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From homo sapiens to homo faber

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El Día, La Provincia and Heraldo de Aragón

Gerardo Castillo Ceballos

School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

Homo faber is practical and sees work as an end, that of constructing reality, while homo sapiens is theoretical and sees work as a means to rethink that reality. Ancient Greece was one of the cradles of homo sapiens, of the thinker born of the capacity to wonder at the mystery of the world and of life. Ancient Rome, on the other hand, was the cradle of homo faber, the architect who organizes and transforms the world without wondering about its background.

Which of the two is more similar to the man of our time? Everything indicates that every day we are ceasing to be thinking men and becoming men who only do. Today's man is at the service of technology, forgetting that technology is for man, and not man for technology. Absorbed by it, he loses his capacity for reflection and thought, the only thing that makes us different from other animals.

Byung-Chul Han's book The Weary Society is a critique of the current predominance of homo faber over homo sapiens, of the automation of active life away from contemplation, in which the subject becomes an autistic performance machine. The man of late modernity spends his days in a constant acceleration that leads to hyperactivity, from which he is condemned to profound exhaustion. Hence, ours is the society of stress, anxiety and depression. Bung-Chul Han presents today's man as the tired Prometheus, an exhausted being who is constantly devoured by his own ego; he is both victim and executioner. His life is organized by the times of work. At the end of the day comes the reproach of not having done things better. Always pretending to be the best leads to altered moods that depress and provoke insomnia. The constant bombardment of information to which we are subjected also leads to this, since it generates a continuous hyperstimulation of the senses and paralyzes our analytical capacity. The excess of information has transformed the very essence of society and human relationships. For Byung-Chul Han, "today's digital swarm consists of isolated individuals, and lacks a soul, a we capable of walking in one direction or taking common political action. Moreover, it distances us further from each other, under the illusion that it brings us closer, and destroys the silence that the soul needs to reflect and be itself." Are there ways to prevent and lessen this fatigue? One of them is to generate a periodic digital disconnection, recovering spaces for reflection and face-to-face coexistence, promoting the humanization of relationships in our civic life. The proposal of practicing non-doing, even for short periods, could be a good alternative, because it is the only thing that can save us from being heartbroken, exhausted and isolated souls.

Information overload has transformed the very essence of society and human relationships.

Byung-Chul says that the contemplative life is that which trains the gaze to see with deep attention and calm; it is the only one that can make the subject of performance realize the absoluteness of his active life and the nervousness that leads to hyperactivity. The pedagogy of looking is an invitation from the author to slow down life, to learn to look in order to find the moment of reflection and not only personally, but also to look at others. Other possible resources in the face of an accelerated and hyperactive life are parties, reading, walks in the countryside, relaxed conversation, visit to a museum, fishing, humor.

For Andrés Vázquez de Prada, good humor is an emotional status that gives us a jovial temper and lends us elasticity of conduct. It is a resource that relativizes the idea of performance and the rigid vision of life. I would add that this makes it possible to enjoy the experience of joy. The great joys are not savored while running. You cannot listen to the Brahms Requiem between one thing and another. All of them are resources of slowness, which stop time and tame it; they are art. Art takes us out of the trepidation, which when continuous is unbearable.