From "Absence of Mind" by Marilynne Robinson, published this month by Yale University Press. Copyright © 2010 by Marilynne Robinson
What is man? One answer on offer is: An organism whose haunting questions perhaps ought not to be meaningful to the organ that generates them, lacking as it is in any means of "solving" them. Another answer might be: It is still too soon to tell. We might be the creature who brings life on this planet to an end, and we might be the creature who awakens to the privileges that inhere in our nature--selfhood, consciousness, even our biologically anomalous craving for "the truth"--and enjoys and enhances them. Mysteriously, neither possibility precludes the other. Our nature will describe itself as we respond to new circumstances in a world that changes continuously. So long as the human mind exists to impose itself on reality, as it has already done so profoundly, what it is and what we are must remain an open question.