The ABC’s of Being Human

by bryan maynard


I see human beings. I hear their voices. I react to them. All day long I interact with them and they impact my emotions, my thinking, my attitudes and my motives. It is impossible to miss the human in my life.

I’d like to believe that I think of human beings in a certain way, a positive way. I call this positive way the ABC’s of being human and it guides my values for what it means to be human. The “A” is for awake. A human being is an innately curious creature. We are curious about the stars, the rotation of the earth, what is on the other side of the sea, what is inside the human brain. This curiosity arises out of a deeper hunger to know a thing merely for the sake of knowing it, of relating to it, of appreciating it. Every woman has both this capacity and this need for experiencing the wonder of knowing, where she has intimate knowledge of what a thing is, in and of itself. What human being has not looked up at the moon at night and been lost in the wonder of even that limited way of knowing that white light that is reflecting the sun? All of us long to wake up to the wonder of experiencing and not taking for granted that thing and our experience with it. The need for wonder is in us because we must somehow connect to that thing so that we can create meaning for it and from it. To be awake is to live in the wonder of being open and engaged with all the individual things that we encounter on a moment by moment basis.

The “B” is for balance. Human beings have to sleep 5-8 hours every twenty four hours. Our hearts beat from 60-90 times per minute. We must eat every few hours throughout our day. A woman, if she is in the fertile phase of her life, has a few days every month when the blood flows out of her body and she experiences physical pain, even psychological strain due to fatigue and hormonal changes. There is a time to sow and a time to reap; a time to work and a time to rest; a time to celebrate and a time to grieve; a time to live and a time to die. If I have learned any real wisdom over the course of my life, it is that wholeness and skilled living consist of both respecting and knowing how to live in line with these rhythms. This is what it means to be human.

The final letter is “C” and it is for caring. A human being looks upon another who is suffering and is changed on the inside. She is ‘moved’ out of her own state of interior experience over into that experience of suffering happening for the other. The inherent dignity we all feel to be part of our nature as human beings does not allow us to see another impoverished and abused and hungry and sick and lonely and dying and not experience it also within our own self. The threat one faces is a threat to us all, to ME. Because we have the capacity to share in the suffering of another, we know that the other person has just as much capacity to share in our love for them when we allow their suffering to enter into us.

To be human means that we do better if we do not suffer alone, and it also means that we are moved to care for the one who is suffering. It is a mystery, for sure, but it is an undeniable ability and need we have to care for others and to be cared for by them.