I’m Only Human

Implacable

My Grandmother is the source of the way I understand words.

She taught me that words shape the way we think and the way we
agree to perceive reality.

The words on this page express some aspect of my version of reality.

My Grandmother’s world view was shaped by two world wars and a great depression.

I once asked her why we expect the strong to protect the weak.

Her reply was that when the strong protect the weak it makes everyone stronger.

Compassionate self-interest is strength.

 

My Grandmother
               My Grandmother

When I asked my Grandmother about ageing she said age is an incident.

“We don’t age inside but if we’re smart we grow wise.”

One day I asked her what human means.

She said it means knowing the difference between right and wrong.

She went on to explain that this is why people make laws.

Our legal system presumes that those who break the law do so by choice.

It is only human to kill one’s spouse in a jealous rage but murder is still a crime.

We base our social contract on the premise that everyone knows it’s wrong to kill, despite the overwhelming numbers of people who choose not to stop themselves.

Maybe Everyone Is


“I’m only human.”

I first read this phrase as an excuse for bad behavior when I challenged an internet con-man who used my stupidity to fleece me.

My stupidity continued when I pressed him, expecting an apology.

“I’m only human.” he wrote again.

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

“What do you mean by that?”

“Everyone makes mistakes.”

“Doing crimes isn’t a mistake, it’s a choice.”

“Everyone makes bad choices,” he wrote. “ I’m only human.”

What he meant was this:  “I am destined by the God of all that is self-serving to repeatedly indulge my ego and need for attention at the cost of everyone else. Oh why do you make it so easy for me to steal from you! Can’t you see how it torments me?”

A moral choice is not a mistake.

If I let you con me out of money I’m the one who has made the mistake.

Regardless of the breathtaking depth of my ignorance, the decision to steal from me makes you criminal.

Most humans aren’t criminal.

When Oedipus unknowingly kills his Father he begins a series of tragic mistakes.

He pays for them when he ‘sees’ what he’s done.

His Mother hangs herself from shame and Oedipus makes himself blind.

He doesn’t shrug and say, “Gee, I’m only human—C’mon Mom, let’s have a few more kids!”

 

Frame shot from Dracula, 1934
                              Frame shot from Dracula, 1934

I can’t speak to or for the billions of unique ways that people experience their humanity on this planet.

I can only speak as one man with one lifetime in which I follow a set of simple principles formed in discussions with my Grandmother.

This is what I mean when I say that I am only human:

I will do my best to hold my worst impulses in check. I will sometimes fail, but when I do I will take responsibility and take corrective action.

I will try to understand your point of view, I will do my best to walk the line between discretion and judgmentalism. If I find evidence that I have behaved judgmentally I will accept responsibility and take corrective action.

I will use my own vulnerabilities as a measure of yours and I will use empathy to try to understand your pain. I will do nothing to cause you to needlessly suffer. Should I find that I’ve made a mistake that harms you I will take responsibility and do everything in my power to mitigate the burden I have imposed on you.

I am only human.

I will behave accordingly.

 

RG 2015

 

 

 

 

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73 thoughts on “I’m Only Human

  1. Great post! My Grandmother was from the same generation as yours and she was very similar in her thinking. I credit some of my sanity to her too. What a gift to be nurtured by a loving and wise grandmother!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderfully written post, amazing Grandmother and of course kudos to you for being a respectful, self-aware and empathetic human! Learning from our mistakes, helping others when we can and being respectful are so important!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This certainly changed my view of the phrase: I’m only human. If being human is knowing right from wrong, the phrase should only be used when we display our ability to discern..
    The only other way I’ve heard the phrase used is to speak on a physical limitation. I can’t lift the piano because I’m only human.. You know?

    Great post 😉

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    1. You wrote: The only other way I’ve heard the phrase used is to speak on a physical limitation. I can’t lift the piano because I’m only human.. You know?

      I agree. I’m only human means I am frail, given to illness, fragile — but being only human also means I can conceptualize ways compensate for those frailties.
      I can transcend my limitations. I take issue with using ‘I’m only human’ as an excuse for for choosing to behave in ways that harm other people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I like to think I do…but I guess my point is that we sometimes fail, the point is to accept responsibility and keep working at it; the way you do. Thanks Charles, and good luck tomorrow…:)

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. The topic of what we mean when we offer our humanity as an excuse for bad behavior seemed timely given that so many of the actions we take through our leadership are so inexcusable. Thank you for reading the post and leaving a comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. Lately i am again disheartened at the plethora of excuses for moral failure, as if being moral were tedious and near sighted.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes…it is strange. I think this may have something to do with the way the word “moral’ was usurped in the late 70’s and early 1980’s. The word is now hopelessly misidentified as the concern of religious hypocrites and sexual prudes. The idea that we have a moral responsibility to use the gift of reason to inform the choices we make is a much more complex understanding of what it means to be human, what it means to be a good person…and what it means to live in a community in which our personal choices must also be made in consideration of our neighbors.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You said it perfectly. I was once told if you don’t believe in God you cannot moral. To me, morality begins when you suspend personal bias and look at the truth, however hard it is. Maybe people reject it because the hard road isn’t en vogue and light surface living without questioning why, is.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I think it’s human nature…I think that we someone in between what we were and what we are becoming and our evolution is jagged…I think many of us are fundamentally lazy or passive and we want to be told what to do, who to be and how to live. We are so easy to corrupt because most of us are still at the mercy of our instincts and emotions.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I disagree only in that emotions and instincts can be positively connected to things that are anchors to sense. But otherwise right on! The big question is if we know what’s right why do we perpetuate something so destructive?

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Why do we perpetuate destructive behaviors that we know are wrong?

        I think that all we need to do is examine the condition of politics in the United States.

        An entire wing of the political structure in the U.S. is dedicated to creating a racist, sexist, homophobic culture that supports slavery and cheap labor and a class system that benefits a wealthy minority.

        Everyone knows its wrong yet the arguments made by this wing of American politics are given moral credibility and air time.

        We therefore pretend that illegal war, an oppressive class system, the systematic starving of the children of the poor, turning the sick and disabled out onto our streets, and an overpriced amoral medical system are somehow all part of the ‘price’ of freedom.

        The only human trait more powerful than curiosity is denial.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Yes. And moreover, people’s hearts fear death and climb on each other’s backs out of fear and egotism, to carve irrelevant, exploitative paths at any cost. Sometimes I feel aso alone, seeing this and watching everyone accept, nay, embrace it. I question why I’m not like them as I’m no great person but since very young I watched from sidelines feeling alienated by the fascination that distracted others.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. I simply can’t believe that the miracle of life has no more meaning than a cheap can of toxically processed soup or is no more valuable than the profit one gains by rigging cars to pass an emissions test designed to protect the environment for everyone.

        I find it hard to believe that we come to life, and become aware and sentient only to feed on poisonous ideas that flatten our creative energies and saps us of our sense of wonder.

        We are more than the latest bra, the latest gizmo, the ‘thing’ we simply have to buy or the tedious fantasies from profit driven screenwriters who are paid to forget imagination. If we are nothing more than vicious murderous tribes of meat covered bones than why bother?

        Liked by 1 person

      9. You dsad it beautifully I love reading your thoughts♡ I think we are more than meat covered bones (shudder!!) Maybe our spirits hold the answer. I think love explains it best as love cannot be explained biologically or logically ♡

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      10. I think that we are physical manifestations of spirit.

        How can creatures with lives as fleeting as ours conceptualize and try to understand eternity>

        For many of us the fear of what it means to be mortal drives us to see as little of the truth of the mystery as possible.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. I hope that is true, it’s a lovely outcome that embues life with far more meaning♡

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    1. Thank you. One of my favorite family photos is of my Grandmother as a 20 year on the night that she met my Grandfather. He was a jazz musician and was part of a jazz band. My Grandmother is sitting with other young woman in front of the men of the band who stand behind the women. Everyone is raising a flask of whiskey in a salute.

      It’s rebellious image given that Prohibition was in effect.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. There is beauty and nobility in your ethics. The world would be more wonderful if we all embraced our humanity accordingly.

    I also like the quote you included: “Oh why do you make it so easy for me to steal from you! Can’t you see how it torments me?” The appeal of the dark and the struggle with our demons. It reminds me of that fable about the scorpion who said that he preyed and killed because he’s a scorpion, after all. He wasn’t conflicted or tormented though. He simply was.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading the post and leaving such a warm comment. I am not perfect at embracing my definition of humanity which I think is the point. I’m glad you liked the quote.

      When I saw the scene that the frame shot came from I heard the words in my head and they made me laugh. So I used them in the shot. It’s from the classic Lugosi film of 1934.

      Liked by 1 person

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