What Separates Us From the Animals

What is it that really makes us so different from the animals? Well, for one, we exfoliate! And we accessorize! Seriously though, animals have a few things for which we should genuinely envy them. And there is one thing that humans have that makes us vastly superior and exceedingly powerful. Unfortunately, few take full advantage of this incredible gift, which shaped our civilization and has the ability to put us in control of our lives.

Maverick Knows

Animals accept life as it comes. It would never occur to them to change anything because they do not have the ability to think consciously. They live entirely by their instincts. Like us, animals seek sustenance and shelter and are driven to perpetuate their species, and, like us, they play and like to have fun. I am friends with a raven who lives in my area. I’ve called him Maverick because he is an amazing flyer. He enjoys gliding on the updrafts in the canyon in front of my house. On a windy day, Maverick will fly high, pull his wings close to his body, and flip upside down. Of course, this causes him to drop sharply. He waits as long as he can before he unfolds his wings to turn out of his free fall. It is breathtaking to watch it. Maverick will do this again and again as long as the wind allows. It’s obvious that he does it for the sheer joy of flying. Maybe he enjoys the feeling he gets in his stomach when he drops. I’m sure Maverick doesn’t waste a lot of time analyzing why he does what he does. He lives completely in the moment. Maverick is enviable that way.


The Present

Most humans don’t enjoy their existence quite so fully. They’re often miserable because they don’t know how to be in the moment. They are caught in time, regretting the past, worrying about the future, and sometimes both simultaneously. While these are thought processes that arise from our complex cognitive abilities, like memory, imagination, and anticipation, which are hallmarks of our superior intelligence and have undoubtedly contributed to our success as a species, they have also led to mental preoccupation and a decreased ability to be fully present. So many live entirely in the past, awash in guilt over something they've done or not done or something that’s happened to them, as if living it over and over again could change things. And, oh, so many are paralyzed by their worries about the future. Dr. Michael Beckwith once said that worrying about the future is like paying interest on money you haven't borrowed - it’s not smart! The past exists only in memories, and the future is pure imagination. Neither is real, so when we’re caught in time, we’re not really living at all. We are miserable because, unlike animals, we’re not so adept at taking life as it comes. Humans are made to change things.

The Great Power

Here, then, is what makes us different from animals: We are imbued with conscious awareness, which gives us the ability to think independently of circumstances. It is this power that allows us to determine our future. The capability to visualize the future plays a crucial role in our capacity to shape and create the lives we desire. Humans have the remarkable ability to imagine and envision possibilities beyond the present moment. By leveraging our cognitive abilities, we can set goals, make plans, and take intentional actions toward creating the future we desire. Our ability to think abstractly and project ourselves into the future has allowed us to anticipate challenges and identify opportunities to shape the world the way it is today. This unique human capacity for envisioning the future has driven our ability to innovate, build civilizations, and make progress. The ability to think independently of circumstance is the great gift of humanity. It is what truly separates us from the animals. It is our superpower. There is just one caveat - we must be present to win!

What a Mess!

One might wonder, if we are indeed such powerful beings, why we have made such a mess of our world. We have indeed leveraged our considerable cognitive abilities and envisioned and created futures with the most fantastical inventions and innovations, so why, then, is there still so much suffering? The problem is that we live so much of our lives unconsciously. So, instead of seeing reality, we mainly see the ninety-nine percent of imaginings and beliefs in our own heads. So, when something out of the ordinary pops up in our lives, we’re immediately caught up in worst-case scenarios: “Oh my God, here it comes!” Something feels off in the body, and right away, we worry that it’s cancer! God forbid there really is some kind of diagnosis; in our minds, we’re already casket shopping. The worry is not based on real facts but on what our imagination has cooked up for us, all driven by our subconscious fears and basic instincts. “What if this happens…?” Unfortunately, while we are busy imagining these worst-case scenarios, we use the amazing visualization powers we've been given, and we unconsciously create the future. Just not the one we want. When we’re not present in the moment, we give up the one great power we have as human beings. We give up the ability for self-determination and put ourselves in a position to accept whatever comes our way.

Visualize Whirled Peas

It is imperative that we not leave our future to chance. We must each have a well-defined understanding of where we want to go. What are the unique contributions you personally are meant to make to the world? What are your deepest individual needs and desires? It is vital to embark on a journey of self-discovery so you can work toward realizing your aspirations in all areas of life by having a sharp vision for your future. As a human being, you have been given great power. You have been given the ability to think independently of circumstances. You have been given the opportunity to visualize and create your best future. When you are clear about where you want to go, you can create the future meaningfully, not from instinct-driven fears but from your God-given need and desire to live to your highest potential and express who you are.

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