Category: First Thoughts

What is More than Human?

What is More than Human?

Some Questions You Might Ask

Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of an owl?
Who has it, and who doesn’t?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness.
One question leads to another.
Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eye of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?
Why should I have it, and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it, and not the camel?
Come to think of it, what about maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?
What about the grass?

-Mary Oliver, from House of Light (Beacon Press)

Week one

This large question, “what is more than human?” is one that on an average day you wouldn’t consider. The poem above by Mary Oliver is the perfect example of questions that we might as ourselves when discussing, what is more than human. Starting the college course Writing in an Endangered World had my mind thinking about more than human. I myself was unsure if what I had would even be considered a more-than-human world thing. How could one possibly define a picture to be more than human. We are humans, every person walking down Appian and entering into your classes are physical human beings. But what about animals? Reptiles, mammals, insects, and so many more, are these things considered to be the more than human? Just like the poem states, what shape does this question take form in? Do we all have different views of what the more than human world or living thing is. Of course we do, everyone takes on their own personal perspectives based around what it means to have a more than human characteristic.

In our world we own domesticated animals and in the minds of many these animals are considered to be the same as humans. Of course my dog is a real person, he may not answer me but he sits there staring at you like he knows exactly what you are saying. For those who have pets at home I can rightfully assume that they are the same as you. You would do anything to save your loving furry friends and they would do anything to save you. I couldn’t imagine coming home and not having something there to greet me, whether that is a dog, a cat, a bird etc. These other living things are something that we all love and we all cherish.

I feel as though the more than human world is something greater than we can even imagine. For example: the picture I used in class for my introduction was me sitting in a little boat reaching my hand out right before the whale set his head onto the side of the boat for us to pet it, just like a dog except it weighs 40-tons instead of 80 pounds. That is something that I would consider to be more than human.  It isn’t possible to invite this creature into your home to stay for their life span and never would one think that petting it like your domestic cat would be a possibility either. The world itself is more than human because of experiences and creatures that surround us at any given moment. The plants, the insects that live below the surface that we as humans have never even seen before, and the dinosaurs that have been around for millions of years before we came onto earth. All of these things are more than human.

Earth is constantly changing. Therefore, the environment is also changing. Each second something new is happening and one more thing is considered to be more than human. Human lives clash with the more than human life forms anytime one does anything. Getting up off of your couch and going to get something to eat is changing the more than human world. Everything we have and use comes from something else in this world that isn’t a human. The screen you are reading this on comes from the most intense amount of technology that we as humans created but not without the help of the more than human earth that we live on. Next time you’re just sitting around, think about the insane amount of more than human things that are occurring right next to you, outside your window, and miles away in your home town and just take a second to realize that we as humans are the smallest thing since we live in a world surrounded by more than human objects and life forms.

My favorite part about Mary Oliver’s poem is the last line, “What about the grass?” after thinking over this great question, it all comes down to the even smaller things. Aren’t all living organisms more than human. Of course the grass is living and it isn’t ‘human’ to say the least but we do interact with it, we cut it, throw chemicals on it, and watch it grow. I think that it is safe to say that the more than human world is beyond anything we could ever imagine. Its characteristics change on a daily basis just like we as humans change too. So let me as you this question, what about the grass?