What makes a human being human? What is it that makes us who we are? When can we say that someone is “less than human”? I’ve just had an amazing conversation with my mother about my homeland: Russia. I’ve always loved Russian culture but this made me look at it from a completely other angle… For the first time (despite all my history lessons, I had not truly understood this before) I understood some of the horrors that happened in that place called USSR. For fifty years or so (and this is the worst period, it doesn’t mean it was too much better before and after), people had no “life” as we know it, it was constant fear for survival. Generations of people lived in fear. Fear, as my mom phrased it, is what destroys anything humane in us.
The whole discussion started with us pondering on the fact that Russian people, at least those of a couple of generations before me, and most who are still living with an old-fashioned mind-frame, love to be sick. Not on the surface of course, you ask anybody and they’ll tell you they hate being sick. And yet, as my mom puts it, that is all people talk about, and all they constantly attend to. Healing this; soothing that; going to see a number of doctors; if nothing is the matter, then it’s the “practice” treatment of vitamins and the such. People live lives in a self-destructive manner. People, good people, have a destructive way of loving others. My mother was trying to explain this to me and to make some sense of it herself, and concluded that generations of people living in fear simply produced this type of person. I suppose there’s some truth in this; half a century of fucking around can shape a people into something like this. Sadly, Russia is not the only example of this, it’s just the one closest to me.
But to go back to the original question… if fear destroys what is human in us, what IS human? Emotions, I think, an active participation in our environment, curiosity… I’m not saying other animals don’t have this too, but it seems to me that this is what we have more of. When you think of it, human beings are to this world, like the trouble-maker is to an elementary school. We mess up oh so much, but at the time we’re the life of the place, experimenting, loving, hating, laughing, crying, biting into life, doing everything with vigor. To me, at least at the present time, at midnight on a Sunday, this is what it is to be human, what it is to live. Experience life, not just let it pass us by; act on our desires, take the steering wheel instead of the back seat.
I think, a few minutes before my death, I’d like to be able to look back at my life with a smile, knowing that I’ve spent it well, that I deserve a rest, that there isn’t anything I missed. Until then, I want to go on living each day craving more knowledge, more experience, more beauty, more creativity, more… This is, to me, what it is to be human.