6th November 2014
Oh look……it’s a sea day!
It’s been a little bit rough over the last 24 hours and today the sky is full of billowing clouds……I feel a poem coming on.
God lifts the water from the sea
To paint his sky majestically,
With candy floss of every shape
From smiling face to swinging ape.
A bird, a bear, or just a ball
Then building, swirling, growing tall
As veiled in grey dark mists surround
With thunder, lightning, raining down.
Uniquely formed each quickly dies
It’s tears to empty from the skies.
And so my friend don’t curse the rain
God clears his sky to start again.
J Arthur Gray Nov 14
Madeira tomorrow, let’s hope the weather improves.
5th November 2014
Remember Remember the 5th of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot…..well lets all hope there’s no gunpowder involved, but the treason and plot wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
And what the devil, I hear you all cry, are you talking about?
Well…..I’ve already spoken about the competitiveness of this lot, but it’s definitely starting to feel like this is one of the strangest groups of people we’ve ever travelled with (to be honest it’s not the whole group and I’m sure most of them are very nice individuals) But as usual the antics of the minority tend to capture my attention, and surprisingly it seems to be some of the older ones who are taking centre stage.
Only two days in and already there have been quite a number of arguments among the assembled. Fortunately there hasn’t been any full blown ‘toe to toe’ rows, but a few little niggles and the odd spat or two have taken place. There’s definitely a smattering of Victor Meldrews around ready with a terse ‘You can’t do that’ or a less than polite ‘Do you mind?’ turn of phrase.
And what have the miscreants who are attracting these remarks done to deserve a verbal tongue lashing?
Has he/she barged through an orderly queue to reach the last of the tea cakes??? NO
Has he/she shouted obscenities throughout the show company’s moving rendition of ‘Bring him home’??? NO (but frankly they should have done)
Has he/she been caught rummaging through Mrs Smiths racey underwear in the laundrette??? NO…..have you seen Mrs Smith?
The main cause of the disputes is space, or more importantly, how someone has positioned (or is positioning) themselves within a space.
Just like any resort with a swimming pool the whole lido deck is neatly lined with closely packed chairs and sun loungers each morning ready to receive the sun worshippers. The early birds grab the best position and then proceed to clear some personal space around their chosen spot by shoving the surrounding furniture away, and like a long line of shopping trolleys the loungers scrape across the wooden deck until the one at the end hits something fixed. This is then repeated by others and the result is puddles of occupied loungers arranged randomly around the pool with the rest in a cluttered heap up one corner of the deck, resembling a traffic jam on the M25.
Now as the morning progresses more and more of the bronzed gods arrive for a session of tanning (steady now) and this is when the territorial fights break out. The late arrivals carefully untangle a piece of the discarded furniture and attempt to drag it into a free space…..but those already in position have made sure the space around them isn’t big enough to accommodate the newcomers.
And, of course, it’s not the established occupants who are being inconsiderate…….oh no, that would be a preposterous suggestion. Possession is not only 9/10th of the law it also allows the possessor of the said space to be an evil selfish bastard as well. So as you can see….this is how it all starts.
But then this situation continues into the evening because some of these space dominators take possession of a particular seat at their dinner table as well, and woe betide anyone who disrespects that. They certain don’t tolerate anyone who wishes to ‘rotate around’ their ‘table of eight’ in order to get to know their companions a little better, and it’s not unknown for the weak to be reduced to floods of tears if they even try.
Oh and if any other evidence is needed for you the reader to fully understand the type of folk who are lurking among those we share this trip with, then here it is.
There’s a small party of Germans aboard who are definitely here to have fun and enjoy themselves, just like us. Now like any gathering of friends, irrespective of nationality, they are tending to get louder as the alcohol flows. Ok, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that as this is a regular occurrence, again irrespective of nationality, on every cruise we’ve been on.
BUT there are some who are openly affronted by the behaviour of these happy Bavarians, and the fact they are laughing and joking in their own language drives them into the depths of paranoia.
So begins the huddled whispering, the pointing and a determination to be louder just to prove we Brits always know how to have the best time. They even resort to some attempted ‘Basil Fawlty’ mimicry for added effect…..
‘Vot ever you do, don’t mention ze var’
I even heard ‘How dare they’ at one point.
And I want to ask how dare they what?……..speak their own language? Have fun? Be German?
I though the saying was ‘older and wiser’ but just lately I’m not really convinced that’s necessarily right. I just hope that as I get older I don’t become that nasty and cynical.
That’s what I think (TWIT)
4th November 2014
In a very short time one thing has become abundantly clear…….the folk on this cruise are some of the most competitive individuals I’ve ever encountered. I say individuals but it appears that some of them are working in pairs, and even as part of a team, in order to subdue and humiliate their unworthy rivals.
It all started around the lido pool this morning with the obligatory show of ‘one-upmanship’ in the innocent guise of a few t-shirts, caps and sweat shirts. These are clearly meant to demonstrate the wearers past cruising prowess and dares all comers to challenge their right to be the ‘top cruise dog’ on this trip. Usually the basic ‘I’ve been to the Seychelles’ brigade will bow to the more experienced ‘We trekked across the Atacama Desert’ mob, who in turn will humbly bend the knee to the more obscure ‘Machu Pichu by lama’ elite.
But not this time as many posed using the multiple displays from around the globe tactics in an attempt to outflank their strutting opponents, who would not yield under any circumnavigation of the world….no sir!
Anything from Europe and Australasia was dismissed without a second glance and the previously obscure trips to ‘The Real Rural China’ were now considered ‘old hat’ and literally relegated to the bottom of the bragging rights league table with ‘nil point’.
Whilst initially it was considered that ‘Whale Surfing the St Lawrence’ was a very strong contender in the early rounds, the wearer was summarily disqualified from the competition after it was discovered to be a fake.
After many a taunt and several grunts of intimidation, it came down to a direct, one round, winner takes all face off as ‘I’ve herded penguins by helicopter in the Falklands’ met ‘We tracked polar bears in Longyearben’ in the breakfast at Palm’s Café final. After much parading and swaggering the parties involved decided to call it a draw and went off together to compare notes, but in reality this was just an attempt to bore each other to death to decide the true winner.
Now that was just the start of it.
Anyway, maybe more on that another time, back to the story in hand and even more worrying was the behaviour of some of the passengers during the ‘walk a mile around the decks’ activity earlier today. Despite the member of staff, who was in charge of the event, insisting that the walk would be conducted at ‘a gentle pace’ and ‘it was all just a bit of fun’, it transpires that three of the weaker and less ambulant attendees are now receiving treatment in the medical centre for trample injuries, and apparently one poor lady is still missing.
I admit I may have slightly exaggerated the competitiveness of these situations, but trust me this ‘one-upmanship’ happens, and nowhere more so than in a tin box full of bloody-minded people. It all comes down to the fact that we the human race still retain so much of our basic animal instinct and we desperately need to prove that we’re ‘so much better than you’.
Now I can accept this trait in the young, after all it’s quite natural to want to prove yourself to be the best at that age, but in my experience the older generation are just as bad and I find it strange that those who no longer need to prove themselves work so hard to proclaim themselves as the ‘top dog’.
Instead of accepting that ‘we all do what we do the way we want to do it’ there are those who go out of their way to suggest their life has been brilliant and yours?…….well frankly it’s just not good enough.
Well that’s what I think anyway!!!
3rd November 2014
Embarkation was mainly good fun and trouble free as usual, only this time we were known by the few members of the crew who were wandering around the lounge selling dreams and promises (well actually they were pushing the wine, spa treatments and cream teas, but dreams and promises sounds much more exotic and holiday…ish)
Our fellow passengers look like the usual mix of the weird and wonderful, but it noticeable that there are a lot of furtive and suspicious glances being flashed in our direction……..hmmm I wonder what kind of crowd this is?
To be honest we’ve been saying that as we’ve been very fortunate with our travelling companions during the last few trips, then maybe it’s our turn to have a crappy table this time. Looking around the embarkation lounge I was really tempted to get on the phone to the folk from 106 and bribe them to hurry on down to join us…….ah well, let’s see.
The cabin is no too bad, although it’s a lot smaller than the last one despite being the same grade. But a nicer bathroom with a solid shower screen instead of the plastic curtain that sticks to you throughout your ablutions. So all good here.
Muster drill done…….check
Safe mastered………oh dear.
The room safe usually requires a four digit code but this one needs six, what a tricky dilemma….I’m on holiday to relax not fret about two extra bloody numbers.
In the meantime it’s dinner time….cross your fingers and hold your breath.
Well we were wrong and first impressions of our table are good, it all seemed a bit strained at times but I’m sure things will settle down after a day or two.
Ah well let’s see how things go…….and so to bed perchance to dream of white sandy beaches and balmy romantic moonlit nights…..absolutely no chance of that then.
2nd October 2014
Sea Day – a final word about sea days!
It’s inevitable that a cruise will involve a large amount of travel across open water (obviously) and this will include a varying number of days at sea in order to reach the destination of your choice (you can tell I’ve really got the hang of this cruising malarkey)
For us though, sea days are a very important part of the cruise experience.
It is really great to explore all the new ports we visit, but for us sea days are an added bonus, something special. A chance to relax, or be active, read, write, explore the ship or just sit, as Cheryl often does, watching the ever changing motion of the ocean (‘and the sun in the sky’ for all you Hairspray the Musical lovers) hoping to catch an occasional glimpse of the wildlife as it passes us by
Now you may be surprised to learn that not everyone feels the same way as we do and for some of our fellow passengers the section of travel between ports is a living nightmare and the long journey home is worse. The sea is the enemy and the ship’s presence merely annoys it into a turbulent rage, and these mindless sheep follow suit.
Like maritime werewolves they howl and bay at the sea. It disturbs them, it hurts their eyes which redden as the mist descends. But the sea is not perturbed by their rants, nay its vast power would easily overcome and destroy them, so they turn on each other.
Patience is lost, tempers flare, a mere seed of irritation rubs quickly to a blister of immense rage, and as the ship gently rolls with the lazy swell of the ocean it seems that personal characteristics become enhanced. While the normally positive, relaxed individual becomes almost comatose, the irritating git transforms into, well you get the picture.
So with this in mind, I have a solution to deal with these obnoxicants (as you can tell this is not a real word, but it should be)
It is with great pleasure I give you……………………………….
“Toss the Tosser”
Good afternoon everybody and welcome to this ‘cruise lines’ new sea day activity “Toss the Tosser.”
Is there someone on board who is particularly obnoxious, odorous or just clearly a waste of space, then this is just the activity for you. Enjoy consequence free retribution and while away the long hours at sea by ridding the world of one annoying little git.
The rules are simple.
Between 09.00 and 10.00 on ‘Toss Day’ everyone on board gets to cast a vote and the passenger who receives the most votes becomes the designated ‘Tosser’
The Tosser is now given 10 minutes to hide somewhere on the ship. Any Tosser caught leaving the ship during the ‘hide time’ will automatically forfeit any onboard credit they have and will also waive their rights to any later rescue attempt by the crew.
At the end of the ‘hide time’ the ship’s whistle will sound, this will signal the start of the ‘Toss’ phase of the activity. The remaining passengers now have around one hour to locate the ‘Tosser’ and ‘Toss’ him or her from the ship.
Please note that only the designated ‘Tosser’ (who can be clearly identified by a high visibility waistcoat with beeping and flashing beacons) is eligible for the ‘Toss’ and anyone caught ‘Tossing’ none designated persons will be denied access to the ships dining rooms for a period of 24 hours.
If at the end of one hour the ‘Tosser’ has not been located and ‘Tossed’ they will be allowed to remain in hiding indefinitely until the remaining passengers can no longer identify them as a ‘Tosser’
Following a successful ‘Toss’ the ship’s company may ‘give a toss’ and instigate a rescue of the ‘Tosser’ but no guarantee is offered and the attempt will be solely at the discretion of Dave, the ship’s cat.
No cruise staff are to be included in the vote, search or ‘Toss’ and any passengers claiming to have mistakenly ‘Tossed’ the Captain instead of Mr Pugh of A deck will be required to pose for and purchase an entire album of pictures from the ships photographers.
Please note that this cruise line accepts no liability for any injury occurring as a direct result of this activity and passengers taking part do so at their own risk (except for the ‘Tosser’ of course)
We hope you enjoy this new and innovative activity and if you are voted for then maybe next time you cruise you may consider being a bit more pleasant to your fellow passengers, and a bit less of a ‘Tosser’.
27th September 2014
Sea Day – and no one’s died yet
The staff are amazed that after nearly five weeks of cruising and to date no one has left to roam pastures new in the afterlife. They say that on a cruise this long there is normally at least one passenger who will check out prematurely and permanently.
We’re all eyeing each other in a new light, trying to work out who it’s going to be with just 6 days left?
As usual the crew have opened a book, not on who, but how!
Apparently you can get really good odds on
‘An unnaturally horrific end in the laundry’ @ 15/1
but the smart money is on
‘Over exertion in the gym’ @ 8/1
The gym was unsurprisingly empty this morning and I intend to reconsider my exercise regime.
‘Frying to death on the lido deck’ is @ 500/1
which is not surprising considering the awful weather, however this means that
‘Freezing to death on the lido deck’ is @ 150/1
There are good odds on
‘Being bored to death at dinner’ @ 100/1
with a slightly better price specifically for table 114 where one couple have recently been voted ‘Most Uninteresting Companions Ever’ following their full and frank rendition of ‘Around the world by steam train’ followed closely by ‘Railway carriages I have known’.
Coming in at the top of the list are
‘A fatal seizure brought on after being startled by a photography flash’ @ 3/1
‘Suffering a cardiac arrest after discovering a real bargain in the shops’ @ 2/1
The medical department have been excluded from taking part as it is believed they have certain inside information and it is considered they may try to make a last minute killing (but not literally) by unfairly driving up the odds on ‘by natural causes’.
Historically passengers were allowed to place proxy bets through a member of the crew but following a spate of highly unusual and unexplained deaths on a previous cruise, this privilege has now been withdrawn.
26th September 2014
Sydney – Nova Scotia
Well…….here we are at our last port of call before heading home. The time has flown by and it really doesn’t feel like we’ve been travelling for four weeks. They say time flies when you’re having fun, I think we need to stop having fun……
So we’re back in Canada, and having filled in another boat load of paperwork for immigration, we’ve been granted permission to go ashore. The first thing that strikes you here is a bloody enormous fiddle (I’m talking musical instrument here and not a scam) it’s huge and reputed to be the largest in the world (I’m still talking about the fiddle, which is a musical instrument not a scam) Wow is just about all I can think of saying, and of course you have to take a picture……it would be rude to ignore it. To be honest this thing is so big that it appears in every picture we took in Sydney.
We don’t have a full day here so time to stop wittering and time to get round the town. First stop an old church which has been restored to its former gloomy glory. It’s nice to see that they’ve kept the character and not added tons of new materials. Very pleasant.
Next is the Jost House. Now this too has been restored and is crammed with artefacts and interesting ‘stuff’. The guides give us a detailed history of the house and the family who had built it, adding different parts as their needs changed. There was even a room full of old apothecary equipment, medicaments and preparations, absolutely fascinating. Best of all was the reception and farewell we were given by a complete stranger with hugs all round and a genuine sense that our presence was appreciated. Nice……..
Anyway (have you noticed I love that word?) we visit a couple more churches then it’s time to head back to the port. As this is our last stop we’ve arranged to meet up with the rest of our table for a meal in the town. We head for ‘The Governors’ and spend the next three hours doing what we’ve done best for four weeks…….eating and drinking.
And so it’s time to leave, but not before one last hunt around the souvenir market at the port. There’s a shop selling sculptures which is crammed with ‘dancing polar bears’. Now we’ve seen quite a few of these in most of the Canadian ports and they’re so cute. They really do convey a sense of joy and happiness and then the owner tells us why. Apparently the Inuit’s believe that if you are a good hunter then when you die you come back as an animal. Now if they come back as a polar bear, which of course is at the top of the food chain, they are so happy they dance. What a great philosophy 🙂
So off we set, a final port, a final sail away party and the final part of the holiday……..but it’s been great.
Thank you Canada and the USA for having us……..we’ll be back.
23rd September 2014
New York – New York…….Day 2
First up today we’re going to get a water taxi and have a ride down the Hudson to Battery Park then round under the Brooklyn Bridge, across to Liberty then Ellis Island and back. The sun is hot and the queues not too bad so it’s going to be a good day.
Of course I say the queues aren’t too bad but we’ve discovered (not for the first time) the lack of manners from some of our European neighbours. As we just missed one boat we were first in the line for the next one, but strangely we’re about tenth to get on the boat…..Why? Well because several individuals pushed their way to the front (and I am going to name and shame here) such as four Germans, a couple with Spanish as their native language and a small group of French. Now I appreciate that it’s only a minority that are truly this rude but why does it always seem they seem to believe they are more important than the rest of us. Do they do the same at home or would they be put in place by their own countrymen? I can’t believe just how uncaring some folk can be…….ok rant over.
The boat trip is good and the guide, Jim (great name) keep us all royally entertained (every Jim I meet is a joker) It’s a fact that you get much better views and pictures of the popular attractions from the river so many a pixel used to record the sights.
We eventually left the boat at Christopher Street in Greenwich with the intention of taking a slow walk back to the ship and at some point stopping for lunch. But first a quick stop off at pier 54, the pier the Titanic survivors were bought to and the same pier the Lusitania left from before being torpedoed off the coast of Ireland. Needless to say it’s no longer used by any seafaring vessel, very superstitious these seamen, and rightly so.
It was a pleasant walk back along the river frontage, passing Chelsea piers, but surprisingly we’re not finding anywhere here to eat, apparently you need to walk down the inside streets to get to where there are eateries and the like. Anyway we find an Irish pub near to Intrepid and although the beer is good the food is not, and it’s pricey.
Intrepid is well worth a visit, and pay the extra to see the shuttle, it really is an amazing feat of engineering and it’s a real eye opener to see the conditions the navy endure to keep our world safe. Of course we did the usual stuff as well like the Empire State, Rockefeller Centre, Times Square (which incidentally is presently being dug up?) but I definitely missed a visit to China Town for food…..oh well next time eh?
Just one more thing before we leave the US and head back into Canada, I really love the patriotism of the Americans. Sometimes we Brits are made to feel embarrassed about who and what we are. Instead of importing the likes of McD’s and Burger King, 4 million varieties of pizza and so many styles of coffee it’s painful, we should adopt some of the pride they have about being American in being British. We should celebrate our own culture before allowing others to erode what we have because they find it offensive…..if we don’t very soon it’ll all be gone, forever…….Good grief……it must be my rant day!!!!
Thanks New York, wasn’t quite what we were hoping for but then we Brits never really know what we want……..but it was still a good visit and as usual you entertained us 🙂 we’ll be back.
22nd-23rd September 2014
New York – New York
During yesterday’s sea day nothing of any significance happened so that is why you got my take on ‘What makes us human’ I hope you enjoyed reading it………..did anyone actually get past the first paragraph before hitting the like button and going elsewhere? Thank you if you did…….
Having said nothing really happened yesterday there was one incident worth a mention when a lady was overheard chatting to one of the ships photogs. He was telling her this was his third year working on the ships, to which she replied,
“So you haven’t had much chance to travel then?”
“Oh yes madam, I’ve been round the world twice and seen nearly all the major cities on every continent.”
“How lovely,” she replies, “And to have such a great employer……giving you all that time off.”
To be fair, I think the lack of shuttle buses in Boston has taken its toll on many of our fellow cruisers. There is a certain amount of angry frustration circulating especially as a fair number of the older and less able folk didn’t even bother to get off. I do have some sympathy with their plight, but at the same time I find the banter entertaining and it gives me something to report.
Anyway…..back to the Big Apple.
For me New York is an enigma as originally I thought I’d hate the place. I’d imagined masses of bodies charging along the sidewalks and claustrophobic dark streets deprived of sunlight by walls of glass and concrete. But the first time we came here in 2012 it didn’t feel like that at all. It felt fresh, clean and vibrant, there was a positive atmosphere and we loved it.
But this time it didn’t feel the same. It wasn’t completely the opposite but something didn’t feel right. Maybe it was just we did different things this time or even that we had different expectations, and we still enjoyed ourselves but….something was different, maybe it was us…..oh well, on with the story.
There’s a certain world leader coming here tomorrow and we’ve been warned that there will be delays ‘downtown’ because of this. Still that doesn’t really worry us because we’re heading for Central Park and the Natural History Museum (Cheryl’s just not content to live with a fossil, she wants to go and visit a few as well) So after collecting our New York Passes from the sales office we headed north…….oops sorry I mean ‘uptown’.
The walk is good and easy, but it’s noticeable that there’s a lot of new construction going on all around us (like everywhere else we’ve been so far) and this part of the city (8th Ave above 50th St) is very quiet, almost deserted in fact…………Then we get to the gates of the park, well we try but our way appears to be blocked by people, hundreds of them, and every single one of them is determined to rent us a bike or sell us a horse and cart ride.
“I’ve got two good legs thanks, I’m going to walk.”
“But it’s eight and half miles round and dangerous.”
“You mean I might get run over by all the bike riders or a bloody runaway horse and cart. I’ll take the chance……thanks…”
“Wouldn’t you like to treat your lady sir.”
“Give me a break, she’s already in a bad mood with me.”
“But you can enjoy the park in comfort.”
“WHAT? I really enjoy clutching my nose to block out the awful smell whilst waving my hands furiously to keep the flys off………it’s still a no……but thanks.”
“My horse isn’t that smelly.”
Please feel free to add the obvious line at this point………….But I’ll give the guy his due because he’s not finished yet. He’s hot on our heels and if nothing else his presence is detracting the others from bothering us…..maybe there’s a clue there……but I’m a professional when it comes to ‘No means No’.
“You’ll miss all the good stuff if you go it alone,” he insists. Suddenly we see our chance and quickly side step a crush of people heading our way, he’s not so nimble on his feet and we make good our escape.
“Take my offer before it’s too late,” I hear him call after us, “You won’t regret it.”
“Oh yes I would,” I happily mutter to myself, I really am not a horsey type of person and I don’t like to consider myself in need of a lift……just yet, but I do accept they’re only trying to make a living. However I do feel some tourists would feel intimidated into doing something they may not really want to……oh well.
Once inside the gates it is quite obvious that this is a massive place, and the road is crammed with horses and bikes, with joggers and skaters filling in the gaps. Worryingly we hear that one pedestrian had recently been killed by someone riding a bike in a ‘No Riding’ designated area, so there are marshals everywhere telling all those folk who have just hired the bikes to,
“Get off that bike and walk it on the paths.”
So having spent good money to ride around the park they are not only having to walk but have a heavy bike to push as well. And once they reach the end of the path they discover that everyone is only allowed to ride in ‘one direction’ (good name for a boy band) and that’s not the direction they want to go…………now who has regrets?
Anyway, enough of horses and bikes. We spend a good hour wandering up the west side of the park and it’s a nice park with lots of interesting paths where horses can’t take you (sorry I just can’t let it go, can I?) It’s certainly a well used space and young and old alike are enjoying a nice pleasant day doing their ‘own thing’, brilliant. In general it’s clean and well maintained, much better than some of our own recreational spaces back home.
We reach the Natural History Museum and spent a couple of hours looking around the maze of halls full of ‘stuff’. And the verdict? Great, really fascinating.
From here we walked to St John the Divine Cathedral (supposedly the biggest in the world) and enjoy the visit. Not much to say really, it’s a church, just a very big one……..followed by lunch in the Morning Heights district (where’s China town when you need it?)
So now we have a seventy (ish) blocks to walk back to the ship and we decide to take the route through Riverside Park. This, if anything, is better than Central Park because there appear to be more trees and flowers, with less grass. It’s a really nice walk, and once again it’s nice to see so many people using the facilities.
The evenings theatre trip to see Mamma Mia was very good, and of course very busy. I can’t really add a lot here because everyone gets different things from a show and what I considered was good to watch (the technical stuff) most folk would find boring. Simple set, great lighting (of course I could have done it better ;)) The only downside for me was the sound guy (Mike……get it??) had a tendency to be a bit slider happy at certain times and the volume went off the wall and ran off down 42nd street on a few occasions……..way too hot on the gain Mike and louder is good but not always better..
Me? Strange? No way..
Sunday 21st September 2014
Sea Day – What makes us human?
I have been listening with great interest to a show on BBC Radio 2, and one of the ongoing topics of discussion has provoked some intense thoughts and feelings of my own. The host has invited some of the great and good of our society to outline their thoughts on the subject of what makes us human, to give us the listener some insight into the way these different individuals, with varied experience of our world, think about what make us the very unique and extremely complex people we undoubtedly are. I have become captivated by the discussion and feel somewhat compelled to express my own ideas.
So for me…………what makes us human?
Today, surrounded by the vast Atlantic Ocean, an insignificant speck in this wonderful miracle we all inhabit, I thought I’d be serious for once………
It is certainly very easy to state all the different individual characteristics which make each of us good and honourable citizens of the world, or good humans if you prefer. Compassion, generosity, patience, tolerance, perseverance, these are all positive and admirable traits which allow us to be welcomed into society with open arms and held high as role models, encouraging others to follow in our footsteps and take up these preferred and highly acceptable characteristics.
But I’m assuming this topic of discussion is more about what collectively sets us aside from any other life form rather than just identifying the desirable attributes we should all adopt to make this world a better place to live and thus create a more human society.
What really makes mankind different, what drives us as a species, what wholly separates us from the animals?
It is certainly a fact that some of the positive individual traits I have already mentioned can be seen demonstrated to varying degrees by many of the creatures we share this amazing planet with, but no one would ever consider them to be human. It would also be fair to say there are many of our fellow homosapians who possess few if any good characteristics and in fact regularly demonstrate negative attributes like cruelty, dishonesty and intolerance which are considered wholly undesirable and antisocial. But does this make them any less a human??
Now I’m not a religious person, which doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God or consider that maybe there is a higher being in charge of all of this, and it is said in the bible that God created man in his own image. Now I’m sure the theologians will give many varied interpretations of this statement, but mainly it is believed to mean we have been given freewill to make our own choices. We are also gifted with insight and judgment, which enables us to consider the potential consequences to our decisions, and armed with this knowledge many may still choose to do the right thing for the greater good for all, even at great personal cost. So does this answer the question of what makes us human as no animal would ever do this, as all animals act instinctively in their own individual interest? Well that could be part of the answer but for me there is more to it than that.
Personally I think it is our creativity that makes us human, we haven’t just evolved physically through procreation, we have survived as a species and evolved quicker than our friends the animals because we have successfully developed our natural ability to imagine, design and create. The skill and knowledge acquired over the centuries is used to improve the things we already have and give us an ability to invent and develop anything we need to make our existence considerable better. This doesn’t just include the physical things that have helped us to progress, like machinery, electricity and medicines, but also extends to the concepts, ideas, systems and theories which develop our personalities and attitudes.
Although mankind can’t take any of the credit for creating God, there have been many different religions and cultures put in place by man to answer a need. They were developed to give us ethics and moral guidance, comfort in time of need, plausible explanations to our desire to understand about how we came to exist and the meaning of life. Religion and culture created and bonded the early communities and gave the local citizens support, but best of all religion offered its faithful disciples a promise of a continuation of life beyond their physical existence. Culture like humans has evolved to keep relevance with time, constantly developing all but the basic core values in order to meet the ever changing needs of the people, and so it gives a purpose and identity, with or without a god.
Government was created to give us rules, enhance social structure, protect and nurture its citizens and develop the means for countries to grow and prosper.
Technology not only gives us a more efficient way to make things, travel and communicate, but literally assists us to live longer healthier and happier lives.
And all of this has been created by humans, but why?
The answer for me is very simple, it gives us the one thing we all crave and desire, the one thing that drives our every waking moment, keeps us going through this life at an unbelievable pace, we create to give us HOPE.
Not the negative and selfish ‘I want it all’ type hope, although that exists today more than ever, but the simple hope that just wants everything to be a little bit better for everybody.
A hope for a better future, for peace, an ability to cure disease and eliminate suffering, to prolong our useful life, maintaining a state of happiness and enjoyment. Our biggest hope is probably the desire for an extension of being beyond this physical existence and the knowledge we will participate in an eternity of continuing wonderful experiences.
Hope unites us in a way that nothing else can. It crosses all cultural barriers and standardises every religion. It drives us to invest unquantifiable time and resources into the technology and research in the quest for more answers. Hope gives life a meaning and a purpose, and yet for each of us hope is as simple as it is different, and tomorrow it can all change.
From great thinkers to reward winning directors, dedicated religious and community leaders to world renown rock legends, from the rich and famous to an average nobody like me, hope drives us, inspires us and gives us the strength to face whatever life may throw at us.
‘What makes us human?” for me it’s our endless search for Hope and the optimistic comfort it delivers…………..and yet it promises nothing.