What makes us human? A series of spring writings exploring the inner workings of our mind. Part 1.


The crisp spring-winter sun, with a menthol infused breeze. Best applied first thing in the morning. It is indeed the bee’s knees🐝 One may even smell the honeydew on their skin. Apply sparingly, and you will be left with a sun-kissed glow 🌞

The face of genius. 1926–27. Oil on canvas.

It is indeed a very human trait to attach human characteristics to non-human things. Just like I did multiple times in the above paragraph. For example, when I implied ‘the sun kissing your skin’. The fancy word for committing such an act is “anthropomorphism”. We do it all the time, pay attention the next time you are speaking passionately on a topic. You may say things like, ‘I have trust in this car, it’s a sturdy old girl’ or ‘This book really speaks to me’.

BoJack Horseman, a modern example of anthropomorphism in action. Likewise the ancient Egyptians placed great emphasis on balance and proportion, to conjoin human reality with their surroundings.

So, what the hell is going on?

Rationally we know that these objects are not going to reply back, yet we speak to them with the ultimate of convictions. In such cases we are using our mind’s emotive domain to override the cognitive (rational) domain. In a way, what we are really doing is connecting ourselves to whatever is around us, whether living or not.

On a nature walk one may say, I can feel the birds singing to me.

Of course, there is a high degree of egocentrism to all of this. This is not surprising, as any action that we do, at any timestamp, is done with a motive to enhance our survival. As Freud might put it, in accordance with the pleasure principle. The pleasure principle states that our ego, is an extremely simple thing, The ego forever behaves, to either enhance pleasure or reduce pain, nothing more, nothing less.

The whole idea if an action being moral or not, and wether we choose to act on any idea or not, are the whispers of the super-ego. The super-ego is our conscience, it is the super-ego where our internal value structures exists. Aristotle may say a “man’s virtues”.

The kicker

The super-ego, is not so super if it was brought up with bad morals and neglected parenting. Even with top-class parenting, once the child turns to an adult, they need to periodically check base with their internal value structures and evaluate if those morals still remain fit for purpose. Are those morals driving you towards your ultimate truth? In short, make sure to keep your software up-to-date, to keep up with the times and the others whom we share the world with.

This all sounds hectic, why do we even bother?

Simply put, we have an evolutionary primed bias to live long, healthy lives in the hopes to reproduce, then live a little bit longer, to care for our new-borns. Till the day, that multicellular blastula develops into an 18 year old Gen Z and can hopefully look out for it itself. And because we are greedy, we wish for a little more longer, so we can see our grandkids in action, our legacy, to the world. For sure, A highbrow vicarious pleasure. SO that is the biological reason. Most animals have this innate desire to reproduce in order for their genes to live on.

Then you ask,

What separates us humans?

What makes us superior?

Why do we feel the need to be the dominant species?

Wether we admit it or not. This superiority status comes from our faculty to engage in higher level reasoning. In Psychiatry speak ‘By engaging our mental faculty of cognition (i.e. thought and reason), to problem solve and operate as best as possible within our socio-political landscapes’.

Let us dive deeper

Cognition is a product of the mind. The other products of the mind are emotion and motivation. A well trained, thoughtful, wise human being has honed their mind in such a way that their cognition, emotion and motivation works for them rather than against. These 3 mental functions working in tandem to creatively problem-solve, so one can maintain their status as a superior being.

High trait emotional intelligence is found in well trained leaders. It is a product of a finely-honed integrative mind.

A final word

This dictum applies weather you are a male or female, you will simply enact different behavioural strategies congruent with your sex-gender makeup. Lastly the marriage of these 3 mental functions: 1. Cognition 2. Motivation and 3.Emotion gives rise to the Psyche/Soul/Spirit, whatever you prefer to call it. The Psyche/Soul/Spirit is a complex phenomena, and I appreciate that I have not fully opened that pandora’s box…yet.

I hope you will use this piece as a springboard to build, refine and maybe share your own thoughts, so we can all understand each other better for a cohesive co-existence.



Dr Ad ALI• Physician-Philosopher

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