Most people don't know what they are and define who they are in terms of their roles in other people's lives and society at large. Asked "What are you?", the most fundamental answer must be "A human being.", but what's that? That is the only answer which is universally true, yet there is no real consensus as to what a "human being" means functionally.
Labeling anything without defining the function of what is labeled leaves it without purpose and whatever exists without purpose must be a mystery. Human beings are quite often indeed, a mystery to themselves. The discomfort of not knowing what one is functionally, not knowing one's purpose, manifests most often as depression.
Those that adopt the identities given to them by the culture around them do so through indoctrination. "You are our son/daughter and your job is to___________________"is how we all start out. The blank can be filled in with any particular indoctrination that serves the parents functionality in their own self definition." I am a mother/father and a mother/father's job is to_______________". ""You are a child and a child's job is to accept what a mother/father tells you about yourself and your function in the family."
For most people, most of the time, adopting the roles they are indoctrinated into as regards their functionality in other people's lives, suffices in so far as they need a sense of purpose. Purpose is the only viable solution to confusion. Once given a purpose, the entirety of creation, all of the universe, is no longer a mystery, no longer a chaotic inexplicable reality. This is as true for the vast as it is for the minute. The inability of science to determine the purpose of sub atomic particles' behavior as described in quantum mechanics is what makes of it such a mystery. Sub atomic particles behave incoherently, they are everywhere at once, no where at all and here and no where else, all at the same time, sometimes, all the time and never. All depending on how you look at them. To what end? This purposeless mysterious behavior of that which is so fundamental to all of creation is having a profound detrimental affect on civilization's morale. But I digress.
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From birth to death most people fulfill the function given to them by the society around them, with no existential crises arising from a frustrated desire to self define what they are, who they are, and what their purpose is. They accept what they are as what they are told and adopt whatever purpose defines that role. Finally they become retired grandparents and worrying about their offspring and their own health suffices to keep their minds busy, as any durable sense of purpose at all makes staying alive a necessity.
Some people are so fortunate as to be born with some kind of innate talent, the realization of which produces something of value to those around them. Providing people around one's self with something they value is the essence of purpose, therefor talented people unless derailed by character flaws, are more likely to live meaningful lives.
But most must learn a profession or trade and be mediocre at it. They "work" for a living and live to serve their families. Their purpose is to satisfy their employer or customers so as to guarantee their income, and then use their income to meet the needs of their closest loved ones. For the vast majority of people, this is all there is to life.
There are those, however, who seem unable to completely accept and be satisfied with, the roles given them by the local "authorities", starting with their parents. Such children are invariably, troublesome. They seem more intent on realizing whatever urge they are preoccupied with, than fulfilling other's expectations from them to fulfill their appointed roles. Discipline often becomes an issue. Recently, authorities have resorted to labeling such tendencies when more extreme as pathological and have resorted to "medication". Any persistent tendency to stray away from the functionality of given roles is deemed selfish or sick. It is either immoral or pathological. It is to be disciplined with "punishment for making bad choices" or medicated away. Discipline is a coercive means of straightening into a predictable pattern, the behavior of those whose nature is unpredictable and who are manifesting an identity undetermined by the authorities. Such unpredictability undermines authority's sense of control. It appears to serve no social purpose.
Criminals fall into this category. The need to restrain and inhibit criminal behavior is self evident.
But what about those who are born with a great need to define themselves, or find themselves, as is often said? What about those who want to come to their own conclusions as regards what it means to be a human being at all, and then a unique human being in particular? The desire for self exploration and self definition is seldom encouraged unless it is under the terms of the authorities.
Preoccupation with "illicit" sexual activity, exploratory drug taking, and the pursuit of creative/artistic self expression are three attributes that often characterize those whose nature it is to rebel against roles given them by whatever are the powers that be. These three attributes share the quality of involving "looking inwards" at what is going on inside one's own unique human mind. Like faces, no two are exactly the same. Minds are different more so than with faces, for identical twins are known to be of quite different mind. The human mind displays a wondrous propensity for diversity despite the overwhelming tendency towards conformity of human beings. This is because minds, while being each unique, tend to stick together cohesively and thus are moved together in uniform and predictable patterns. Despite this, unpredictable humans with innovative minds are born in every generation. Such individuals rebel against the roles initially given them and are successful to the degree that they are faithful to their own purpose of self definition and self realization.
Which brings us back to the question, "What is a human being?" Do we define human beings by their great tendency towards conformity of nature and subservience to authority and their ability to cooperate in matters of group survival and cultural enhancement? Or do we define them by their rare and unique quality of nonconformity, self exploration, and the ability to realize and manifest creative vision? Of course human beings are all of the above. Most are this and some are that. As these qualities are contradictory and exclusive, they can't be used to define what a human being is.
Let's try doing it this way. What is most human about a human being is the human mind and human minds appear to be produced by human brains. How this comes about, no one has a real clue. For this reason it makes no difference whether the brain produces the mind, or the mind produces the illusion of a brain. They always come together, it would seem.
Human minds are full of evolving ideas. Evolving ideas are always accompanied by feelings and sensations. I dare say that this is true for all human beings, though some have ideas that evolve very slowly and their feelings are mostly of the same kinds and others have ideas that come and go like clouds on a windy day and their feelings are more complex and change like weather patterns.
Human minds are the place in which is happening an idea provoking aesthetic experience and in which there exists some degree of ability to communicate these ideas to other human beings.
I believe this has as its purpose the acquirement of knowledge and wisdom which can be used to ever enhance the quality of human life.
So what is a human being?
A creature uniquely equipped with a mind capable of sophisticated aesthetic experience, life enhancing ideas and the ability to share them.
With this in mind we should raise our children.