2/14/2010

Learning what it means to be human

These days, I'm thinking a lot about what it means to be human. What makes us who we are? Most of my thinking is directed at me, as I try to figure out how to live my life in a more healthy manner. But, a new documentary series podcast on BBC Radio 4 is reminding me that my own struggles aren't unique, and that there's a heritage in our species that must be remembered to fully appreciate who we are, as individuals, and as members of a global community.

So far, I've listened to five installments of the History of the World in 100 Objects while doing a deep organizational cleaning of my house. Everything in here is a mess, and I'm trying to fix myself up with an eye towards improving myself, fixing everything that at times seems hopelessly broken. The series is reminding me that I'm not alone, that other humans have lived before under very different circumstances.

Each of the 100 objects is in the British Museum, and is narrated by museum director Neil MacGregor. The story of an axehead found in the Olduvai Gorge helps explain a time when humans' brains expanded due to an increase in protein, in part due to better tools. Yet, the one on display may also have been adorned in as a status symbol.

What kind of society did these hunters live in? What kind of society do we live in today, in our age? Who are we? Can we fix ourselves? Can we become better? I don't have any of those answers, but I did want to share this brilliant documentary podcast with anyone looking for something interesting to listen to today.

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