August 28

“Beyond Biology: The Heart of Being Human”

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“If you want to lift yourself, lift someone else.”

-Booker Washington

Knowing ourselves is going to be paramount if we are going to make better decisions as Homo sapiens. Knowledge of our past helps us where we are today and shape our future. Anthropology is vast and complex, like the field of complex systems. Anthropology is the scientific study of humans, human societies, and human cultures, both past and present. It is a holistic discipline that seeks to understand human diversity, behavior, and experiences by examining various aspects of human life and society. Anthropologists study a wide array of topics, including social structures, cultural practices, language, beliefs, evolution, and the ways in which humans interact with their environment.

What are complex systems? What is complexity? And why does it matter?

According to Professor Scott Page, Ph.D., the word ‘complex’ in everyday Life might be applied to our lives, the economy, or even salad dressing. More importantly, human societies exhibit complex behaviors from individual interactions, cultural norms, societal networks, and economic structures.

On my recent Saturday hiking, I started meditating on the wisdom of Booker Washington- “If you want to lift yourself, lift someone else.” Who is Booker Washington? My two children asked when I read aloud his quote. I thought, ‘Train a child in the way he should, and even when he is old, he will not turn away from it.’ A teachable moment, right?

Booker T. Washington was an influential African-American educator, author, and advisor to presidents in the United States during the late 19th and 20th centuries. He was born into slavery and later became a leading figure in the African American, advocating for educational and economic advancement to achieve social equality. He is best known for his approach to African Americans through vocational education and economic self-reliance. This philosophy became known as the “Atlanta Compromise, “as he outlined these ideas at the Atlanta Exposition 1895.

I said hello to welcome one of my new neighbors, Helen (not her real name). She is probably in her mid-30s Asian Background. After that, I spoke with a stranger, a man in his 40s of Asian descent who works for TELUS Health Care. We discussed the future of health care amidst the challenges and resistance in the trenches from the orthodoxy. We talked about the community’s ignorance about ‘choice architecture,’ particularly among the vulnerable population at the mercy of the ‘pundits’ peddling snake oil under the umbrella of big pharma. You can access for free the first chapter of my book ALIVE OR NOT ALIVE if you have more appetite for making better decisions.

Back to my question: What does it mean to be human? I wish I had studied anthropology in depth before becoming a psychiatrist. If my memory serves me well, I passed the MCQ tests on anthropology before my membership in England. However, human behavior is too complex to study using any overarching paradigm, such as in biology, physics, or chemistry. How can you be a good pathologist without having a good understanding of human physiology? In this case, anthropology is the science of human cultures.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, right?

A friend and mentor anthropologist cautioned me that anthropologists are careful about making assumptions about global warming. This is one of the complex systems I mentioned earlier. I listened with horror with energetic Republicans debate on this decisive issue: Is climate change a hoax? I don’t necessarily agree with the experts pushing the global warming agenda; however, like a novice anthropologist, I am careful to jump to conclusions on complex topics, particularly when I think I have figured something out.

Minutes later, during my hiking, I got lost in one of the biggest Conservative parks in Calgary. From the middle of nowhere, I saw a family; they were god sent. We talked about community, the past and present, like cultural anthropologists would do. We talked about the need to keep the amazing green space clean and, simultaneously, explore the terrains like archaeologists; that’s being human, right?

As we parted ways and re-directed, I reflected on our physical anthropology; I have short, dark hair compared to my neighbor’s long, curled hair. Despite our differences, we are physical anthropologists and must ensure we keep the green space clean for future generations.

Later that day, my family attended a friend’s mother’s in law 80th birthday. It was a fascinating event with African culture at its best. Like an anthropologist, I was transported from one culture to another. Looking for answers to my question, what does it mean to be human? I wondered why it’s okay for a man to marry many wives in one culture (or keep mistresses) and not in other cultures.
My children found the African music loud, and my wife and I were comfortable with the rhythm of the afro-beat, particularly ‘Sweet Mother.’ Wondered why? The celebrant speech celebrated the Good Life. She dedicated her youthfulness to the ‘psalms.’

“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength, they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

-Psalm 90:10

This verse reflects on the brevity of human Life and the idea that the average lifespan is around seventy years. It suggests that even if someone lives to be eighty years old, their later years may be marked by challenges and difficulties. The verse also highlights the transient nature of Life.


Tags

Community, Culture, Human nature


About the Author

Niran (Larinde) Ojomo is a Trusted Advisor, COACH, Speaker and Trainer certified with the Maxwell Leadership Team. He is the founder of Forward-Thinking Generation Next, a forward-thinking organization that challenges individuals and organizations to re-invent themselves, anticipate and adapt to the future and be culturally relevant in an increasingly complex globalized world.

Niran Ojomo

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