This month, I want to offer you a question. I want this question to be like a koan for you, like an inquiry, like a journey. I want this question to burn you up, to ignite your fire, to quench your thirst.
I want this question to stay with you over these last few weeks of summer. The fullness and ripeness and slowness of summer is drawing to a close. We are starting to position ourselves towards September and the fall. Our speed will increase as we approach September. Our tempo will increase as we start to think of all the ways we need to initiate or re-initiate our projects, tasks, concepts.
Yet, we have had a beautiful summer. We have had time, most of us, to at least feel the languid breezes and hot winds of summer. We have had time to replenish, reconnect, nourish.
So, as we all wind down and start to transition, the question I offer you is large and broad. It is:
What do you think it takes to be human?
This is a big question. It is so big perhaps it takes some stopping and focus to really wrap our minds around this question. What does it take to be human? Are we not already human? Well, yes, we are. We can’t help but be human, in one way. In another way, however, our humanity is shaped. It is shaped by our upbringing and certainly it is shaped by our society’s rules, laws, hidden maps. These things press and form us into a certain definition of what it means to be human.
What if we could step back? What if it matters to ask oneself what one thinks is most important to cultivate to be a good human?
I got this question from watching a short, 6 minute film from Stephen Jenkinson, a spiritual activist and provocateur. Jenkinson has a lot of experience sitting with people who have been dying and he has formulated a lot of ideas that get to the heart of our humanity. In this video, Jenkinson talks about the act of making us into humans, contrasted with the idea that we are born human.
This is Jenkinson’s exploration of the question:
What do you think we must learn to be human? To be a good person? Here are three things I think go into being human. Please add to the list and dialogue!
- Respect your elders – they have wisdom
- Be kind
- Be real – show me your heart and I will show you mine.