The very next day after writing about taming wild animals I came across a curious text. The Netziv (acronym for Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin) is a Bible commentary I plan to study in the coming year. I thought to get a head start yesterday on Genesis and soon came to the following verse: God said, Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: domestic animals, creeping things and wild beasts of every kind. The verse mentions two different words for animals. The Netziv explained that a “wild beast” is wild by nature, unless you raise him in a way that will change his nature to become tame and a “domestic animal” is tame by nature unless you raise him in a way that will change his nature to become wild. What’s curious is that just after writing about this the previous day I “happened” to come across this commentary, when I wasn’t looking for it.
Human beings have a lot in common with the animal kingdom. The implications for human growth and development are huge. A child that was raised in an abusive environment can be trained to become refined. A child that is raised in a loving, gentle environment can unfortunately become the opposite.
There is a difference, though. There is more to human beings than just the animal aspect. Logotherapy insists on incorporating the human capacities for being conscious and responsible. So if you were surrounded by violent behavior it’s not an excuse but a mandate to mobilize the defiant power of the human spirit that says I don’t care if I was taught to be immoral. I can learn otherwise. I know that what I was taught is not right.
In addition, this awareness in logotherapeutic work brings to consciousness the significance of cognitive and behavioral levels of change. I just met someone who told me she grew up with two deaf parents. She said that this has made her very sensitive to the motions and gesticulations people make when they’re talking. What a wonderful learning experience! She could not have gotten this any other way. This makes her very unique.
An animal cannot think about the meaning of its experience. Only a human being, filled with wonder and amazement can declare: “This event has shaped my life and made me who I am!”
Logotherapy reaches beyond the mechanistic or behavioral level of functioning we share with animals and assumes the presence of human awareness. Given that we are not always consciously aware of what we know deep down, Logotherapy aims at those times to bring the information to our conscious awareness.