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My Reponse to "Man & Values: Personalist Anthropology by Cormac Burke"

Cormac Burke is an Irish priest and canon lawyer who lives in Kenya. As no restrictions were given on the choice of language in which this comment should be written in I have chosen English as it is always civil to respond in the language one is spoken to.

Chapter: Human Life

Burke starts off his treatment of the subject by saying the following.

“All education, after all, is based on the supposition that the human being can develop towards a more complete or fulfilled form; and moreover that the absence of education places him at a disadvantage for his development.”

This indeed is true.

History gives us the license to go trough with any sort of atrocities because in history much worse has already been done. Nonetheless, it needs not to be our path to fall victim to this simple trap — ideas can change over time.

According to the aborigines of Australia, the sky at one time in the ages ago was not up high where it is now. It was down so low that a man could not walk upright. Then, no living thing stood erect. I would argue, this no longer is the case.

By the means of medicine and condemnation of war, we have, and are still stepping out of this natural cycle by which all living creatures abide. The Australian sky is higher than ever before. If we are to continue along this route, we have some decision to take.

Is the time of a single life of any importance?

After thinking about this for a minute, I tried to explain to myself what time really meant.

It occurred to me that if they interpret time as a distance between moments, then all we’re really doing throughout our lives is waiting. There is no greater purpose: we are waiting for the bus, for the exam results, for the next day, for the most mundane things like the start of the next TV show. These are not things worth waiting for.

There are also the important things.

We wait for the moment we recognize our true love, then our first kiss, the first time we share our love with that special person. These are special moments to wait for.

In the accompanying image which I took in 2003 I tried to capture a special moment between a mother and a father. Here they are waiting together, both waiting for the same thing to happen — the birth of their first child, the ultimate expression of their love. Anyone of us can recognize this. Anyone of us could be the mother or the father or even the yet to be born child.

I think this is very powerful. It is something common for in every life, something that unites us.

Still, Burke writes that these moments seemingly have less importance for modern people; the birth of their children does not fill the hope for a better future.

“[…] the philosophy of continual progress in many ways still dominates the modern conception of life. If accepted, it produces the curious result that one can be harassed by the regret of having been born — of living –- in too early a stage of this upward process, since any stage previous to the final and definitive one is necessarily premature in the sense that it has not yet attained plenitude.”

Here again I can find similarities with my own life. Last year I could imagine having a small electric pony, yet I did not have one. It thought it would be beneficial to have such a fine animal in my room and was looking very much forward to the future and often thinking about that animal.

Alas, the future is now, and I have such a fine animal in my room.

Yet, when I received this good looking pony in a plastic box last Friday, I thought that it would have been better if the would have had the ability to fly. So I realized that today’s electric ponies generally do not have this ability so and they could be improved so now I keep looking forward to the future when this kind of thing can be possible.

“So, while this is intended to be a work of anthropology and not of ethics, we do propose what we regard as a “right” approach to human living, and consequently consider certain approaches to be “wrong” (anthropologically rather than morally speaking), in the sense that they just don’t work; rather than humanizing they dehumanize personal life.”

After reading the last excerpt I realized that the approach to life according to which I have to wait for something is wrong. I must admit that sometimes I get depressed because it seems to take so long — it’s been over a week now since I received my pony —, but I still keep waiting and try to give as much input to the economy of my country so change could happen more quickly. So far I have ordered all the seven different color versions of this electric pony (one has dentures made of honeysuckle) and now they promise that for the next holiday season the pony will have acquired the ability to jump up to 20cm.

I think this is not as good as flying but I have the feeling that they are getting there soon so my hopes for the future are bright and I believe the future that Burke talks about is soon upon us.

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