How to Be Human: What Does it Mean to Be Human?
Can we really define what it means to be “Human”?
What does it mean to be human? I know by definition that I am a “human,” but what does it really mean to be a “human.” Apart from the obvious that you walk, talk, and appreciate art. What really makes us different from everything else on this planet?
Scientifically speaking, to answer the what does it mean to be a human question at its most basic, we are Homo sapiens. The strict definition of a Homo sapien is “the species to which all modern human beings belong…The term Homo sapien describes what we consider today to be a “human” and that we are more closely related to other species in the Hominins family than today’s apes.”
Real descriptive. That doesn’t help me get any closer to figuring out why I cry when I listen to The Fray or why I have to work 9–5 job instead of hanging out in the jungle eating and sleeping all day.
That description fails to mention what makes us uniquely human. When comparing humans to apes, we have a lot of the same physical features. We can walk on our feet, have opposable thumbs, and have higher intelligence than most. However, I don’t need to sit here and convince you that we are different from our poo-slinging counterparts.
We have emotions, we can think about the past, present, and future, we can make our own decisions, we are intelligent, we have the ability to be unique, we are not bound by our environments, we can be individuals.
The How to be Human series is built around the idea of human connection based on the embodiment of being a uniquely imperfect human being. For our conversations to move forward, it is essential to layout some characteristics and attributes that make us uniquely “human.”
While we won’t come to a complete definition, we will have a starting point to further conversations into human connection and communication.
We are intelligent beings
Human intelligence is one of the biggest differentiators between us and everything else that exists on this planet. Human intelligence is “mental quality that consists of the abilities to learn from experience, adapt to new situations, understand and handle abstract concepts, and use knowledge to manipulate one’s environment.” Our ability to use our brains has given us the power to beat natural selection and essentially dominate the animal kingdom.
Evolution aside, it has given us the ability to create the world in which we live. We have built economies, infrastructures, and governments. While these systems may not be perfect, they allow most of us to live with our physiological and safety needs (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) met. As we satisfy those needs, we can then take our intelligence and apply it to the advancement of the human race.
While our research of the human brain is not complete, there are many attributes that we do know about that will aid in our discussions. Of all of the characteristics, some will be common themes that we come back to as we move forward:
- Development of the pre-frontal cortex.
- Left Brain vs. Right Brain — contrary to popular belief, everyone uses both sides of the brain.
- Our memory — Every time a memory is called, it could be “reconsolidated,” allowing it to be strengthened, weakened, or, most importantly, altered.
Our ability to interact with others is affected by the situations that we are thrown into growing up. In the technology age, our development is on a fast track with the excess of information. But the wrong information, harsh environments, and adverse situations can affect how we interact and communicate with others.
Our brain is an incredible tool. It shapes who we are and how we interact with the world. To be human means that we have an intelligence that allows us to manipulate our environments, adapt to situations that occur, and to learn and grow.
We can communicate in sophisticated ways
Human communication is incredibly complex. Not only do we have the ability to speak to one another using any of the 6,500 languages, but we can also communicate non-verbally through writing or facial expression. Human communication can be more expertly defined by the following:
“The production and reception of spoken, written, signed, or gestured information among human beings; involves the use of symbols known as language received through the auditory, tactile, proprioceptive, and visual systems and generated through voice and speech, writing, manual signs, and gestures; communication among humans may at times involve the vestibular, olfactory, and gustatory senses.”
All of that to say, it’s complicated. Through the thousands of different languages, 21 distinct facial expressions, and countless body language behaviors, human communication is sophisticated. While we convey our thoughts, ideas, and feelings in precise ways, it is no secret that communicating with others can be overwhelming or confusing. In the technological age, you throw in hundreds of different mediums to communicate with others to only further complicate how we interact with others. We will take a look at several of these methods of communication and specifically how they can affect the efficiency and meaning of what we are trying to say.
To be human means that we can interact and communicate with others in a plethora of ways in order to convey our thoughts, ideas, and emotions.
We are emotional beings
There is no doubt about it; we are emotional beings. Human emotion is also the hardest human characteristic to define. Scientists and philosophers can’t pin down a number as to exactly how many human emotions we have. Some say there are 4, some say 8, and others say 27.
I’m sure if you asked a highly emotional person, they would say they experience hundreds of emotions. Some scientists say that human emotion is like a color wheel with variations and combinations of emotions.
Succinctly, it’s a wash. For our discussion and to come to a definition, we will go with one of the more widely accepted models, the Plutchik model. Scientist Robert Plutchik suggests that the eight basic emotions are Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, Surprise, Anticipation, Anger, and Trust.
Human emotion is the single most significant guiding factor in our lives. Multiple studies have concluded that 90% of the decisions we make are based on emotion.
That expensive car that you couldn’t afford but you bought anyway? Chalk that one up to an emotional calling to that car. After we make that decision, we then use logic to justify that decision to ourselves and others.
Emotions can control who we will create relationships with, determine our career path, and steer us towards our destiny. Our ability to understand our feelings and how they affect us will lead to our happiness and success. We will dive into emotions as they relate to creating relationships, can divide an entire country, and allow us to follow our true destiny.
To be human means that we can feel Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, Surprise, Anticipation, Anger, and Trust.
We can design our destiny
Through the combination of human intelligence, our robust communication systems, and our emotions, we have the ability to forge our path. The rest of the animal kingdom has one purpose, to reproduce.
While we as humans can reproduce, we also can be whoever we want to be in this world. We can leave our legacy and our mark in countless ways. Nobody is stopping you from being the first woman president of the United States, the first doctor to come up with a cure to cancer, or the first person to come up with a solution to end world hunger.
In the technological age, if you are reading this post, you have all of your physiological and safety needs met. From here, it’s how you choose to meet your Love and Belonging, Esteem, and Self Actualization needs. We will discuss in detail how to make your mark on this world, how to leave this world a better place, and how you can create your destiny.
To be human means that you have the opportunity to forge your own path. You and you alone get to choose how you spend your time on this earth and how you will leave it when you are gone.
What does it mean to be Human?
To be human means that we have an intelligence that allows us to manipulate our environments, adapt, and grow. It means that we can communicate with others to convey our thoughts, ideas, and emotions. It means that we can feel Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, Surprise, Anticipation, Anger, and Trust. It means that you have the opportunity to forge your own path and your own destiny. To be human means you get to be unique.
You may be classified as a human, but to be human means you get to be you.
We needed to cover some ground on important characteristics that will be the topics of conversation moving forward. The next post will start to dive deeper into human communication. The following How to Be Human post will come out 9/2.