What does it mean to be human?

How could we spend a lifetime being something so convincingly, without having any real understanding of what it actually means?

In a world that would seek to make us anything and everything other than who and what we truly are, I believe it is well overdue to ask this most valuable of questions.

Consider some of the facts surrounding our race:

That there are currently between 5 and 6 billion mobile phones in circulation on the planet, many of which have more technology crammed into them than an entire Radio Shack store catalogue advertised for sale in 1991, giving us instant access to 1.3 trillion gigabytes of data.

That between 1960 and 2010 our population rose from 3 billion to 6.8 billion people worldwide, creating more growth of population in the last 50 years than the human race has known in the previous 2 million years of life on this planet.

In terms of technological breakthroughs, we are on the verge of sending humans to Mars, and in 2014 we started commercial space flight courtesy of Virgin Galactic.  Thanks to breakthroughs in medicine and healthcare, in sanitation and waste disposal, in power production and controlling emissions we are now living an average 23 years longer than we did  just 50 years ago, and between 1981 and 2010 the number of people living in ‘extreme poverty’ is reportedly down by 21% globally.

According to the WHO, worldwide obesity has nearly doubled since 1980. 35% of adults aged 20 and over were reported as being overweight in 2008, and 11% were obese.  65% of the world’s population live in countries where being overweight and having obesity kills more people than dying from malnutrition and being underweight.  The astounding thing here is that second to sleeping, eating is the most fundamental activity we can do in sustaining our life, yet according to WHO statistics, 1.4 billion of us are getting it severely wrong.

So again the question absolutely begs to be asked, ‘What does it mean to be Human?’  Is it all about getting ahead of each other regardless of the cost?  Does it mean that ALL social benefit should be ignored despite the consequences?

“A free market will ignore extenalities. A profit maximising capitalist firm is likely to ignore negative externalities, such as pollution from production. This can harm living standards. Similarly, a free market economy will under-provide goods with positive externalities, such as health, public transport and education. This leads to an inefficient allocation of resources. Even supporters of capitalism will admit that government provision of certain public goods and public services is essential to maximise the potential of a capitalist society.”  (Tejvan Pettinger)

Is it about creating and perpetuating further social, gender or racial division so that the elite 1% can hold the balance of power over the rest of us?

It is NOT human to walk past someone living out of a garbage can whilst we make more money than we could ever hope to spend in ten lifetimes. It is NOT human to know, but turn a blind eye to the fact that our actions are harming other species, or the environment in which we live, or another group of people just so we can make a little more money.

In honest truth, many tribal societies that we deem ‘uncivilised’ and primitive by our somewhat twisted standards have a far greater sense of what it means to be human.  Their overall happiness is far greater than that experienced by the most western society as a whole.  Sure their lives are harder, their environment harsher, and they seem to have little to no ambition when we compare them to ourselves. But there is the kicker, the things that we are chasing in life are the main elements of our unhappiness.  That we are selling our very humanness in the pursuit of something as transient as money is robbing us of every thing that makes us what we inherently are as a species.

I believe the major difference is that in the aforementioned tribes, they largely go through a rite of passage into adulthood; a process by which they grow to KNOW themselves and find a place in their society.  By the time they come into adulthood, they have no questions about who they are, they follow no pre-programmed ideas of what they are ‘meant’ to be doing in life, and because of this, there is no dissension, no conflict, no depression and no crime.

By contrast, we have no such rites and we are growing into adulthood not just not knowing our place in the world, but not knowing ourselves either. Our concept of success is based around what others have told us we need to be doing, and we foolishly believe them.  We haven’t just lost connection to each other, we have lost connection to ourselves and THIS is what is costing us our humanness.  We don’t know what it means to be human because we have become so busy pursuing an idea that was passed down to us by others and we have forgotten to live as humans.

So, what does it mean to be human?

It means living to the level of our supposed intelligence.  The second we become aware that something we are doing is causing harm, to be human is to stop doing it.  It means to support one another rather than competing against each other.  It means understanding that there is no division between us, and to act accordingly.  It means to BE there for one another, to TRUST one another, to act in the HIGHEST GOOD of one another.

To be human means to never let the pursuit of anything come in between us and doing what is ‘right’!

Author – Chris Jones

Image – Flickr Miran Rijavec



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