human Things’ explores a range of experiences and emotions including loss, regret, depression, fear, addiction, nostalgia, hope and joy.
Aaron and Nathan [Mossy], the members of Airports, have a specific intention with their EP; they want the listener to feel understood, to realise that it is ok to be vulnerable and honest about their fears and insecurities. Their music is in itself an expression of their humanity. Their songs demonstrate that all lives have a journey, and relishes in both the high and low points along the way.
When, where and how did you meet?
MOSSY- It’s a funny story actually. My family owned this farm, and we grew green beans. Aaron’s Dad was our biggest customer, so one day while we were selling him our beans, Aaron’s dad brought Aaron along as well. I remember meeting Aaron and saying, ‘Dude, how about we start a band?’ At least that’s how I remember how we met…
How did Airports form, and why?
MOSSY – For real? We met because I was drumming on a track, and Aaron was doing the producing on it. Through that we started talking about doing some music together. Aaron had a solo project going on so I jumped on board with that and started playing bass. And after a while we decided to try something new, and that’s how we started Airports.
What life experiences have shaped you into who you are today? How is your mindset different to before?
MOSSY – I know that one of the big things that changed us as a band was a car accident we had a few years back where I was almost killed and Aaron was taken to hospital. We somehow both walked away from that but it definitely brought us closer as a band.
What ideas are you thinking through at the moment?
MOSSY – To be honest, I’m thinking about coffee. But with music, personally I’ve been going back through the roots of music and genres and just seeing how those guys created their songs before computers were easily accessible and seeing how I can integrate human elements into our music, which is very heavily program based. It’s been something that I’ve found fascinating to learn about.
When you look at the world today, what do you think about the human condition?
MOSSY – I feel like today we live in a world that wants everything immediately and perfectly. We want to live the ‘perfect Instagram life’ and sometimes it’s not realistic. It’s human nature to want everything to be perfect but that’s not real life. I feel for young people today because they live in a world where everything is so accessible and has to look ‘perfect’ and that’s both good and bad. I just think humans need to remember we need each other and that it’s okay to not be okay.
What discourages you as a band? And what encourages you?
MOSSY – Living long distances apart does have its downsides. It makes doing some things a little harder but it also makes us work really hard to do what we do when we are together. And I’m a visual person, so to see people interact and react to music whether that be online or at a show is something that I never get sick of. I’ve read every comment or post that someone has written on any of our songs and it’s seriously the best.
What do you see as the future of AIRPORTS?
MOSSY – I really want to have a ship named after us. I reckon that would be the ultimate sign of being a band. Having a ship named the HMS AIRPORTS.
Meet Peter Drew, the artist challenging the idea of Australian identity. Continuing on from his work with the Real Australians Say Welcome campaign from 2015, Drew’s current campaign features posters, centred around the striking headshots of several characters who may not be considered stereotypically ‘Australian,’ captioned simply with the word ‘Aussie’. The deliberately simplistic design of the poster is intended to arouse curiosity in the passer-by, and provoke discussion about Australia’s attitudes towards immigration.
The campaign is centred around the prominent image of Monga Khan. “He is the hero of the project,” says Drew. “I picked him because his portrait is so striking, but also because it contradicts the Australian stereotype. He doesn’t have the appearance of a typical Australian, which throws into question the notion of a typical Aussie.”
Monga Khan, born in Northern India, lived, worked and died in Australia. Khan immigrated to Australia in the early 1900s, where he was employed as a Hawker in rural Victoria. The image on the posters was captured 100 years ago, as a part of Monga Khans’ application for exemption to the White Australia policy.
When asked about the responses he has received from his work, Drew laughs, “all kinds; from the violently racist to the very positive, and everything in between.” He acknowledges that when undertaking a project such as this, many people won’t pay any attention and will just pass it by, “…but,” he explains “there is a good section of people who are a little bit confused, and unsure about the project. Those are the people that I am most eager to reach and engage with.”
“As an artist, I believe my task is to examine the illusions that bind us together in such a way that makes it harder for politician to exploit them” states Drew, and in this case the ‘illusion’ is the concept of the Australian identity, mixed with the timely issue of immigration, and the uncertainty, and in some cases fear, it can provoke in the Australian public. “Australia’s national identity contains many different and sometimes contradictory ideas. It is a very fluid concept. That is one of the greatest things about being Australian; our growing, changing, multi-faceted identity. It’s not singular, or stuck; it’s fluid.”
Drew has a message for those concerned or fearful for Australia in light of current world events, and immigration; “Don’t be afraid. The only thing that can really harm our culture is our own fear.”
“I think it is very easy to be overly critical of Australia and its people” explains Drew. “Anyone who has travelled can see how lucky we are to have so little conflict as what we do. There is a huge amount of diversity in this country, which is unusual. I think perhaps we don’t appreciate that enough. This is a peaceful prosperous place, and the way we have managed to balance the diversity of Australia is actually something quite impressive. If we can be a little more proud of that, and protect it from fear- from our own fear- then I think we would be on the right track.”
So what’s next for Drew’s campaign? In the short term a book in the historic fiction genre will be released. Young writers and poets, especially those with knowledge of the migrant experience, are being commissioned to imagine the life of Monga Khan as a folk hero. “Captured in the narrative of an Australian folk hero is an inherit irreverence towards authority. Monga Khan encapsulated the Aussie folk hero when he stood up against the White Australia Policy in the 1900s. The idea of the book is to not only make Monga Khan famous, but make him a folk hero. A folk hero is something that contains a value, and that has longevity, and that is what I would like to be the ultimate outcome of this project.”