In the wake of a world crisis, we must be reminded of our humanity


What does it mean to be human?

After pondering this question for several hours, filling 33 sticky notes with seemingly aimless questions, and exploring more tangents than I can count—I’ve produced no exact answer. Honestly, I think my attempt to tackle this profound, ambiguous question has placed me further from a conclusion than when I began. 

To study this question is to dig a hole in the sand. As you attempt to scour deeper, the walls unforgivingly sink in, burying any progress and challenging further exploration. Each grain of sand is one of the countless factors that influence humanity and its perceived purpose: bias, religion, logic—you name it. 

Naturally, I turned to my friends and family members to procure their thoughts, and the results were rather varied; however, the motley of colored opinions resembled more of the anarchy of order seen in a child’s drawing than a methodical set of ideas. 

The answers I received ranged from cliche, vague notions such as “love” and “care,” to blunt, bland answers that claimed there is no purpose. We exist; that is all. 

For me, I still haven’t found a clear answer, but I believe I’ve landed somewhere in the middle—a place that combines logic and an ideal, warm perception of life. I do admit that my answer isn’t entirely reliable. It is neither universal nor absolute, and I don’t doubt it could be undermined with factual evidence.

However, I like to hope that it nevertheless holds some value, especially in this moment of history where the health and safety of humanity are threatened. Everyone seems to be facing the unfortunate, dark effects of COVID-19 to one extreme or another, regardless of race, nationality, class, etc. It is a world crisis, a human crisis, and in its wake, we must be reminded of our humanity in order to move past it together.

But what is our humanity? What does it mean to be human?

My conclusion consists of two parts. The first, is that to be a human is simply to be. Each of us, without fault, are binded to life—we breathe, live, exist. 

The second part is intertwined with the first yet is biased nonetheless. That is, to be alive—by this, I mean to truly experience life and be a part of the world, rather than to just function—it is necessary to feel, to empathize, to love. This ability to not only be a part of the human race, but to acknowledge each other’s complexity as humans and to view one another with compassion and understanding, is, in essence, our humanity. To view ourselves as no greater and no less than those around us, is our humanity. To do so, we must feel. We must be alive—truly be alive.  

In a developed, complex society, it is often easy to find purpose elsewhere, such as in wealth and class. It is also easy to allow factors that divide humanity—race, religion, nationality, status, etc.—to be the arbitrators of our worth. As long as a developed society has existed, these components that differentiate people have determined how “human” we treat one another. People often dismiss that we are all a part of the same race—the human race—and treat others unequally and unjustly based on factors that divide us. 

If compassion were to be prioritized, peace would spread like wildfire.

However, we should deconstruct the barriers that divide people in order to access compassion and understanding for one another—to see one another as simply human, nothing more and nothing less. This is always important, yet it is almost essential in a time of a world crisis. To fight the pandemic alone would be to fight it in darkness, in ignorance. Now is a time that we must rely on one another, despite differences and judgment. 

Our society, and the notions within it, are undoubtedly powerful. Monetary wealth and class and personal belongings hold value; however, they only hold value within our society. In the end, they are simply tools to help us live but can be destroyed.

Money can be set ablaze and fall to the earth as nothing but ash. The tiers of society are only ideas that would fade if we were to dismiss them. But our power to be human—to love, to help one another, to have compassion—will always remain. This ability survives when nothing else does. 

I’m not trying to inflate the effects of this pandemic because we will pass it eventually and our normal lives will return. But unfortunate periods of our lives remind us either of our humanity or our lack of humanity.

Those directly impacted by the pandemic are in pain. Some that are infected are dying. Health workers are endlessly working to fight this war. We shouldn’t decry the adversity many are encountering. Thus, we must look at one another as humans, as something that we are ourselves.

By understanding those around us, we are less alone. We are stronger. We are not only human, but a part of humanity. 

If compassion were to be prioritized, peace would spread like wildfire.