I am in my car on the way to keep-fit at Fulmodeston. The radio is keeping my mind exercised with a programme on artificial intelligence which causes me to ask the question. “What does it mean to be human?”

The theme of this month’s Beacon happens to be “Mind, body, spirit.” These are three aspects that make each of us quite unique. Sometimes they suffer from being teased apart with focus on one whilst ignoring the others. (This is sometimes experienced by people who stay in hospital.) If we think of mind, body and spirit as three legs on a stool the consequences of imbalance are obvious. They are however more like the cords of a rope, intricately bound together. Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to be creative if you have too much going on in your mind or are experiencing pain? How depression affects you physically and spiritually. Posture and place are important in prayer and meditation. Try to meditate curled up tight in a ball on the floor and you will see what I mean.

One day soon we may be happy to purchase a robot to clean the home. We may be less content to accept a world controlled by superior, logical, dispassionate machines. Which brings me back to the question “What does it mean to be human?” Surely it is not simply our abilities that make us human but also our vulnerabilities, weaknesses and irrationalities (like compassion, love). Whilst (according to the programme) a person may end up inferior to a machine, I believe we will always be very much more than the sum of our constituent parts. What do you think? Do you regard yourself as just a biological machine (which struggles to function at keep-fit!) or do you have a value beyond price?


Francis Mason