I constantly listen to people say that when they get irritated, anxious, or scared that they are just “being human,” emotions like these are elements of being human! But is this truly the case? And what does it precisely mean to be human/mortal?
According to the online version of the etymology dictionary, the word “human” came from old French (human) and Latin (humanus) and also was used for “humane, philanthropic, forgiving, soft, polite; learned, improved, civilized.” As we can notice from this viewpoint, being human means being kind, gentle, and polite. Thus if we are angry, worried, and fearful we forfeit this kindness, gentleness, and politeness. In fact, we are the contrary of being human!
The dictionary goes on to say that it also stands for an “earthly being.” This to me signifies being of and with the earth, in the union. However, in our modern world, are we still human? Do we still treat the earth with affection? Do we still sense the interconnectedness with the planet? Are we gracious and kind to the world? Or do we ravage the earth and erode it? If so, are we still human, a worldly being who dwells in union with the earth rather than obliterating it?
Maybe when we are indignant, fearful, frightened, etc, and we say we are simply human, perhaps it is a means of asserting to ourselves that it is alright to be irritated, troubled, anxious – that we can’t help it because we are “just human.” Perhaps it is a dodging: “I am angry, but that is just me being human!” Therefore, I don’t have to do anything about it: I can simply be furious, anxious, and uneasy because it is a component of being human. But what if being human is in fact the opposite: being considerate, thoughtful, and gracious? If we glance at it from that perspective, then when we find that anger, worry, fear (or other emotions we might tag as “negative”) are getting in our way and resisting us from being tolerant, gentle, and polite, we have to take action for ourselves. We have to discipline so that we become less angry, less worried, less fearful. But this means taking self-accountability instead of concealing behind the phrase, “I am just human, so I do get angry.”
I think we have to recall again what it means to be really ordinary human beings – full of compassion, gentleness, and pleasantry. And we can do this by nurturing varied conscientious exercises so that we can become normal again. Acknowledging that as a human species we are nothing special, we are not more special than animals on the earth than anything else, we are merely typical human beings. But we can only do this through our own personal efforts, our own personal practice. Then when we do get irritated, troubled, anxious, etc., we start to understand that we have drifted away from being human – in fact, we have become in-humane.
So let’s hold hands together, let’s practice jointly so that for the sake of our kids and the planet, we can go back to being true and normal human beings again. Through our practice and our relationship with each other and to all things, let’s put the “humane” back into being human.