Sunday, February 8, 2015

Humanity and Hedgecraft

 by T. Michael Keesey

Humanity has three definitions.
  1. the quality or state of being human
  2. the quality or state of being kind to other people or to animals
  3. all people
The second and third definition are easy. Humanity describes humans collectively and our actions toward other living creatures. The first definition, however, is much more complicated. What does it mean to "be human?"

I just started my Master's in Secondary Education. I have mentioned this countless times that my Bachelor's is in Biology, specifically Evolutionary Biology and that I view my spirituality on a biological basis. The first assignment I was given was to write a "Teaching Philosophy" regarding why I wanted to be a teacher and how I was going to meet my goals. I'm not going to lie; teaching is not my first choice. I want to be a paleontologist, but it seems the universe believes my gifts should be used to foster a love of science in others through becoming a high school biology teacher instead of a college professor and researcher. That's fine. I bring this up because I mentioned humanity in my paper and wanted to share what I said there with all of you.

"The only reason I have ever pursued science, specifically biology, is because it’s what makes the world tick; it’s the very foundation of every living thing on this earth. I find that to be breathtaking. I want to teach others biology, no matter what level, to add to the human experience. What makes us human? Biologically speaking, it’s the interaction of our environment, our cells, our DNA, and our atoms. Something as simple as working out can completely change the expression of our genes. The chemical interactions that occur instantaneously throughout our body and the world around us make us not only individuals but human. Of course, we are still learning, but we are getting closer to understanding ourselves more each day. I can’t even begin to explain how much I love biology and find it to be awe-inspiring. I hope through teaching that, maybe, just maybe I can foster this same love in another individual and add to the human experience in the process. This is the most important thing any teacher can do for their student. It not only gives them drive to continue learning but helps answer that question of what makes us human....

....I want students and hopefully by extension their family, to realize that biology does not have to be at odds with their beliefs. Personally, I am not a religious woman, but I know that many students entering my classroom are going to enter with the stigma that religion and biology cannot walk hand in hand. This is just not the case. In fact, the majority of scientists do not view the subjects to be in constant conflict as many people believe. In fact, many believe that science comes from God and the further you explore the closer you get to the divine."

To me, being human is the sum of our parts. Many say it's our ability to feel emotions, but anyone with a pet knows they get sad and angry and happy. Others say it is our ability to build and manipulate our world. Have you ever seen the intricate design of a termite mound or anthill? Still, others say it is our capacity to create and appreciate art. Ever seen an elephant paint? We are not the only ones to create masterpieces. But the most common answer is our cognitive ability to analyze and understand our world. Despite popular belief, this is not true either. Countless studies have shown that animals are able to remember, analyze, synthesize, and more, things small children struggle to do every day. We are not special, but we like to think we are because it gives many a sense of purpose.

This idea flies in the face of many religions, even paganism, but it doesn't have to. In fact, I think it brings us closer to our spirituality. Hedgecraft is a particular sect of paganism that I believe corresponds closest to this belief, hence why I practice hedgecraft. Hedgewitchery/hedgecraft is heavily nature-based and emphasizes our place in nature. It stresses working with the environment instead of against it while recognizing that we are not different from the rest of the living world. Instead of trying to get rid of your awful neighbors, it tells you to work toward an understanding. Many versions of hedgecraft, like my own, don't emphasize the divine, but instead the individual's place in our world.

I know many will disagree, and that is perfectly fine. We all view ourselves, our world, and our spirituality very differently. I hope that by reading this, you will understand the uniqueness of all beliefs, and maybe it will change the way you view things.

What does it mean to be human?

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