I’m Only Human


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