Let me ask you this. This large question, what does it mean to be human? Which is a philosophical question, it’s a theological question, and it’s an anthropological question. It’s a question your mother, Margaret Mead, and your father, Gregory Bateson, were asking. I know it’s also a huge question. How would you start to talk about how your sense of that has evolved in the course of this life you’ve lived? Perhaps in ways that have taken you by surprise or not.
I was going to give you an excessively intellectual answer about having to do with consciousness. And you made it a much more personal question. Consciousness is important. Reflection is important. Thinking about what you’re doing, and what it means, and the search for meaning. One of the things that I came to believe when I wrote that piece you referred to about my father’s death is that death is a very important part of life that we shouldn’t deny. That in spite of our terrible hubris, and greed, and competitiveness, that we can learn to see ourselves in proportion and realize that we’re small, and temporary. And don’t understand as much as we need to. And we live in a time of real urgency where we have to mine the insights of the past. I guess one way of saying it is we have to learn to use the word “we” to include all of life on earth. We have to learn to experience that as a terrible and tender beauty. And shape everything we do to protect it."