Karen Joy Fowler’s Interpretation of What Describes a Human Being as Illustrated in Her Book, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
In the novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, the subject of what it means to be human is explored throughout the entire text. The interesting thing about Fowler’s text doesn’t demonize neither human or non-human animals for making mistakes. She shows the rawness of reality when it comes to family struggles and forgiveness.
Something that separates humans from nonhuman animals is our ability to expand our horizons and adapt. The human race has evolved beyond animals with technological advances, discoveries, and new knowledge. We are the most advanced species on Earth, but not the only inhabitants of this natural world. We have to learn to share and adapt to new research. Using gentle wit at times, other times writing with searing intensity, Fowler’s message throughout this novel is that animal rights are on the same continuum as human rights.
Communication is a big part of any species, but humans have developed a more complex version. The concept of languages comes into play when asking the question, “What makes us human?”. Non-human animals do have verbal and nonverbal communication, but not to the same level of complexity that humans interact with one another. The difference is that communication can happen in all levels of intelligence, while language is much more complex. Language is a subcategory of communication, one that is elaborate and requires higher brain capacity. Before the human invention of writing, language was just an auditory channel. Communication can happen in any of the five senses and more, for example, smell, visual, sound, vibrations, body language, or echolocation. With over 6,500 languages in the world, all with their separate grammar, conjugations, and dialects, accents, it is self evident that humans have a more advanced type of communication than other animals.
Looking closer at the human race, we are controlled by currency. Money is one thing we have that non-human animals do not. Non-human animals do trade and barter, but they don’t have the type of advanced brains that humans do, and have no need for highly refined exchanges. Connecting this idea to the book, Fowler (2013) writes, “Money is the language humans speak, Lowell told me once upon a time, long, long ago. If you want to communicate with humans, then you have to learn how to speak it.” (pg. 305). Our socioeconomic system is centered around money. Humans work to make more money to buy food and clothing; it’s a desire and now a part of our human nature.
An interesting point about human behavior is the fact that we don’t recognize animal intelligence being on the same spectrum as our own. We view nonhuman animals as lower than us, and degrade their intelligence just because they aren’t as advanced as the human race. While contemplating the manner in which humans interact with each other, I realized the concept of being a human being is confusing. In history and even in current events, some races, genders, sexualities, etc., have been lowered to the status of an animal, mistreated, discriminated, even killed. Fowler (2013) expresses her thoughts on this subject through a college professor’s lecture; “‘Do unto others’ is an unnatural, inhuman behavior. You can understand why so many…say it and few achieve it. It goes against something fundamental in our natures. And this, then, is the human tragedy – that the common humanity we share is fundamentally based on the denial of a common shared humanity.” (521). Being apart of human race, we’re supposed to be the most advanced species; so why do we have no empathy for some groups of people and completely wipe away their human status?
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