This is a question that is being asked by Radio 2 and they have had a great deal many artists, writers, scientists and clergy attempt to answer it.
So I thought I’d give it a go.
So what does make us human? To me the answer is in the arts. In music, poetry, art, drama and dance. The arts are what set us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. When you see an original Dali or listen to an orchestra sway their way through J.S Bach, the words of T.S Elliot or when Pearl Jam opened up their secret London show, to which I had front row view, with ‘Sometimes’. To me the emotions that are stirred are what it is to be human. Are achievements in science and technology are extraordinary but if we were ever to be taken back to the dark ages we would still have our art.
I read a story from a former SAS Sergeant who said when they were on operations behind enemy lines they weren’t allowed to talk, they had to communicate through various hand signals, eat cold army rations, go to the toilet in a bag and live in a ditch filled with water, sometimes for up to a month. All this so they could live as close as possible to the enemy without detection. He said that when they got on helicopter/jeep to take them back to base they would fill their faces with chocolate and tea then they would sing…He said the singing brought them back ‘home’ it lifted their spirits immeasurably. Similar stories from groups of people who have been stranded a rife. Singing songs around camp fires to help keep morale up, documenting your ordeals onto paper.
I don’t think anyone would argue that some of the finest poetry came from some people living or surviving in the most horrific conditions, Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est immediately springs to mind.
Art is intrinsically engrained upon our psyche. From our earliest beginnings we drew, we danced and we sang. From Aboriginal cave art to Pink Floyd’s Sonic landscapes our means of expression have always been and will always be our most spectacular achievement.