The Nature of "Human"

April 12, 2017

Let me ask you, personally: What is it that makes you human? If you had to define it, what language would you use? 


 It's a complex question.


It is possible to consider humanness in the context of the animal kingdom, or perhaps through an exploration of what is inhumane. Innumerable disciplines can inform what it means to be human, including anatomy, psychology, sociology, and history.


Here are some of my personal thoughts about what makes one human:


  • The ability to overcome basest instincts and animal nature by applying intellect and free will. 

  • Acceptance of one's vulnerability and a determination to use reason to counter the primal instincts of fight or flight, to recognize and modulate a spectrum of emotion and disposition as one navigates through life.

  • Acknowledging interdependency with all aspects of the natural world and form alliances and social structures that preserve and enhance that symbiosis. 

  • Recognizing and honoring the right of every other human being to do the same.


Our first Human Library is hours away (Thursday, April 13, 5:30 - 8:30pm, at Rochester Public Library). A Human Library is essentially a collection of human beings who have chosen to lend their knowledge and life experiences to others in order to spread understanding of our common humanness. 



Human Books are people who understand, through their own journeys into and beyond difference, that we are all the same. Like any good book, the experience transports you to a different reality.


It is a simple process: 1) you check out a person from our Human Bookshelf; 2) you spend time talking with them; 3) you go on about your business. 


Your Human Library Card is like a ticket that puts you on the fast track to discovery: no extended courtship getting to know a stranger, no uncertainty, no fear of offending, no discomfort in asking questions. You sit down with a Muslim or a person with schizophrenia or a police officer or a lesbian, and they are an open book. Ask. Listen. Learn.  


One of our amazing Human Books said, "Like me or dislike me, now you know me."


That's the genius of this model: it uses difference to underscore equality.


In my definition, the single most important aspect of being human is owning the truth that there is no individual or group of individuals—regardless of origin, situation, physiology, or label—who is less human than I am.   


An exploration of the origins of the word HUMAN and what it means:

human (adj.) 
mid-15c., humain, humaigne, "human," from Old French humain, umain (adj.) "of or belonging to man" (12c.), from Latin humanus "of man, human," also "humane, philanthropic, kind, gentle, polite; learned, refined, civilized." This is in part from PIE *(dh)ghomon-, literally "earthling, earthly being," as opposed to the gods (see homunculus), but there is no settled explanation of the sound changes involved. Compare Hebrew adam "man," from adamah "ground." Cognate with Old Lithuanian žmuo (accusative žmuni) "man, male person." Human interest is from 1824. Human rights attested by 1680s; human being by 1690s. Human relations is from 1916; human resources attested by 1907, from American English, apparently originating among social Christians and based on natural resources. Source: Online Etymology Dictionary

human (adj.) 
Modern humans (Homo sapiens, primarily ssp. Homo sapiens sapiens) are the only extant members of Hominina tribe (or human tribe), a branch of the tribe Hominini belonging to the family of great apes. They are characterized by erect posture and bipedal locomotion; manual dexterity and increased tool use, compared to other animals; and a general trend toward larger, more complex brains and societies. Source: Wikipedia

human (adj.) 
A fictional race of Argonimorphic apes, presented in books, movies, tales and in the real life. Humans are warm-blooded, soft-skinned, flat-faced, ugly mammals, who tend to make things that are beautiful ugly. The apes are rather unintelligent (the average intelligence quotient is 100), their main obsessions are domination, copulation (population over 6.600.000.000 and is still growing, it probably will until the apes run out of food, this obsession can also leads to deviations, which is some sort of a psyche desease or highly dangerous side effect), social integration (the more friends they have - the better it is). They are treacherous, best not to trust them. The aggression level is so high that they can't get on without killing each other, every excuse is good to start a military conflict, or at least humiliate the opposing side and show one's domination over the other side. Also, humans are very weird, for example, in a face to face contact to communicate you have not only use words, but also mimics, gesticulation and the so-called, overall "body language". 
Source: Urban Dictionary



If you wish to see other interpretations of the word human and its origins, here are a couple of interesting sites:


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