What is the worth of an individual man? According to a rabbinic dictum, “he who saves one man is regarded as if he saved all men; he who destroys one man is regarded as if he destroyed all men.” It is beyond my power to assess the worth of all of humanity.
What would a Life Insurance Company charge for the insurance of the entire human race? Now it is just as staggering to ponder the worth of one human being. In terms of statistics the individual man is an exceedingly insignificant specimen compared with the totality of the human species. So why should the life and dignity of an individual man be regarded as infinitely precious? Because human being is not just being-around, being-here-too, a being to be assessed and classified in terms of quantity. Human being is a disclosure of the d vine. The grandeur of human being is revealed in the power of being human.
What is the meaning of human being? In dealing with a particular man I do not come upon a generality but upon an individuality, upon uniqueness, upon a person. I see a face, not only a body; a special situation, not a typical case. The disease is common, the patient is unique.
Most conspicuous is the variety and inner richness of the human species. Not only do individuals differ widely; the individual himself is not always the same. Look at a dog. Once a dog always a dog. Yet man may be a sinner today and a saint tomorrow. Perhaps the most amazing aspect about man is what is latent in him. One thing that sets man apart from animals is a boundless, unpredictable capacity for the development of an inner universe. There is more potentiality in his soul than in any other being known to us. Look at the infant and try to imagine the multitude of events it is going to engender. One child named Johann Sebastian Bach was charged with power enough to hold generations of men in his spell. But is there any potentiality to acclaim or any surprise to expect in a calf or a colt? Indeed, the essence of human being is not in what he is, but in what he is able to be.
What constitutes being human, personhood? The ability to be concerned for other human beings. Animals are concerned for their own instinctive needs; the degree of our being human stands in direct proportion to the degree in which we care for others. The word “cure” comes from the word “care.”
The truth of being human is gratitude, the secret of existence is appreciation, its significance is revealed in reciprocity. Mankind will not die for lack of information; it may perish for lack of appreciation.
[Insecurity of Freedom]
[Insecurity of Freedom]