Where Humanity Lives

Northern Mockingbird

Yesterday, I got inspired to write a post about the importance of challenging ourselves. Of continually trying new things, of seeking out new and exciting ways to test our abilities, and of having the courage to follow our passions, interests, curiosities. As I was organizing my thoughts on the subject, a small voice in the back of my mind kept saying, “Challenging myself is integral to my humanity.” It then occurred to me that there is, perhaps, some part of me that is more fundamental to my humanity than others, a metaphorical place where my humanity lives—some core attitudes or personality traits, some set of rituals or behaviors that keep me grounded, keep me sensitive, empathetic, aware, creative, active, and engaged.

It’s logical then, I thought, that humanity is something that’s practiced. It’s something we do, a perspective to which we must continually re-orient ourselves. And if we don’t do it, we’re apt to lose it. I firmly believe, for instance, that my relationship with nature is integral to my humanity. Feeding the birds is, in some sense, a lot less about actually feeding birds than it is about maintaining a certain sensitivity, appreciation, and compassion for other creatures who share the planet with us. This isn’t, in fact, very different from learning to appreciate another person: to really sit with and look at and listen to another person. To give them our full attention. To resist the urge to pick up our phones, to cease being distracted by our own issues, problems, opinions, by the ticker tape that’s constantly running in the backs of our minds, and free ourselves to truly appreciate another human being.  

My humanity lives in the simplest of things. It is every meal I cook. It is every mile I run or walk. It is every time I pick up a pair of scissors and a glue stick and some scraps of old paper. It is every time I walk outside and intentionally stop to feel the sun shine on my face and the fresh air fill my lungs. It is every book I read and every bird I watch and take the time to learn about. 

My humanity is every challenge I accept. Every time I have the courage to try something new, to further my abilities, to grow in a completely new direction, even when I experience failures or setbacks and the little nay-saying voice in the back of my mind tells me I can’t, or I shouldn’t, or I’m not quite good enough. Because I think we are at our most vulnerable and our most courageous and our most fully human when we do it anyway.

Humanity is a thing we do. When we choose not to act, when we choose to be apathetic or to be sedentary, when we choose not to develop our most basic skills and instincts, we sacrifice what makes us human. It’s a terrible irony that so many of the life-giving activities I just mentioned are things we often believe we don’t have time for. They’re things we give over to other people, to corporations, or to technology to do for us so that we have time for more important things. As I get older, it becomes clearer to me that there are no more important things. More important things are a fallacy…like a lot of other things. Indeed, what would life be like if more of us valued and prioritized the development of basic, life-sustaining and enriching skills like cooking, physical exercise, learning how to do things with our hands, like writing, reading, drawing, planting/gardening, cultivating a productive, creative, and mutually rewarding relationship with nature, and getting adequate fresh air and sunshine? I may never know the answer to those questions, but I think they’re worth asking.

A quick note about the photography in this post: I mentioned in my last post that a Northern Mockingbird had recently begun visiting my bird bath. He or she has very quickly become a frequent visitor and perches for long periods on a shepherd’s hook that sits next to the bath (and eats heartily from the suet feeder hanging beneath). I’m very much enjoying having Mr. or Ms. Mockingbird around, and I hope you enjoyed the photos.

16 responses to “Where Humanity Lives”

  1. Your humanity definitely lives in your writing. Divine! I love the color palette in your photos. Double divine! The thought I had about humanity, for me, is looking at faces during dance class, which I had tonight. The concentration, the determination, the smiles. Special moments of connection.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you are very much on to something when you say, “humanity is something that’s practiced” We do need to challenge ourselves and appreciate the world around us. Excellent post. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a good entry, my friend. Humanity is indeed a thing we do…active choice to further who we are. I love your statement, “My humanity is every challenge I accept.” To be human, is to push ourselves to be everything we can be during our brief moment here in this world…and creating, watching, listening, doing, pursuing throughout each day, whether alone or with the birds, is our humanity playing out…such a grand opportunity we have been given..well written, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much! I love that you call the pursuit of humanity a “grand opportunity”. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve come to realize that if there’s something I want to do—especially a new skill or talent I might want to try and develop—I’m wasting precious time if I don’t do it. And if I get so caught up in the busy-ness of my own thoughts that I cease to appreciate the beauty all around me, whether out in nature or in other people, that, too, is wasted time. I always appreciate your insightful feedback, my friend. Have a great weekend!


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