The Human Context: Meaning and Human Life

Humans are not just a species any more. Human life is not about efficiency any more, and not about the lowest energy state. We need culture to survive1 and grow, and so, human life is about storytelling, literature, and music, about meaning.

The Condition of Being Human

Hannah Arendt[1] [2] outlined the human condition as being the artifacts that define our life as humans on this Earth at any given moment. At any given moment, things—the objects, services or ideas we use—condition us. We are equally conditioned by the Internet, as we are conditioned by cooking protein on the kitchen stove, ironing our shirts, brushing our teeth, reading and writing ideas on paper. Our purpose—what conditions us—is the desire to leave a mark and to participate. Leaving a mark and participating is what we do right now on YouTube, on Facebook, on Flickr and on Wikipedia. We participate. Keep this idea in mind while you consider the Zulu concept of 'Ubuntu,' which means 'Me through Your eyes.' In other words, 'I exist because you see me.’ Therefore, I will do whatever it takes to exist in a way in which you will see me as the best possible 'me' at this time. I will wash, wipe, smell good, look good, know more, and want more. Be more, become better in your eyes. Better. I will do whatever it takes to exist at a new level every time you see me.

The human behavior space

Figure 3.1 The human behavior space

  • [1] Manu, A. (2013). 'Sustainability and the condition of being human.' In S. Walker and J. Giard(eds), The Handbook of Design for Sustainability. London: A&C Black.
  • [2] Arendt, H. (1964). The Human Condition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
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