By Maria Sermersheim
What does it mean to be human? What is the existential situation of man?
These questions are intensely relevant to our daily lives, to how we express ourselves and enter into relationships with one another. They are not lofty subjects out of touch with the real world, and the questions of the heart are not exclusive to studied philosophers and theologians. In fact, I think the most important things in life are simple. Truth is pure, and simplicity is rich in depth.
The questions above, then, can be answered quite simply. To be human is to be a fully intended and wholly loved creation of the absolute, infinite Love that is God. To be human is to have the vocation “to show forth the image of God” (CCC 1877). The situation of man reveals that we are incomplete. We live in tension because we are separated from the total and infinite Love for which we were made, and we strain for union with God. St. Augustine of Hippo wrote in his work, “Of True Religion,” “We seek unity, the simplest thing of all. Therefore let us seek it in simplicity of heart.” We can learn much about simplicity of heart from Antoine de St. Exupéry’s charming and insightful book, “The Little Prince.”
It is a lovely tale about a little prince who loves a certain flower and learns about responsibility and relationship. He befriends an aviator; and through their interactions, the aviator himself learns much about priorities and which things truly are “matters of consequence.”
At one point, they go on a walk to find a well. The water they drink is sweet because of their friendship and the love with which the aviator labored to draw the water for the little prince. Later, the little prince says, “The men where you live raise five thousand roses in the same garden— and they do not find in it what they are looking for . . . . And yet what they are looking for could be found in one single rose, or in a little water.”
Clearly, the answers we seek are in the profound simplicity of love and relationship. Recalling St. Augustine, “we seek unity.” We want to be in the most intimate and intentional of friendships with others and with God, so our happiness is not found in five thousand acquaintances but in the friends we love well.
To be human is to love and be loved, to relate and be related to, seeking ever deeper and stronger relationships. In response to these two questions, my friend offered the “hot take” that we can only “function well as human[s] . . . when we live as the social beings we were created to be and love all these things in the Lord and love the Lord above all things.” And I agree; it’s as simple as that.