On Being Human
[This post was originally published on Medium.com]
To say the last couple months have been strange would be a bit of understatement. Just a bit.
Pretty much no one I’ve talked to has ever lived through a pandemic, and it’s certainly something I never devoted much thought to. Until now.
But here we are: the year is 2020, and we’re all either in our homes or covering our faces on the rare occasions when we do venture out. If that’s not the perfect setting for a dystopian novella, I don’t know what is.
Perhaps my biggest takeaway from COVID-19 is that this is not normal. Normal would be going to the grocery store without a second thought for whether I’ll get sick or not. Normal would be seeing friends and not feeling that they possessed an invisible forcefield bubble whose line I most certainly should not cross.
This is not normal.
But then that begs a bigger question — what is normal? However you define ‘normal’, I think we can agree it is something that we will never again take for granted, if and when it does return.
Normal is far too valuable to be discounted.
Normal, to me, means feeling like a human being. You know, those living things that we actually are.
What does feeling like a human being feel like? It’s complex, but you know it when you see it. Or rather, you know it when you feel it.
Human beings create things. Human beings smile, and display emotion physically. Human beings speak words in the presence of one another.
Human beings mark noteworthy occasions with celebration and festivity. Human beings document the passing time and passing feelings with writing, music, art.
It can be hard to feel like a human being right now. And that’s because so much of what connects us has been broken.
It’s no one’s fault, really. It’s one of the unfortunate effects of our fallen world — things happen which can hurt and separate us. Things are not completely right where we are.
I don’t like not feeling fully human. It reminds me that something is wrong, and I have no power to fix it. I am limited. I am finite.
One other rather unfortunate aspect of being human is that we can suffer, and even die. If fact, it’s the desire to prevent death and suffering that is driving all of this weird non-human behavior we’re engaging in now.
We’ve chosen to mitigate much of our human-ness for a time, so that later, there will be more of us around to enjoy being fully human again.
It’s sacrificial, and somewhat beautiful, if also difficult.
We’ve temporarily severed our connections, in hopes of a joyous reunion sometime in the future.
It you too feel a desire to be re-connected, it’s a sign of your humanity. It means you’re one of us. It means we’re one of you.
A virus can temporarily separate us, but not permanently. COVID-19 will eventually pass, and when it does, we’ll slowly resume the business of being fully human again.
Our world was started in garden, and it’s ending in a glorious city. There’s a lot of work required to get from one to the other.
Thankfully, it’s human work.