What is Man?

What is man
That you should take notice of him,
A son of man
That you should be concerned with him,
Elevating him far above
The other beasts
To near divinity?

Man is dust,
Less than a breath,
A son of man
An illusion,
A passing shadow
In the flickering heat
Of the sun.

December 2003 / October 2018

Inspired by Psalm 8.5, where, in many translations, בן אדם (literally ‘son of Adam’ or ‘son of man’) is rendered as “mortal man.” I have used the more literal translation of the phrase to try and emulate the feel of the Hebrew.

You can read a modern translation, with the original Hebrew, of Psalm 8 (and many many other Jewish texts) at the excellent Sefaria site.