What Does It Mean to be Human?

I  struggle to write about the past week of events for two reasons.

(1)  I have not read enough of Black History in my adopted country to know the depth and breadth of the problem. (A shortcoming, I hope to rectify to the  best of my ability in the coming months.) All I  know is that the Black Lives Matter movement is long overdue. 

(2) The other is that the blatant nature of the cold killing of George Floyd flabbergasted me. How could a man sent sprawling to the ground with his hands handcuffed  behind him be such a threat, that a policeman felt he needed to put his knee on his neck in addition to everything else? How could he not let up when he felt the man go limp under his knee? How could .. why did he…could he not have instead…a million questions that will remain unanswered. The killing is a chilling realization of the moment when our humanity deserted us collectively.

We Belong on Earth  is a strong theme in my blog as regular readers know. 

Do not hate in the plural is another strong theme on my blog. 

The Black Lives Matter movement very strongly aligns to both these causes.

As I  mutely witnessed the events and absorbed the weight of the movement, my heart stirred and yearned for only one  thing: that the civil rights movement is long overdue is an understatement; what I wanted more than anything else is for the awareness to be translated  into action. 

So, what does it mean to be  human? 

If a person, racist or not, is  in need of a blood transfusion or an organ transplant, do they, even for a moment, think about the race of the donor? I don’t think so.

I thought the Corona virus reminded us of what it means to be human. In spite of borders, and diatribes about immigrations, and the numerous ways in which  we find ways to divide ourselves, the virus proved to us without a doubt that we are human and are therefore susceptible.

In the words of Seneca: 

Dum inter homines sumus, colamus humanitatem

“As long as we are human, let us be humane.”

Additional Reading:

What does it mean  to be human?

The Biology of Skin Color (The link between human evolution over time; the ability to adapt to different levels of UV  radiation in the tropics vs the poles; and its correlation with absorption of Vitamin D is explained in this video)

Maria Popova in her Brain Pickings blog had written a sentence on a meditation of the human condition, and I had jotted it down, for it was such a powerful sentence. I quote:

“At a time when the need to celebrate both our shared humanity and our meaningful differences is all the more painfully evident, the question of what makes us human becomes not one of philosophy alone but also of politics, justice, identity, and every fiber of existence that lies between.”