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Alex Hutchins

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What does it mean to be human?

As a College professor, I start the first day of every class by asking my students this question. Needless to say, they do not know how to answer it, even though they have previously had psychology and philosophy courses prior to the Junior/Senior classes that I typically teach.

So, if students do not know how to answer this question right away, then my next question is, do the rest of us know how to answer this question right away or would it require some reflection?

Or, does anyone really care?

I am sure that it has different meaning for different people but would it also have different meanings for different cultures?

Does being human mean some different in Christianity than it does for Muslims or people of the Jewish faith or agnostics for that matter?

Do we need to prove that we exist in order to answer this question? And, while you are pondering this one, let me explain: I am talking about "I think therefore I am," but is this life "real" or is this life a metaphor for the life that we will all be experiencing after death? If this life therefore is not real, does it matter that we exist and furthermore, does being human have any meaning at all?

Are we human because we oftentimes do not practice what we preach?

Are we human because we can skillfully put down the thoughts and comments of others?

Are we human because we are arrogant or wealthy although I see the two as mutually exclusive myself?

Are we human because we have faith and hypocritically live out that faith in our daily lives?

Are we human because we are a racist and have found clever ways to hide why we feel that way?

Are we human because we have cheated on our spouses?

Are we human because we like to engage in wars all over the globe so that we can prove we are better than others, or stronger... while really wanting to impose our way of life on them?

Are we human because we cannot accept cultural diversity as the new norm?

What are your thoughts as to what it means to be human?


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    Jul 6 2013: To know we are not perfect but try to remember that others have the same hopes and fears that we do. We shouldn't judge others but try to treat others the way we would like them to treat us. This is not always easy, but as I said we are not perfect, only human.
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      Jul 6 2013: The Golden Rule will always remain as part of how we need to live, but is not an explanation of what it means to be human. What make the hummingbird a hummingbird? Why is it not called an Eagle or a Crow or a Blue Bird? What separates humans from the animal world or from the plant world or from the world of the sea? Is it because we think and can rationalize or because we feel emotions like pain and regret and can suffer aimlessly? Why does a bird with one foot continue to sing so beautifully in the morning or fly so majestically on the currents of air that move in the sky?
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        Jul 6 2013: To be precise, we are not human because we can think, feel, etc. Human is our species as Kolibris are known as hummingbirds because of the sound of their wings beating.

        You say why does a hummingbird not have another name? Linguistics is another subject altogether. Linguists spend their lives researching this.

        Do you have the answer to your own question or are you just hoping to find it here? I would like to know too.

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