The Most Alien Me
October 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
Who is this blog’s superlative star? What sort of creature should bubble its way to the top of the charts as the most “alien alien” of all time?
Without constraints, this question becomes meaningless. How do we define intelligence, or even life? Should we limit ourselves to only three dimensions? Need it have morals? There are too many aspects of humanity which we could consider reversing, so that there’s always something that could be made just a little more bizarre.
Regardless, the most foreign alien to us must not share in common with us the thing which makes humanity so human. It must be different in the most fundamental way. And this begs the question: what is the most fundamental aspect of humanity? I should like to say something profound like love, but then I’m afraid that I would alienate too much of the human race. Perhaps I could say choice—the choice to love, the choice to hate, the choice to forgive, the choice to try.
But instead I think I will say that, for better or for worse, pride is most fundamentally human, and by pride I mean as C.S. Lewis defines it in Mere Christianity, a focus on the self rather than on others. Now, that is not to say that no human thinks of others and even puts the lives of his fellow people before his own, but just that every one of us is keenly aware of our own existence. And it is not that we all think highly of ourselves, but rather that we think of ourselves often: we eat when we’re hungry, we dream our big dreams, we try to find our weave in the great tapestry.
The strangest creature then, which we would always have trouble understanding, would be an individual, but he would have no concept of himself. He would walk, slither perhaps, and think on his own, have his own set of talents and knowledge, his own memories and friends. But although one creature of such a race may not be innately connected to all its brethren, it would put all of their needs before its own. Perhaps the creature could not live in isolation, because it would simply forget to feed itself—rather they each take care of one another, and see that the physical needs of each are met. There would be no dreams of fame, no aspirations of becoming great, no sense of having to find one’s own way through life. Maybe this would allow them to be able to see so much more of life, of time, see the patterns that emerge because there is no focus on just one individual thread. Loneliness would be a totally foreign concept for them.
Then again, maybe I’m just too American, and I only think that because I am this way, so must everyone else. But here I am, in my existence, thinking about myself. How difficult it is for me to see through anyone else’s eyes, to focus for any length of time on others. Perhaps this is just the most alien me.