What does it mean to be human?

Posted on Thu April 28, 2016.

Explore the three things that answer the question of what it means to be human (our biology, our thinking processes, and our consciousness) while you relax on our unique 4-day package in the Mossel Bay area.

Have you ever Googled ‘What it means to be human?’  

1 billion, 480 million results.

We didn’t think Google could even count that high - until we searched ‘human’ and got 1.67 billion results.

If you think about it, though, this shouldn’t surprise: the question of who we are could be the one thing that sets us apart as a species.

Of course we might never know whether it’s true or not, but from what we’ve learned it seems that while many species feel emotion, no other animal ever bothers itself with this triviality.

It’s a pretty fine line, a single question.

Could it be, though, that the very fact that we’re able to ask it of ourselves is also the reason we’ve lost touch with ourselves?

And we have lost touch. Our stressed and plastic lives are proof of that. 



The incredibly prolific Maria Popova of brainpickings.org is a genius when it comes to distilling knowledge into bite-size pieces, so it was no surprise that there she was on the first page of our Google search.

In ‘What Does It Mean to Be Human?’,  she writes that, “ we look at this complex issue from three separate angles — evolutionary biology, philosophy and neuroscience — hoping weave together a somewhat more holistic understanding of the whole.”

And to illustrate her point, she provides three examples:

  • The work of The Leakey Foundation, (whose mission is “to increase scientific knowledge, education, and public understanding of human origins, evolution, behavior, and survival,” and whose teaser trailer (see below) explains very well why it’s so important to research our past, our evolution, and our place in the pantheon of species;
  • The illusion of consciousness’ - a TEDTalk by philosopher Dan Dennett (“the flawed and often downright misleading way in which we (mis)understand our consciousness”); and
  • A BigThink interview with neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, who focuses on emotion, memory, decision-making, communication, and creativity (and provides a basic definition of consciousness.).

But these are global questions. What about each one of us? How does each one of us get in touch with them at an individual level?

Well, we believe in the old adage, ‘when in doubt, go to the water’ - which is why we recommend spending time on the almost deserted beaches between Mossel Bay and Gouritsmond (the Gourits River Mouth) .

Can we suggest we take you there?

Our ‘Becoming human again’ itinerary includes mindful walking, mindful eating, wonderful relaxing, and, of course, a Point of Human Origins Experience with Dr. Peter Nilssen (the man who introduced the findings in the Pinnacle Point Caves to science - findings which have revealed the earliest evidence for modern human behaviour).


Video: The Leakey Foundation

“Man will become better when you show him what he is like.” - Anton Chekov