The ancient Filipinos have a saying: Madali maging tao, mahirap magpakatao – It is easy to be born, it is difficult to become human. To struggle to become oneself is the struggle to free oneself from various forms of alienation which seek to annihilate the self, make one conform to everybody else, to betray oneself, and to be destroyed spiritually.
There is always the consciousness of incompleteness in us – we are not only what we are, we are also that which we are not, everything that we still lack. And so we strive to fill the realm of possibilities we find before ourselves.
Karl Rahner, a German theologian, understood the human person as the being that is already beyond. The background for this reflection on humanity is a universe in process, an evolving cosmos, where the lower ascends to the higher. The evolving universe has given rise to human beings who always remain works in progress.
With their self-transcendence, human beings question every aspect of reality, including themselves. God is implicitly present in their questioning as the horizon of their interrogation. They know the finite only because they implicitly know the Infinite as the condition of possibility.
And so, we are always driven to ask: Why is there anything at all? How did the universe come to be? Who am I? How did I become what I am? Where do I belong? What can I choose to be? What do I value? What is my purpose for being in this evolving cosmos? Who is this center of personality, ambition and self-awareness that I call “I”? What are human beings like? How is knowledge possible? What is truth? Where do moral values come from?
It is necessary to interpret human reality in terms of the future since the human being is an uninterrupted becoming, dynamic and self-transcendent in the converging dimensions of his or her existence – biological, affective, social, economic, political, cultural and spiritual. Life for a human being is a possibility of exploring, discovering, realizing.
The human being yearns to be free
We have to be free to initiate an action and to interrupt it once begun – we are responsible for its execution through the capacity of deliberation, judgment and choice. We have the freedom to choose, to opt for diverse solutions. The human intellect tends towards the truth and the human will tends towards the good.
With our dreams, projects and idealistic visions, our imagination maintains that impulse of self-transcendence that continually moves us to go beyond all finite horizons already reached through thought or actions. This constant becoming is characteristic of the appearance of life and the development of consciousness and the rise of self-reflection.
Self-transcendence in an evolving world is the foundation of human consciousness, intelligence and creativity. We always strive to be more and have more.
The universe has a claim upon the full self-realization of every human being in the planet. We are condemned to be free and to bear the responsibility of our freedom to arrive at the convergence of heart, mind and spirit, the unity of consciousness, thought and life.
As unfinished animals, we will never be totally at home in the universe because we always thirst for more. Our consciousness of our existence in a convergent universe lies in how we perceive and become consciously aware of our situation to become an integral human being.
We are not only reason, thought, and ideas, but we are also fantasy, sentiment, will, freedom, passion and love. We are always dreaming to free ourselves from the slavery of ignorance, error and fear, liberated from personal misery and social injustice.
We must thrive on hope and see failure as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Through our self-reflection, we find that we transcend matter, the world, the external. We exhibit, to a limitless degree, an openness to the world. We tend towards the infinite, the eternal the absolute.
The human being is a being-unto-death
The human being is also finite. Death is for the human being inescapable as the direct result of his psycho-physical constitution. Death is a biological necessity. And so we have to answer the question that the theologian John Dunne asked: “If I will die one day, what must I do with my desire to live?”
We attain to wholeness by giving ourselves and receiving ourselves in the same act. We have to accept our finiteness. Death, like birth, is as much a part of our existence, of growth and development. It sets a limit on our time in this world, encouraging us to do something productive with the time remaining.
In the act of knowing objects in the world, humans know themselves and God, hence all theological statements are anthropological statements. Since human freedom is a transcendental dynamism toward the Infinite, no finite object is ever able to fill up the dynamism that a human being is. As St. Augustine exclaimed: “Our hearts will always be restless until they rest in You, O Lord!”
Human beings are in the depths of their humanity oriented toward ultimate value. Without this orientation to the Infinite, human beings cannot grasp their life as a totality. Gaudium et Spes states that “man can only find himself through a sincere gift of self.” Every time we become our true selves, we reclaim identity and self-transcendence, and new life can grow within, between and around us.