If I were to walk up to you on the corner of the street and ask, “What does it mean to be human?” what would your response be? Even though I have been human for a grand total of 21 years, I still find myself scrambling for the right words to adequately answer such a complex question. I was first asked this question when I studied abroad in Latin America the spring of my sophomore year. Jeremy Daggett, one of the directors and professors of the program, centered his humanities course around the question of what it means to be human. Daggett challenged all of his students to critically contemplate their existence as an individual and to meditate on how their existence affects other people. No one in my life had ever directly asked me to unpack the various layers of humanity or to explain how I viewed humanity. The semester I spent in Chile and Peru ignited a curiosity within me that still burns today — I want to uncover the mystery of what it means to be human. However, I cannot accomplish this task alone. This question is complex because there is no concrete answer; to be human is to be a multitude of things. To add to the complex nature of this topic, my individual opinion of what it means to be human only sheds a sliver of light on the vast experience of human beings.
Anaïs Nin, an American-Cuban-French essayist, gives interesting insight into the importance of giving attention to a variety of perspectives when she says, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Every experience in humanity is like a single paint brush stroke within one large, evolving mural of chaos and collaboration. I will paint what I see, but I am only one pair of eyes amidst billions. I am only able to see a small window of humanity through my own life experiences. It is vital that every person has the opportunity to be a contributing artist to the mural of humanity. This has not been the case in the history of our world and, as human beings, we must change this with each step we take.
So here I am, extending an invitation to you and asking for your help so that our student body can deepen our understanding of what it means to be human. If you have an opinion or perspective you wish to share or have a conversation about, I would be honored to hear it. I want to learn from you because I firmly believe that every person has something valuable to offer. A part of being human is sharing — to give and to receive enriches the connections that we have with other human beings. With every connection that is formed, a greater understanding of another human being’s experience emerges. I hope that each article I write paves a new and unexpected path toward a deeper understanding of the multifaceted mystery of humanity as we all seek to understand what it means to be human.