A few days ago my friend Mikayla asked how I’m doing.
“Ya know, it is what it is,” I replied. Because apparently I am a curmedgeonly old man from Kansas, in an angsty low-budget film.
But then I elaborated:
“Grief is a long road. Healing is a slow process. Fall is beautiful. Winter is scary. Starting over is hard. I make good omelettes. I am handsome. I have bought some good books off the internet. I have some good friends on the internet. Life goes on.”
A year ago, I sat down for an interview with Melissa Hawks, who was working on a project called Mutiny of Dreamers. She was traveling and exploring and collecting stories from all sorts of fascinating people: astronauts and artists and world-changers and entrepreneurs.
And then there was me.
The interview began: “So, what projects have you been working on lately?”
I paused for a long sip of black coffee, and then answered: “I’ve been trying to learn how to be a human.”
Immediately I sputtered and tried to recant. With that one sentence I had managed to sound both ridiculously pretentious and also profoundly boring all at once. I’m sure of it.
It’s been a year, and I’m still trying to learn how to be a human. But I’m not apologizing for it anymore.
Becoming human, it turns out, is a lot more difficult than I expected.
We are creatures, all skin and blood and bones and breath. We live on a planet of mud and grass and soft wind and blue sky and crushingly cold winters. But we got all cocky when we stood up and learned to walk on just two feet, and we too often forget what it means to be a human creature, existing in this beautiful, terrible universe we’ve been given.
Learning to be a human, then, is mostly unlearning.
Unlearning the religious constructs that taught us we are just “souls with bodies”, instead of beautifully integrated soul-infused creations.
Unlearning the efficient industrialization that taught us we are just machines, the sum of how much we can produce or accomplish or conquer.
Unlearning the all-powerful god of consumerism that taught us we are only what we can manage to acquire, hoard, and devour.
The invitation to humanity is a call to strip away all this bullshit and find the beauty in simply us, beauty that was there all along.
What does it mean to become human? I’m still learning, but I have a few guesses:
I think it has something to do with sunlight and midnight, poetry and inkstains and paint and music, new books and old friends, sleep and exercise, olive oil and wine and cheap beer and burnt toast. I think it involves a lot of joy, way too much grief, questions with no answers, and hope that refuses to die.
Becoming human means exploring every inch of the world in which we live, and then reaching beyond it in response to some relentless urge to touch the Divine. Becoming human means loving the other humans around us — especially the little ones who share our DNA.
There’s this thing called Write 31 Days, where we’re supposed to write stuff on the internet for thirty-one days. A bunch of my fellow Clumsy Bloggers signed up to do it, and I figured I should be here too.
So for the next 31 days, I’m going to be sitting here smashing out words about what it means to become human. I don’t know what will come out of my fingers when they touch the keys. There will probably be lots of angsty sentences, a few really beautiful ones, and some swears. Maybe there will be pictures of delicious food. Maybe I’ll run out of words in a week and just bash my forehead into the keyboard for the rest of the month. I guess we’ll see.
Grief is a long road. Healing is a slow process. Fall is beautiful. Winter is scary. Starting over is hard. But somehow, life goes on. This is becoming human.
Will you join me?
SUBSCRIBE (AND GET MY FREE E-BOOK TOO!)
I wrote "10 Things I Hate About Your Blog (and How to Fix Them)" to help you make your blog kick ass this year. I'd love to send you a copy; just put your name and email right here and I'll hook you up.