I know a man who occasionally makes comments like this: "We humans are like that" or "We're human, right? That's what humans do" or "Human beings do that sort of thing". When he says things like that, I find myself somehow soothed, as if recognizing that whatever behavior he is commenting on is normal and natural (instead of the wrong or bad I might have been assuming). It is such an accepting way of seeing the world. A conversation with him a couple of days ago set me to thinking about what it means to be human. What is the essence of being human?
Human beings are the same in so many ways. Human beings are different too. Yes, they all have fears and dreams but those fears and dreams are different from person to person. All human beings hurt sometimes but they hurt in different ways and for different reasons. But the experience of pain is a commonality. As Tom Robbins says, “There is no such thing as a weird human being, It's just that some people require more understanding than others.” I like that. It speaks to the complexity of being human.
Human beings are a bundle of everything. I would say that the life of a human being is messy. To be human is to have conflicting needs and wants. There's the messy part. It can be so confusing to sort it all out. So complex. To be a human who is alive is to be a human who experiences both what it means to be broken and what it means to be whole - sometimes at the same time. To be human is to fight and to surrender, to be strong and to be weak, to be cautious and careless, to be clear and to be muddled - all at the same time. Messy, messy, messy.
Being human also means being flawed. No one is perfect and the flaws show our humanity. You can be messed up and confused and scared and it doesn't mean you are defective. It only means you are human. Human beings are also not fixed in stone. Feelings or aspirations from one day may be gone in the next. Curiosity calls forth new roads and yet old roads can remain too. To get what we want or need is not necessarily easy. Our eyes may turn in one direction and our bodies may crash into the wall in that same instant. It takes effort and focus. And you can pay a price for effort and focus. Nick Harkaway said it like this: " Being human isn't like hanging your hat on a hook and leaving it there, it's like walking in a high wind: you have to keep paying attention. You have to be engaged with the world.”
I am curious. What do you think it means to be human?