What makes us human?

Holding hands man and child

I’ve been listening periodically to the Radio 2 series on ‘What makes us human” and they’ve been many different perspectives on this from all kinds of different people. So this is my humble attempt to consider what I think it means to be human. When my Dad died 5 years ago I went through some soul searching around the point of life – not in the teenage oh woe is me, nobody loves me everybody hates me vibe – although I do remember that and it felt very real at the time. But this was different. This was a real deep question of what are we here for? Our lives seem so short and sometimes superficial and meaningless – do we really make a difference in the world? Is the world a better place for my Dad having lived in it and having touched the lives he touched?

After much pondering on this over a number of months I could honestly say that my Dad’s life had great meaning. Now he is not in a room his absence is like a gaping hole sometimes for me. His presence was felt. Whether he spoke or not just the fact that he was present meant that I felt safe. Not only did he touch my life and our family of course, but I know he touched many other peoples lives. If I knew without a doubt I could say that about my life I would know it has been a life well lived.

What makes us human? Our interaction with each other. No man was made to live alone. Isolation is a debilitating state to be in. We may crave peace and quiet sometimes but without interacting with other humans we do not grow. When I think about the amount of contacts we have with people each day it’s amazing sometimes. I’m in Starbucks writing this and have connected with others I don’t know probably every other minute – a look, smile, comment, conversation – all these seemingly insignificant moments are in fact what makes it worth being alive.

As with most things in life though that which is good can also and almost always can be bad. When I think of my children and the hard start they had in life – the negative interactions with adults. The scary and unsafe environment and the resulting fear and anxiety that brings is horrible. As human beings we seem to be infinitely capable of positive and negative interactions with each other on a daily basis. Sometimes you feel that you’re having such a brilliant day that something bad is bound to happen. For those pessimists amongst us those bad things are always going to happen as we look for them and notice them more than we notice the positive interactions.

So coming back to my Dad and his interactions with the world around him. I’m sure there were some not so positive interactions he had with his world but when I think of him now only the positives seem to remain. Those are the moments where he touched the people around him and made a difference. He wasn’t just a number, a statistic of a person who died before his time, but he was a man who left fond memories, great ideals to live up to and someone who springs to my mind when I think of what it means to be human.

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